Rating: 4 Stars
I, like probably most white men of a certain age, am a huge Christopher Nolan fan. I remember seeing Memento in a small theater. I’ve seen enough movies in my time that I am seldom surprised. Within the first couple of minutes, you can make a fairly accurate guess regarding the overarching narrative that the film will take.
Well, Memento blew that out of the water. I was transfixed by the screen, unable to look away, worried that if I quit concentrating for just a couple of minutes, I’d become hopelessly lost. Its portrayal of confusion, grief, and revenge, all told in a sideways manner, was simply brilliant.
I’ve seen all of his movies since. Although none of them matched that feeling that I got from Memento, I have enjoyed all of them (OK, Interstellar was a bit of a stretch, but other than that, all interesting).
I had not had the opportunity to watch his first film, Following. It’s barely an hour long, made with his own money (a grand total of a $6,000 budget).
At the risk of being a total fanboy, I loved it. It’s a classic film noir (which I have a serious weakness for, having just recently watched the Lana Turner / John Garfield version of The Postman Always Rings Twice). You have the protagonist, a fairly normal person slightly down on his luck who thinks he’s too smart for his own good. You have the love interest, who wraps the protagonist around her finger with effortless ease. You have the villain, an appropriately bald man oozing bad intent. And you have the charmer, who makes the game look so easy that the protagonist can’t help but to fall into the trap, all the time congratulating himself on how lucky he is.
It completely tells a story in 70 minutes that most movies would spend at least 100 minutes on. The movie is simple and spare in line with its budget. It is what it is and does not aspire to be more.
There were several proto-Memento themes. The movie itself is told in a somewhat non-linear manner. In one scene, the protagonist takes the contents out of the woman’s keepsake box and rearranges them in his room in a naturalistic manner, much like how the protagonist from Memento occasionally places keepsakes from his deceased wife so that when he wakes up, he momentarily believes that she’s alive again.
Clearly this was a sign of greatness to come.