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Yes, it's true. The entire movie is based on a gimmick. However, I honestly feel that this does not cheapen the picture in the slightest bit. I loved every scene; discovering information as our lead character discovered it. It demands a second and third viewing, as there are many subtleties and quick flashes that may not be picked up on the first time around. Its one of the most original films ever made, and for people who scoff at the concept of not having a short-term memory, it actually is a real condition. Watch this movie. And, please pay attention. The performances are wonderful, and its structured magnificently.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you hate reality-based film-making this is awful. If you hate Film Noir,
this is ugly. But for me, Nolan has convinced me he is one of the most
important directors out there. I was even thinking, "It must be easy to edit
a movie so that it's all backwards." But it's not, it's not any easier - and
he leaves you straining and watching from scene to scene, searching for the
truth. Even the final revelation will affect each viewer and leaves them
searching for their own "ultimate truth" according to their own experience.
Most people comment about manipulation in connection with this movie, but after watching the last scene, I'm convinced that manipulation is not the main theme at all. I don't want to spoil it for you, but the basis of unfolding backwards in time is that you are enlisted to scrutinize the film trying to discover some set of motivations behind each character's actions later in time that makes sense. If you think you would enjoy this sort of puzzle, I think you will enjoy this excellently crafted film.
Incredible, riveting and powerful. What else could I say? This movie has
all of the qualities of classic film noir as well as the magnitude of an
original, unique concept that has been tried and tired before but works
Guy Pearce has been underrated for years (just think back now to Priscilla and can you believe this is the same guy) and finally might get the recognition here that was at least well-deserved of him back for LA Confidential. Powerful perfomances, well developed story with suspensful buildup of what our main character pieces together little by little makes this a must see.
Easily in my top 100 of all time.
MEMENTO / (2001) ***1/2 (out of four)
By Blake French:
How is this for a scenario? A man breaks into your house in the middle of the night. He kills your wife and leaves you with brain injuries. Furious, you pledge your life to track down and kill whoever is responsible. There is just one problem: after the head injury, you are no longer capable of creating new memories; everything before the accident is crystal clear, but now you cannot remember anything past several minutes.
Now chew on this: what happens to guilt if you cannot remember what you did? How can a person have emotions if he does not know where they came from? How can we learn from our experiences if we cannot remember them. What is the purpose of revenge if someone cannot recollect or prosper from it?
"Memento" wins this year's prize for inducing the most audience participation. Not only is the film thought-provoking and unusually absorbing, but it also places us in the main character's shoes. How can we be in the same mental status with the main character when he cannot remember anything? Writer/director Christopher Nolan has that answer: he tells the story backwards. We begin at the end and work our way towards the beginning. However, each individual scene plays running forward, often overlapping, providing us with clear, constructive transitions. The main character, Leonard, is confused in prospects of time and experience, and so are we.
Other characters include Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss, from "The Matrix"), who also lost someone close and can help Leonard, and Teddy (Joe Pantoliano, also from "The Matrix"), whose identity often shifts mysteriously. Then there is the series of flashbacks of Leonard's experiences while working as an insurance agent. The situation involves an individual named Sammy, who has a memory disorder similar to Leonard's. His diabetic spouse is not sure whether her husband is faking his condition or not. To prove it to herself she arranges a test I dare not reveal. Leonard is more intricately involved in this story than he even believes.
"Memento" is smart and imaginative. It doesn't pass up little details of the characters. Leonard is constantly jotting himself notes and taking Polaroid pictures so his life can make some sense. He even gets permanent tattoos all over his body so he does not lose or forget some of the most important information.
In a movie like this, it would be almost impossible to make without leaving some information out; even some of the film's actors were confused and requested a script told in sequence order. But these filmmakers have constructed a movie with a plot hole big enough to drive a semi through: If Leonard cannot remember anything after the accident, then how can he remember that he has a memory condition? There are no tattoos or notes to remind him, and whenever he meets someone he explains his condition thoroughly. This is necessary information he reveals, but there are better ways to do so. We could be there when his doctor explains the condition to him, or see his friends talking about it. The sky is the limit in a movie like this. It was not essential to leave such a massive, obvious hole in the plot.
