Monday, April 23, 2007

MEMENTO



Movie of the week:
MEMENTO

“But even if you get revenge you're not gonna remember it. You're not even going to know that it happened.”

Every once in a great while, a film comes out of the blue from nowhere, and which is so original and mesmerizing and cool, that it becomes an instant masterpiece. This is an independent film – no, Hollywood would never make a movie like this. It is so far beyond ordinary films that it has become a benchmark of sorts. If new movie “XYZ” is cool and original and stands out from the crowd, it’s often referred to “this year’s MEMENTO”.

I can still remember the day that I went to the video store. I came late and there was nothing left. That is to say, all of this week’s new releases, all of last week’s new releases, and all of the week before’s new releases. And when I say new releases, I mean the new blockbuster releases. The ones everybody’s been waiting for – NOT the little known independent films. So there I was, not finding what I came to get, and ended up scanning the shelves. I saw MEMENTO (never heard of it – not even on the indie grapevine), read the back of the box, and said “why not”.

The response I usually get when I come home with something no one’s ever heard of, is one or more of the following.

  1. What the hell is this?
  2. What’s it about? Something stupid?
  3. Oh please don’t tell me it’s foreign. Subtitles drive me crazy.
  4. Awwwwww, Dad!
  5. Is there anything on TV?
  6. I’m going to hate this, aren’t I?
  7. You were out all that time, and THIS is what you come home with?
  8. How come you never rent anything we want to watch?
  9. Why is it that we only watch movies that no one else has ever heard of?
  10. You know, ..................we should just turn the TV off and talk.

Of course, once the movie starts, I don’t hear another word about it. And of course, I was right. MEMENTO was probably the most pleasant movie-viewing surprise I’ve ever had, starting from having no expectation to realizing that I’ve just watch one of my all-time favorite films. I checked the DVD box for the director’s name. Christopher Nolan – never heard of him. This is going to “make” his career. I was right about that too (He went on to make the English language remake of Insomnia, the highly acclaimed Batman Begins, and most recently The Prestige. Not too shabby.).

“So what’s it about? Something stupid?”

Leonard’s a man on a mission – which is not easy for someone in his condition. One evening a man broke into his house and attacked him and killed his wife. The attack caused him injury which damaged his brain so that he can no longer make new memories. Everything before that – fine, but nothing since. His last memory was of his wife on the floor next to him as she lay dying.

Leonard has made it his remaining life’s work to track down his wife’s killer and exact his revenge – which, as I said, is not easy for a man in his condition. He can’t remember anything about his investigation. His memory span lasts about 2 minutes (on a good day). If you start a conversation with him, and if it runs more than a couple of minutes, he’ll forget who you are, or how the conversation got started. Indeed, he relies on copious note-taking and Polaroid snapshots. The really important breakthroughs, he has tattooed to his body, so that in one glance in the mirror, he can see both the man he has become and the mission he is on. He doesn’t know who his friends are, or who his enemies are. His whole perspective of the truth can change from one moment to another.

Bummer.

The technique used to tell this story isn’t new; it had been used before, but never more effectively as in MEMENTO. You will notice pretty much in the first few minutes that the story is being told in reverse order. That is, each new scene shows what happens just before the one you last watched. You might not think this would work well for a mystery seeing that the mystery would be solved at the end of the story (which is at the beginning of the film), BUT IT DOES! This technique actually enhances the story in at least two ways.

First, when you’re watching a scene, you may know what happens in the story immediately after because you’ve just seen it, but you don’t know what happened before. This puts you on the same footing as the main character, Leonard.

Second, while you’re watching a scene, you know and understand what’s happening. However, when you get to the next scene and see what happened before, you realize that everything you thought you knew in the last scene was wrong. Your perspective of the truth can, and often does, changes from one moment to the next. This also puts you on the same footing as Leonard.

I may have told you too much, but if it gets you to watch the movie then it was worth the risk. I’m pretty sure that if you give it half a chance, you will love this movie. Anyway, here are some more reasons to watch MEMENTO.

  1. Leonard discovers that he has more than one room at his motel. When he asks the desk clerk about it, he’s told, “Business is slow. I mean, I told my boss about the - your condition and stuff, and he said try and rent him another room. Besides, you're not gonna remember anyway.”
  2. Leonard could watch MEMENTO every single day, and each day it would be like the very first time.
  3. If you and another guy are both running, are you chasing him or is he chasing you or are you both running away from the same thing?
  4. It’s a brain-teaser, and a teased brain is in fashion these days. Besides it rinses out without any difficulty, and won’t leave split personalities.
  5. “Dancing with the Stars” is NOT on tonight. What else are you going to watch?
  6. Carrie-Ann Moss reprises her “Trinity” role from The Matrix for this movie. ………………..nah, just kidding.
  7. Makes you feel better about yourself when you realize that it sucks to be Leonard.
  8. On the IMDB Top 250 at #26 between North By Northwest and The Silence of the Lambs.
  9. Scored a 94% on the tomatometer.
  10. Featured in Steven Jay Schneider’s book, “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.” How far down the list have YOU gotten? Hurry up, you could pop off at any time.

Warnings:

  • Violence – There are a couple fight scenes, not many. One main character gets shot. I’m not giving anything away here as it takes place at the end of the story – which is to say, the first minute of the film.
  • Sex – Nothing graphic.
  • Language – English. Colorful English.

Now forget everything I told you and go out and rent MEMENTO.
Enjoy.




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