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Memento
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Memento More at IMDbPro »

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21 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Skin as Photograph

Author: tedg (tedg@filmsfolded.com) from Virginia Beach
14 May 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoilers herein.

I rate this very high on my scale, primarily for its ambition and intellect.

Usually I get annoyed at IMDB comments that report the story as if it were important, but it is here:

---Lenny's home is attacked, wife raped, him injured. He develops this `condition' which has no physical cause. In other words, the condition is invented. The insurance investigator (Sammy Jankins), uncovers him as a fraud by using electrified test blocks. Knowing this, his wife challenges him and he `accidentally' kills her rather than face the condition. Sent to a hospital, he escapes and ties up with the cop who investigated the case. Together, they track down the petty crook and kill him. Over time, the condition becomes more pronounced and embedded. The cop (Teddy) is crooked and exploits Lenny in a doublecross drug deal, getting him to kill Jimmy. Jimmy's girlfriend Natalie also manipulates Lenny to first chase off Dodd (who is looking for the missing money). Lenny decides to get even with Teddy, so plants a seed that he will use later to justify killing Teddy.

---It is essential to know that Lenny was never an insurance investigator, and that his condition is self-delusional. The order and ritual is not to cope with, but to create the condition. Remembering his wife increases the intensity behind the psychosis -- remembering his investigator gives him identity and focus in refining the condition -- knowing all this transforms the idea behind the film into something of genius.

That's because it is deeply self-referential: us looking at a film, especially at a mystery, is just the same as looking at a few polaroids and trying to create/remember a past. Watching movies is self-delusional, and with detective stories it is a game of wits between viewer and writer to outwit and manipulate each other just as here between Lenny and Teddy. (The filmmaker calls us, we shouldn't answer, but we forget.) This film goes further. An actor forms the picture by putting words on it; in the case of acting, the `picture' is the body, so it makes sense for the clue/words to appear on his body.

The combination of the three (words on skin, remembrances of images past, the mind duel with the writer) adds up to a pretty mind-expanding framework. That alone transports the intelligent viewer to another world, a shocking world of self. This makes the film important, and an important film deserves criticism.

So what could be better?

The ink on skin as referential of film acting was done so much more elegantly and deeply with `Pillow Book.' The playing with time was moderately clever compared to the other, deeper games in this film -- but it could have been much more challenging. It could have stuttered (`Limey') could have folded (`Pulp Fiction') could have paralleled (`Run Lola Run') could have spiralled deeper (`Snake Eyes'). Maybe in the next film.

I did not think the eye of the camera was very clever. This had `noirish' writing but not filming. More like the later `DOA' in the black and white would have really spun. The dialog and plot were needlessly simple. If I am going to go to the trouble to displace my mind for a day or two, I want it shifted beyond Jupiter. That the story was so simple was pandering to the dumb masses and annoyed.

But the biggest flaw was our friend Guy. Moss is not a real actress. Guy is, but he's of the rather simple kind, who thinks he plays a character. Consider what this film is: it is a film about films first, and within that we have a character inventing another character and reality. That's three roles in one. Woody Allen made a similar movie so far as this matter: `Sweet and Lowdown.' It was a fake documentary about a guy who created a stage persona which he subsequently adopted. Simple stuff plotwise compared to `Memento.' But it had Sean Penn. Watch Sean play three roles at once, weaving them into a complex multidimensional space. This film was intelligent enough in its conception to warrant such texture, to have the actor remind us that we are him and he isn't.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Clever I guess, but not that enjoyable to watch

5/10
Author: noahk from Maryland
2 November 2001

Another cleverly done example of backwards story telling, from the Pulp Fiction school.. Unlike Pulp Fiction, the backwards element got annoying and tiresome fast in this film. It certainly was a creepy film, maybe even affecting (time will tell, since I just watched it), but I didn't find it all that enjoyable. The ending was unsatisfying for me, after sitting through the previous hour and fifty minutes (yes, I found myself watching the clock to count down when it would wrap up). I suppose I could get a bit more out of it with repeated watchings, but I don't really care enough to bother with that. I would give this one a 5/10, although few of you will probably agree with me so let the flames begin!