"Memento" is still a unique mystery thriller. It is a tantalizing experience we do not often come across at the movies. For audiences who like to sit back and relax, this film is a waste of time. It requires us to follow along, participate, fit puzzle pieces together-"Memento" doesn't provide any easy or obvious answers. All but the most intelligent and thoughtful kids will not be able to follow this film; it is intended for adult audiences. "Memento" is one of the year's most challenging movies, not to be missed if you are looking for something clever and original.
Losing your memory would have to go close to one of the worst experience
anyone could ever suffer from. In the movie Memento', we get to see how bad
it is to suffer from short term memory loss. It also gives us the chance to
see how far a patient of such a disease will go to remember what is most
important to him. In the vain of Pulp Fiction', Memento is a movie that has
to be seen to be believed. It is no wonder that this movie is so popular
with the movie going public around the world.
Leonard Shelby wears expensive, tailored suits, drives a late model Jaguar sedan, but lives in cheap, anonymous motels, paying his way with thick wads of cash. Although he looks like a successful businessman, his only work is the pursuit of vengeance: tracking and punishing the man who raped and murdered his wife. The difficulty of locating his wife's killer is compounded by the fact that Leonard suffers from a rare, untreatable form of amnesia'. Although he can recall details of life before his accident' Leonard cannot remember what happened fifteen minutes ago, where he is, where he is going, or why.
Christopher Nolan has made one great (but confusing) movie. His style in directing and editing Memento' is quite unique, as no movie has ever been made quite like it before. The story being told in a backward kind of motion makes the audience have to think hard about what they are watching. It also makes the audience feel for a guy like Leonard, whose condition only gets worse and worse as the movie goes on. I am almost 100% sure that Nolan and his brother Jonathan, made up this story in the realisation that it was meant to be confusing. What is also cleverly done by Nolan is the use of black and white and then colour shots. In my opinion, the variations in these shots are used so it confuses the audience even more.
Guy Pearce's role in Memento' shows me why he is so successful in Hollywood today. Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, a man on the hunt for his wife's killer. The only problem is that Shelby is suffering from anterior-grade amnesia', a disease that cannot be treated. With Lenny', I feel the audience suffers partly the same condition as he does, and partly does not, as we can remember what has happened in the present.
Memento's other main stars include corrupt cop Teddy' (Joe Pantoliano). A friend said of Pantoliano's performance in Memento, he was perfect for the role of Teddy', as he comes across as the mysterious bad guy'. I could not agree more. There is also the character of Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) who is a lot like Teddy in her own way. What is similar about these characters is the way they use Leonard's condition to advantage their own situations.
Other characters include Sammy Jenkis (Stephen Tobolowsky), who is a victim we learn about from an old case when Leonard Shelby was an insurance investigator. There is Leonard's wife, Catherine (C.S.I.'s Jorja Fox) who is another fascinating character. Although we do not hear her say much, she is a vital part of this most confusing story. Add in the funny role of Burt (Mark Boone Jnr.), the motel clerk, who openly admits to Lenny that he is ripping him off, by giving him two rooms, but that he will not remember it happening anyway.
Yet in no way do any of the characters in Memento' realise they are in a time reversed movie. I am sure that many of the performers would have had to read their scripts many times to understand what was happening from a cinematic point of view. But from an acting prospective, this would have been an easy experience to be part of. Memento also has some interesting devices to tell the story. The way Leonard tries to remember things in the present and the future, via notes tattoos and photographs, making them an important element within the movie. Without them, our hero would not be able to remember anything.
