Memento (SE)/ A, A
Columbia/2000/113/ANA 2.35

    Memento is a brilliant enigma twisted with devious delight. That first scene with everything moving backwards is a beautifully etched road map to guide you through the internecine film. While at times confusing, it's always a riveting and stimulating experience. Memento sparks conversation. There arenít too many of those these days.
     Leonard Shelby is suffering from acute short-term memory loss supposedly set off by the violent rape and murder of his wife. Shelby, a former insurance investigator, is determined to find and kill the perpetrators. He's got to work around his memory  handicap, but with methodical and meticulous determination, Leonard etches a path of clues that lead him on his road.

Teddy stirs things up. ©Columbia

      Memento is brilliant filmmaking that works on multiple levels. The fantastic script by writer/director Christopher Nolan is adapted from a story by his brother Jonathan Nolan. The director is an intelligent writer. Wonderful dialogue makes the characters inhabit this world he created. You feel like you are inside their skins. Character history develops naturally. Memento is smart, savvy, honest and true to itself. The rich tapestry is woven with an artist's care and love of the material. Such highly original work must be admired. Imagine the mental discipline it took to convincing lay out the time lines and thoroughly vet them. Don't even struggle to find mistakes. There are generous clues provided throughout the dialogue. Nolan never lets you few cheated in any way. He even manages to inject natural humor into the script without calling attention to itself.
      Nolan's direction is brilliant, his script a gem. Memento is nothing short of a mesmerizing. It's even better the second time around. This is a film which grows in stature with familiarity. Nolan is a one-armed juggler in Memento, throwing all those plot lines in the air and controlling them with seeming nonchalance. There are three stories moving in the air with a magic script and editing wand making them dance to Nolan's will. Continuity is a challenge met with perfection; yet, no matter how hard you concentrate thereís a vague feeling that something is amiss. Even the visual look is wonderful using black and white and color to help define the movement of the story. Any visual flourishes mate perfectly with the material. It's simple, elegant and never too cute. Nolan rules!
     Guy Pearce is an amazing Leonard Shelby. What a concentrated, layered performance. You have to get behind the eyes of Shelby, and Peace provides the window. Pearce once again disappears into a role. Is this really the same guy (sic) that sashayed through The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and coldly worked his way through L.A. Confidential? Pearce has displayed a remarkable range Crazed in Ravenous, clean-cut in L.A. Confidential, grubby in Memento Pearce proves a major league talent again and again. He acts with his entire being. His body movement, the details of his performances, everything rings true.
    Christopher Nolan does a wonderful job with all the actors. Pearce's center-piece performance is complimented by a seedy Joe Pantoliano as Teddy and Carrie-Ann-Moss is crafts her Natalie with a hidden nasty edge. Ubiquitous supporting actor Stephen Tobolowsky gives Sammy Jankis a hollow sadness while Harriet Sansom Harris finds honest desperation as Mrs. Jankis.
     The mysteries of Memento are delicious. The film demands deep concentration to prevent getting lost. Like Leonard Shelby, you must hang onto every thread and detail lest they become overshadowed by the film's movement. I don't suggest going so far as to tattoo vital script information on your body however.
         Memento, delivered as a cleverly packaged 2-DVD special edition, gets first class treatment from Columbia. The transfer is reference DVD material. Truly intense, beautiful, color saturation enhance the experience of watching the film. The contrast between color and black and white is even stronger on this new special edition transfer. Details are delivered with maximum resolve. Penetrating depth to the image.  And there's no visible edginess. This is a very rich looking transfer with deep, lush, black levels. Excellent detail in the shadowy sequences makes for comfortable viewing. The DVD consistently delivers maximum light output and terrific contrast range. Lighting is replicated with an abundance of style. Look at the beautiful glow on the lamp shades in the interiors. They cast a glow on the characters. Natural looking flesh tones. Excellent facial detail in various lighting. The black and white sequences are absolutely stunning with superb gray scale. You can watch Memento accompanied by Dolby Digital 5:1, DTS Surround, or Dolby 2-channel surround. Whichever you choose, you will find a three-dimensional sound experience. Very finely encoded. 
    Writer/Director Christopher Nolan's confidential, whispered commentary on disc one examines technical and thematic details with scene specific commentary. Some of the audio commentary sounds like it was encoded in reverse. Go ahead, decipher that. The special edition is very worked. Disc 2 includes an Anatomy of a Scene made for the Sundance Channel. You can also view the annotated director's shooting script while listening to the film.  Buried under the challenging menu system is chronological version of the film. You can also hunt down the original short story. There's more buried treasure if you care to travel into the home theater with a shovel.

 

 

 


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