Bizarre Noir #3: Memento.

Welcome to the third of seven posts that will review bizarre noir movies! I hope you enjoy the series. For more information or previous entries, check the posts below this one.


Year of Origin: 2000.

Director: Christopher Nolan.

Why it's bizarre: The chronology of the movie is mixed up (and mostly backwards).

Memento is interesting in all aspects, really… but the strange thing is, I’m sure if the movie was played out in chronological order, it would be boring as hell (or at least infinitely less interesting). It’s about this guy, Leonard (Guy Pearce), who has short-term memory loss (he can’t make new memories). His wife was raped and murdered, and he’s out to find the man who did it to get revenge. Helping him is Teddy (Joe Pantoliano), as well as femme fatale Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss). But the movie’s plot occurs in two fashions: the first is in reverse chronological order, which starts at the end of the movie and goes back toward the beginning; the second is a black-and-white bit that occurs in chronological order, starting at the beginning and working its way forward. By the end of the movie, these two halves meet, and the end of the movie is essentially the middle.

There really isn’t a whole lot to cover on this movie except to say that it is highly original and is really a great work of film by director Christopher Nolan (of Batman Begins and upcoming The Dark Knight fame). The concept of playing the movie out of order, yet still having all the surprises occur at what is basically the beginning (or middle) of the movie is brilliant. I’ve always loved the idea of figuring out things in reverse… it’s a good technique for writers. For instance, you have a broken window. How did the window get broken? A story begins with this distraught character. How did the character get that way? It’s fun stuff. Not to mention that it’s really the epitome of detective work, which can be a staple for noir.

And voice-over narration is another noir classic, and this movie has a lot of it. Most of it is rather funny, such as the scene in which Leonard is running and sees another guy. He thinks “Okay, what am I doing? I’m chasing this guy.” Then the guy shoots at him. “Nope, he’s chasing me.” There are just really clever things they do with it.

The acting was well done all around the board. But the real shout out goes to Stephen Tobolowsky for the role of Sammy Jankis. Even though he’s only actually shown a few times, just the looks in his eyes are packed with both emotion and blankness that is very fitting for the character. On a similar note, I think it’s interesting that Brad Pitt was at one time considered for the role of Leonard, because, to me, Guy Pearce looked like a version of Brad Pitt mixed with Christian Bale in this movie (more Pitt, though). Every time I saw him, I’d think one or the other.

The only downside to the movie is that it is a rather bleak and depressing movie, so repeated viewings are difficult unless you’re either in the right mood or haven’t watched it in a while. This is also due to the fact that if you’ve watch it too much, the effect of the reverse chronology wears off… either that, or it can really become taxing to watch. I’ve seen the movie about five times or so now, but this is over the course of quite a few years, so the movie feels somewhat new to me every time I watch it. And every time I watch it, I always have forgotten about a great twist at the end of the movie, so I’m always surprised when it’s revealed (not the main twist, but that other littler one). So yeah, really, that’s about all I’ve got to say about this movie.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

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