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Overrated

5/10
Author: wlee08
23 December 2008

I saw this movie around five years ago so you'll have to forgive me if you're a fan. The truth is I was not blown away by this 'diabolical thriller'. Sure it leaves you scratching your head but is that necessarily a good thing? It may be a 'super intelligent' movie but that does not necessarily make it good art. I remember the acting as being semi-wooden, the production values low, and the dialog sparse. Is it a confusing movie? Absolutely. Will it makexsense if you watch it a dozen times? Probably. But I still would not count this as one of the top 250 movies of all time. That said, my hat off to a truly original script

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Just a deception package!

3/10
Author: Jay-Are from Oldenburg, Germany
26 May 2003

Just a deception package! In NO WAY this picture is only half as intelligent as it pretends to be. A quite good idea in deed, but after a promising start it gets a heavy-handed, mechanical and predictable bore and a pure letdown, especially because it stays beyond the means. And sorry folks: It really is no achievement to UNDERSTAND this movie -but it sure is to to keep up till the end.

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19 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Very boring movie

3/10
Author: rauh-georg from Germany
28 September 2008

It eludes me how this movie has gotten such high ratings and even two Oscar nominations.

This movie is for the most part mind-boggling boring, with endless repetitive sequences of how our main character writes notes, tries to remember certain events or persons. This goes on for about 80% of the movie in an desperate attempt to create "suspense"...but it gets tiresome. The end admittedly had a moderate surprising twist...however, from a certain point of view, the end was also predictable and, somehow, disappointing. The only positive thing about the movie is a good performance by Carrie Ann Moss, however the main character did not convince me, neither did the plot. (If there was one, besides of a repetitive line-up of the character's confusion and attempts by him to puzzle together memories.) This movie is breathtakingly boring and the ending *extremely* underwhelming. One of the movies which is praised about all over, you watch it - and it turns out a huge disappointment.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

This movie has been vastly overrated.

6/10
Author: dfink32 from Cleveland
26 October 2001

There are holes in the plot of this movie that should prevent it from receiving the ranking it has in this database (1 of the top 10 all time best movies). In the end, the characters are not sympathetic or interesting enough to warrant the treatment they get in the film. I do not think this is a must see movie for anyone.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

No substance

4/10
Author: gga
14 October 2001

Very little substance in this movie, with the gimmick (very well done) of telling the story in non-continuous sequences and almost in reverse order. But it is a frustrating and non-rewarding movie that cheats the audience at every step: a fictitious illness, characters that do things more to startle the audience rather than for a realistic reason, and an ending that is way too predictable and really silly at the same time. Basically, if you told the movie in a normal fashion, it would show more holes than a certain cheese I am fond of.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Okay, what am I doing? Oh, I'm chasing that guy.

Author: DarthFoole (jugglervr@aol.com)
16 April 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What I generally look for in a good movie is character development. If nothing changes in the characters' personalities, I have trouble enjoying the film, as it loses a certain sense of realism. One method of character development that I particularly enjoy is that of the "revealing" method, finding out more about a person's personality by being shown information. Many people mention The Usual Suspects when reviewing Memento and I can't help using it as well. This method of character development is used very well in that movie also, in the twist at the end. I felt that Leonard's character developed extremely well in that we were shown bits of his personality at a time and it was not until the end that we found out what he was truly all about. *Spoiler comment at end*

This film, with its memory-troubled main character, reminded me of a sub-plot in the Kurt Vonnegut novel, The Sirens of Titan, in which the main Character, Malachi Constant, must endure repetitive memory wipes, only knowing what is going on by re-reading a series of notes that he writes to himself.

I was going to mention something else about Memento, but I forgot it. Maybe I should have written myself a note.

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***Spoiler comment below***

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I really enjoyed the sequence of shots in which Leonard realizes that he's crazy and consciously decides to prolong his fictitious search by leaving himself a note that is, in effect, a lie. The idea of lying to oneself brings up entirely new issues of paranoia that I thoroughly dig.

Will have to count next time i see it, the number of times that Teddy tries to get the keys to Leonard's car. I think it may be as many as six.

small plot hole, the Jaguar's car alarm goes off when the window is shot, but the alarm had not been armed.

***

***

***End Spoiler***

***

***

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11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

the most important English language film of the 21st century

10/10
Author: (winner55) from United States
15 May 2007

I write this after having to write a bad review of Nolan's "batman Begins." "Memento". after more than seven years, remains the most important English language film of the 21st century. Into it, Nolan pours all the fundamental problems of film, and the fundamental problems of memory that gave rise to film in the first place.