Nonetheless, memory is the most vital element in this movie, because without it, people are confused, isolated and abused, which is what happens to our hero', Leonard. As Lenny mentions early on in the film, "Memory's unreliable ... Memory's not perfect. It's not even that good. Ask the police; eyewitness testimony is unreliable ... Memory can change the shape of a room or the colour of a car. It's an interpretation, not a record. Memories can be changed or distorted, and they're irrelevant if you have the facts." But it has to be ironic that Leonard is the one who narrates Memento', when his recollections and memories of events are inaccurate and jaded. There are also some powerful scenes in Memento'. The one which sticks in my mind the most' has to be where Natalie abuses Leonard, calling his dead wife a whore', snorting smartly that you won't be even able to remember what I have said'.
So, if you watch this movie and it confuses you the first or even the second time, I can assure you that is how you are meant to feel, confused. If you hated watching Memento' the way Christopher Nolan intended, then I can only recommend that you get a hold of the DVD and watch it in chronological order, as it will really help you. Memento also shows how bad mental disease' patients can be abused by healthy people and what lengths sick patients will go to try and keep sane'. Also, if a movie makes you think, then in some way it has been successful in doing something that many movies do not do making you think. Those sorts of cinematic experiences are the ones that we need to cherish for life, as they are few and far between. Memento is one such experience.
CMRS gives Memento': 5 (Brilliant Movie)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
FACT ONE: "Just because there are things I don't remember doesn't make my
FACT TWO: "Your notes could be unreliable."
FACT THREE: "Memories can be distorted."
FACT FOUR: "But, even if you get your revenge, you won't remember it. You won't even know it's happened."
FACT FIVE: "I want time to pass, but it won't. How can I heal if I can't feel time?"
FACT SIX: "We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are."
When life becomes incomprehensible human beings tend to simplify things, revise memories, select facts that may or may not be representative of "the truth." We strive to make events as intelligible as possible but that act often has unintended consequences. Now, if you can capture this existential human reality on film in such a way as to allow the viewer to experience this struggle for understanding, for the placement of private aspirations into the context of the moment even as the primary character makes this same struggle, then you have connected our hearts and minds seamlessly with the film's lifeworld. That is a rarity indeed.
Such is Memento, a brilliantly conceived and executed work of art that has its audience literally at their wits end (just like the film's main character) trying to understand it all. The great debate of whether Teddy's version of the truth at the end is really "the truth" is symptomatic of director Christopher Nolan's purposeful craftsmanship. The very fact that we are as uncertain throughout most of the film as to the context of Leonard Shelby's actions as Leonard himself signifies that Nolan has succeeded in not just telling us Leonard's story put allowing us to know what it is like to *be* Leonard. This allows the film to work at a much deeper, almost subconscious, level scarcely achieved on film.
Guy Pierce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano all deliver terrific performances with some of the most original material I've seen in years. This film grabs your brain and won't let go. It twists and turns and just when you think you've got things figured out Nolan whips the rug out from under your feet. You are left totally involved and struggling with creating some sense of closure out of the infinite loop of the film's structure.
You can debate endlessly whether Teddy's final summary of events is the truth. You can argue both sides of whether Leonard killed his wife or invented Sammy Jankis out of thin air. In the end these are open questions. In the end there are no definitive answers. In fact, in the end ANY answer is plausible, just choose the one that sits best in your mind. Make that the truth. Because THAT is what this film is all about. It's about a man who can remember who he is but not what he has done and, to that extend, it is the prefect postmodern critique. We are often forced to act without sufficient information. The accelerating rush of our lives sends us headlong into our present without full consideration of where we've been. And on that level Memento provides a bold, compelling narrative that connects Leonard with every person. It is the mirror image of our divided selves.
No matter how much his audience might disagree with the film's conclusion, Nolan understands that - in the end - truth doesn't matter. It is what we choose to do with what we think is the truth that's important. And that can mean anything at all.
I saw "Memento" in the early afternoon, a fact for which I am thankful.
Why? Because it then proceeded to dominate the majority of my thoughts for
the rest of the day. That night I lay in bed, tossing and turning, my mind
trying to wrap itself around the story, and I absolutely could not GO TO
I finally just gave up on sleep, got up around midnight, and watched "Election" to cleanse my palate. Then I went back to bed and starting contemplating "Memento" AGAIN. Finally, out of sheer exhaustion, I went to sleep.
