Wednesday, 14 July 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 302

173 - Memento - 5 stars
Following a preview screening of Christopher Nolan's awesome mind-bending noodle scratcher Inception, I felt it was time to watch Nolan's other film that focuses on the mind and the last film of his on the list left to watch.
Memento holds a very special place in my film going history. Why? Because it was the very first film that I saw here at The Belmont back in the year 2000. The movie sounded intriguing and we ventured along to this tiny door on Belmont Street that gave way to a TARDIS like 3 screen cinema that showed films that you couldn't watch down at the multiplex.
Who knew back then that I would end up working here and 10 years later I am waiting anxiously on word from the Council that our company will get to continue running The Belmont for another 10 years.
But I have digressed...
Where do start your review of Memento? At the beginning? The beginning that is really the end? Well, I'll get to that later.
Let's just start with Leonard Shelby, our narrator of this story. I have spoken in the past about unreliable narrators and how the audience are at their mercy as to what information is shared with them, and Leonard Shelby is the most unreliable narrator in the history of cinema as he doesn't even remember what he has told us.
When we first meet Leonard he is telling us about his "condition" and how he has brain damage that prevents him from forming new memories. They fade in time like a dream upon waking.
This condition does put him at a disadvantage in his quest to find the man who raped and murdered his wife. All he has to go on are scrambled notes and tattoos on his body.
Guy Pearce, forgive the pun, makes for a memorable lead, allowing the audience into his world, showing pain (remembering his wife) and humour ("What's happening? Oh, I'm chasing this guy... no, he's chasing me!"), and for us to empathise with his condition and struggle to avenge his wife's death.
What makes the film so unique is in its structure. The black and white sequences move forward in time and are used to establish Leonard's condition and the background to his wife's murder, his investigation and the tale of Sammy Jankus. Intercut with these are the colour sequences which move backwards in time from a murder until the two threads meet each other.
It puts the viewer in a similar position as Leonard. Unable to see the entire picture, like trying to solve a puzzle with a missing piece.
Is it unfair to discuss a major plot point that could be seen as a spoiler? The film has been out for nearly 10 years now, and it only comes as a twist due to the complex structure of the narrative. Chronologically it come 1/3 of the way through the story; when Teddy explains to Leonard what really happened following his wife's death and how Leonard initially conciously decides to claim that Teddy is responsible and will hunt him down.
This revelation of details casts doubt over everything else we've seen or been told by Leonard. This speech by him, sums up the problem with having faith in what he knows.
"Facts, not memories. That's how you investigate. I know, it's what I used to do. Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They're just an interpretation, they're not a record, and they're irrelevant if you have the facts."
Unlike Leonard, you won't forget this film after seeing it and just like Nolan's masterpiece Inception, it generates discussion and debate long after the fun last line "Now... where was I?".

Days remaining - 63 Films remaining - 69


  1. how did your films remaining manage to go up?! craziness!

  2. Indeed it dd. Somewhere along the way I must have made a miscalculation. Upon checking and triple checking the magazine I'm using as reference and then comparing this to the physical dvds and videos that await my viewing it is conclusive that I have 69 films left to watch.
    Efforts will increase in order to complete the challenge in time.
    From now on, no more administrative numerical errors!