OCTOBER 2, 2008
I think the longest I ever drove for a movie was for Memento, in the summer of 2001. It was only playing at a small 2nd run theater in Danvers, MA, which was about a 40 minute drive from where I lived at the time. And it was worth the gas cost (and even would be today, nearly triple what it was then). One of my top 25 movies of all time; it’s a masterpiece that I never really grow tired of watching.
Of course, it’s been like 6 years since I last saw it, and my memory is gradually becoming more and more like Leonard Shelby’s. Also, I actually watched the “chronological” version that time, which is a bore but also makes you appreciate the film’s brilliant structure even more. When you watch the film in order, you’re seeing the “climax” (Teddy being killed) last, sure, but there’s no real excitement to it. In reality, the most exciting part of the story actually DID happen first, so when you watch... OK I’m getting confused. Look, don’t bother with the chronological order version.
I also forgot how funny it was. Joey Pants is always comic gold, but Guy Pearce also has a lot of great little throwaway lines (“Fuck, I need to get my own place,” he mutters, in response to having to dig through his pockets to know where his hotel is). And I never grow tired of the bit where the wonderfully (and always) sleazy Mark Boone Junior accidentally lets Leonard know that he’s been scamming him by renting him two rooms. And even better, those moments of levity never distract from the tension/suspense of the narrative.
Another thing that makes the movie so damned amazing is how relatively simple it is. It’s even more apparent when you watch the chronological version – not a real lot happens in it. Guy Pearce drives around to his hotel, Teddy bugs him, and Moss fucks with him. There’s a brief chase scene (another great laugh – “OK, I’m chasing this guy... nope, he’s chasing me!”), and two deaths, and that’s it in terms of action. Yet you are glued to the green for the entire 2 hr movie. There are only a handful of movies that I genuinely got sad when I realized that they were about to conclude, and this is one. I could watch it all day, just going further and further back (one thing the movie doesn’t quite make clear is how long it has been since the accident).
Less impressive is the DVD. This is the first film I ever double dipped, after being disappointed with the barebones original release. But the special edition is so goddamn frustrating and obtuse, I’ve actually never bothered with any of the extras except for the chronological version, and I had to get a goddamn flowsheet instruction page to figure out how to access it. I like that they tried something unique, and had I all the time in the world I would probably have fun with it, but I really wish they had you choose right from the start whether you wanted to fuck around with memory and logic puzzles, or just watch the goddamn movie. I finally today watched the commentary (again, I needed the internet to help me find it), and it’s a good track, as Nolan covers all bases (technical, creative, set anecdotes, actors...). It makes me even more annoyed that he never recorded a track for Batman Begins. The 2nd disc also has a lot of the usual type of stuff, but I’ve never watched any of it.
If you’ve never seen the film, you’re missing out on one of cinema’s all time great puzzles. Repeat viewings are rewarded, and nitpickers will find almost nothing in terms of continuity/logic holes. The director has gone on the make the 2nd highest grossing film of all time, so a re-release on DVD that touts that bit of info wouldn’t surprise me, but you really should just go buy whatever version you can find (a Blu-Ray is also available) ASAP. Few movies can be recommended more.
What say you?