This is a movie that gets in your head and will not get out until you figure it all out. And that can only be done with extensive internet research. Reading "Memento Mori", the short story upon which the movie is "based" helped, too.
"Memento" is nothing short of a phenomenon. And a brilliant one at that.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Revising such film noir conventions as a story told through the
unreliable point of view and voice-over narration of a morally flawed
investigator-protagonist, the pervasive infusion of a dark past into
the narrative present, and the use of a femme fatale as an embodiment
of evil allure, Memento is perhaps the most original and intriguing
revision of the genre since Welles' Touch of Evil.
As almost every commentator has noted, the most startling (or 'gimmicky') feature of Memento - and one with obvious roots in the film noir tradition - is its inverted/contorted plot structure. The film loops backwards episodically to present a series of revelations about the main character, Lenny (Guy Pearce), about the motives of his antagonists 'Teddy' (Joe Pantolino) and 'Natalie' (Carrie Ann Moss), and about the nature of Lenny's memory-loss condition. His condition 'isn't amnesia' (or so Lenny tells everyone he meets) but rather such severe short term memory loss that he is unable to assimilate and retain experience - in other words, to make new memories. Consequently, Lenny's identity, or more precisely his self-knowledge, is arrested at the moment he received a blow to his head while trying to stop intruders from raping his wife.
Everything that has happened thereafter has no subjective reality for Lenny, only whatever 'objective' reality he can forge using instant photos, notes to himself, and - for the really important stuff - tattoos. But matters are even more complex and paradoxical than this setup might lead one to expect. Gradually, the viewer learns that even the clear memories that Lenny claims to have from before the assault are, like dreams, colored by protective distortions and selectivity. Moreover the so-called facts he has assembled in his investigation and that he defensively claims are more reliable than memory turn out to be irretrievably entangled in subjective motives: his own, Teddy's, and Natalie's. Thus the viewer's initial sympathy for Lenny as a justifiable victim/avenger transforms to horror as Lenny's true current identity becomes clear.
Importantly, Memento's regressive plot structure is punctuated and counter-pointed by a series of noirish black and white flashbacks in which Lenny relates to an anonymous phone caller the story of Sammy Jankis, another sufferer of short term memory loss who, ironically, was Lenny's big case in his pre-trauma life as an insurance investigator. Unlike the main narrative, the Sammy sequences are told in chronological order, strategically intersecting and organizing the narrative as it wends its way backwards to the moment when Lenny decides to set in motion the data trail that will lead to the murder we see him commit in the film's opening sequence. In addition, Lenny's reconstruction of the Sammy sequences is itself dreamlike and unreliable since he attributes to Sammy characteristics that (if we can believe Teddy, an utterly corrupt cop) are Lenny's own.
In addition to providing plot exposition and a recurring visual/narrative reference point, the Sammy sequences also bring into clear thematic focus the existential implications of memory loss. Like Sammy's, Lenny's 'condition' is a reduction to the most minimal and absurd level of the human mental processes for constructing meaning (in life, in film) out of fragmentary phenomena and evanescent recollections. In an age of Alzheimer's, deconstruction, and ego-fictions, most viewers will all-too-easily identify with Lenny's painfully hopeless and terrifyingly arbitrary quest to hold reality steady as is it fizzles and flits away.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
9) And that's when we realize we could never be sure of anything to
8) When Leonard eventually thinks he has found his wife's killer, eleventh-hour reveals shock us with the possibility that his whole crisis may be nothing more than delusion.
7) Editing this movie must have been like navigating inside Las Vegas hotels with no watch or compass: sex and drug distractions, deprivation of day or night, no signposts or exit signs, and of course, nauseous on cheap shrimp and hairy tequila. Untold credit to editor, Dody Dorn, for shuffling the deck as confusingly as possible, yet weaving the tale as tightly as a sanitarium wicker basket.