It takes about four viewings to get any grip on this film - yet none of these viewings feel wasted in any way, as though the director has played tricks on us - on the contrary, it is the film's bald-face honesty which leaves us in despair of ever getting just the right handle on all the details and the characters.

Its hard to understand how Nolan could have betrayed himself and his vision after this film, by selling out to Hollywood's highest bidders - hopefully, he'll recover and give us the Christopher Nolan film we should expect after seeing this one.

But in any event, this remains one of the most important films ever made - brilliantly written, filmed, acted, edited - a necessary companion piece to Welles' "Citizen Kane" or Eisenstein's "Potemkin" - hopefully, Christopher Nolan will actually direct another film some day....

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11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant culmination of a series of anti-detective thrillers.(possible spoilers)

9/10
Author: Alice Liddel (-darragh@excite.com) from dublin, ireland
15 November 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is refreshing to see a (relatively) mainstream thriller that does not follow the tired old rules, that uses Resnais, rather than Mel Gibson, as a starting point, that substitutes for an inevitable linear plot a temporal time bomb, where the straight line of events is smashed to pieces and put together with seeming haphazardness. Further, this plot is told completely from one character's point-of-view, a character as we by now know, with short-term memory. His great boast is that he remembers his identity and memory up until the accident - the denouement suggests that even this is a myth.

So what is the plot we're watching? Has the emotional shock of finally getting revenge had the required, cathartic effect, and that Leonard Shelby is now piecing back the bits of remembered past? Or is he, in effect, a dead man, if we agree that someone does not exist as an identity without memory, exists in a kind of limbo, and that this dead Leonard is watching his life flashing before (or behind) him?

As all the 'revelations' at the end take place in the narrative's begining, Leonard is denied all the action hero's usual rewards - increased self-knowledge, knowledge of the world and the plot. He is given the answers at the start of his plot, and forgets them. Leonard at the end (his beginning) is a more coherent character than at the beginning (his end) - is this just because we've given a mass of (highly dubious) information by then and think we know him and his situation better? Or is he, as his narrative progresses, getting vaguer, moving towards inertia, the catatonia that finally swamped his altar-ego Sammy Jankis.

Our problem is that the film comprises not one plot, but four, all fragmented, full of gaping black holes, all mediated by this character who knows nothing. One is Leonard's narrative as he sees it, as he tries to avenge his wife's murder. The second is told in monochrome flashback (or whatever this is called in a film that runs backward), mostly told in mysterious phone calls, and seem to flesh out the gaps missing in the first plot, but actually creates more. The third is the 'real' plot that may have something to do with cops, snitches, femmes fatales, or may be hallucinated, misremembered by Leonard, or simply planted there as cover for another plot, or may not even exist at all. The fourth is the story of Sammy, who suffered the same 'condition' as Leonard.

All four are obviously connected with each other to create a discordant fugue, but each undermines the other; in a sense, hell is other plots, and Leonard is in hell. We can only take the opening sequence, where Leonard stands holding a fading photograph over a dead man's bloody body as the only 'reliable' image, and in this 'reliable' image, another, the photograph, is slipping away, ungraspable, like Leonard's memory, like the film.

In another sense, though, what this film does is what any detective story does, which is work its way bakwards from the crime to its source. This is what Dupin, Holmes and Poirot do, followed by legions of TV and movie detectvies. This film just takes this journey literally. In a conventional detective story, this travelling into the past is a way of making the present and future safe, of reasserting order, of filling up the gaps. As Leonard doesn't succeed in reaching the source, and as the audience flounders too, there can be no reassertion of present and future.

Leonard is the logical conclusion of a long line of anti-detectives, figures who do not solve the crime, who are personally implicated in the investigation, and are eventually destroyed by it. 'Vertigo''s Scottie Ferguson is the most famous example, others include 'The Spider's Strategem', 'Blow-up' and 'The Parallax View'. These films offer detectives who do not order chaos, who cannot reorder the world, in the way Holmes used to. Crime, solution and detective get lost in a temporal vacuum, never to be saved.

These abstractions are firmly grounded in 'Memento' in the body and the eye; Guy Pearce's rather splendid physique as palimpsest, where history is recorded at random, where the keys of interpretation are lost. The split between mind and body is complete, and with it the essence of our unified humanity. Similarly, with all the Polaroids he takes, the camera may never lie, but, as discrete entities, images are meaningless, in narrative terms anyway.

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