6) But every few minutes, the movie twists back on itself, each flashback a segment of Leonard's life that happened just before the segment we have just seen and with each flashback, we realize just how wrong Leonard is about who his friends are, his past life, clues to the killer, his quest *in toto.* By about the fourth paragraph we realize: this piece is running backwards.
5) From Jonathan Nolan's short story, *Memento Mori*, we meet Leonard mid-investigation, slumming it in a cockroach motel, having lost his job as insurance consultant, looking disheveled (as Guy Pierce can do so natchelly), and optimistically on the trail of the murderer; hanging with gregarious Teddy (Joe Pantoliano), and involved with hot bod, Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), both of whom seem to be aiding Leonard catch his killer.
4) Leonard's last "new memory" was the murder of his wife. During the scuffle with his wife's killer, a blow to the head caused his memory faculty to shut down. Whether this is truly biologically possible (if you cannot make new memories, how do you even shop for food and water or pay the rent?), for the movie's purposes, it means Leonard must piece together clues to his wife's killer through copious notes, tattoos on his own body and Polaroids. But the truth will forever elude him and the clues that lead to the killer are mere wraiths, the products of his own "selective" reasoning.
3) The harder you strive for something, the harder it is to grasp. But what you care least about - or that you were never striving for falls into your lap. Some call this the path of least resistance, but it's actually called The Reverse Genius Principle. And Leonard - all ephemeral ideas and misplaced action is a Reverse Genius in full throttle.
2) Guy Pearce is the memory-challenged Leonard, who is trying so hard to move forward to find his wife's killer, but unable to create "new memories" to retain info - that he ends up moving backward. Thusly, writer-director Christopher Nolan has crafted a film where the clues to a murder fall neatly OUT of place. Backwards.
1) *Memento* opens with a killing. We don't know why. We don't know who.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
During the movie "Memento," the audience is left guessing throughout
the whole movie until the very end. It has a unique style of presenting
the plot in which the movie begins with a scene and then it plays
backwards from there. While the movie jumps backwards scene by scene,
there is also a transition played in black and white that is
continuously playing forwards until a certain point. It is not until
the very end of the movie where the scenes played in color meet with
the ones played in black and white. This is where the climax of the
movie occurs and all the revelations of each characters role are
revealed. It is a must see and you will not regret it.
In the end of the movie we find out that the main character Lenny, who suffers from short term memory loss, has been tricked by his so called friend Teddy, into killing a drug dealer. Throughout the whole movie Lenny is on a quest to kill the murderer of his wife, who is in fact Lenny himself. Lenny gets the identity of himself and a man named Sammy Jenkis confused and we find out that Lenny is in fact Sammy. It leads us to believe that Lenny has used his brain condition to illicit forgetting what really happened to his wife to clear himself of shame and anger. This caused him to create Sammy Jenkis and allows him to believe that the ones who assaulted his wife and gave him the brain condition were the ones who supposedly killed his wife. We find out that Teddy, who is a local cop, has already helped Lenny kill the man who assaulted his wife. Yet Lenny forgot all about it and Teddy kept the proof and then used Lenny for his own benefit to kill a drug dealer for money. Once Lenny figures this out in the end of the movie he decides to burn all the evidence and leaves himself a clue that indicates Teddy is in fact the one who killed his wife. Lenny then leaves the scene reminding himself that he is still alive and then as fast as it was all revealed it is then forgotten. This leads us back into the rest of the movie in which we had already seen in reverse order.
When the movie is over the audience is left shocked and slightly confused about how to view Lenny. He acts as if he is an innocent man who has now become a conscious free murderer. He forgets everything he doesn't write down but he is the one choosing to leave out the facts that he finds out on multiple occasions that he is in fact a murderer for pleasure. It started as pay back but for someone who forgets the feeling so easily and has no direction to his life, why not make it a hobby. It's odd to think about that he is spending all his effort searching for his wife's killer when in reality it is Lenny he is looking for. He takes the lives of others to free him of guilt which in the end makes him more of a villain than the movies hero.
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