Memento review

:. Director: Christopher Nolan
:. Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss
:. Running Time: 1:53
:. Year: 2000
:. Country: USA

If Sundance has lost the independent spirit that made its reputation, instead falling prey to large studios in search of low cost, nevertheless each year the festival unveils new filmmakers of singular works. So this year the festival must be thanked for placing Christopher Nolan's Memento in the projection room, a film made unique by his reverse montage and the cerebral exercise he provokes in the audience.

Guy Pearce (L.A.Confidential) interprets a man struck with amnesia who, in the opening scene, kills a man. From there, the film unwinds from back to front, retracing the steps that lead to such an act. But instead of simply playing the "flashback" card and ending with the beginning, the film advances backwards from scene to scene, obliging the viewer to use his own memory and logic in order to understand what's happening onscreen. The director nevertheless offers a discussion thread in order to avoid totally losing the audience.

Memento is cut into sequences which, when completed, return to the preceding sequence and so on. Two recurring characters played by Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix) and Joe Pantoliano come to further muddle the tracks and, by same token, the spirit of Pearce's character. He only has memory of his life up to the time his wife was attacked and killed and cannot create any new memories. Not having any memory of the day before, he thus bases his actions on Polaroids and tattoos on his body, which serve as his memory. But can he really trust his own notes and his subsequent interpretation of them?

Just like Mike Figgis's Time Code, Memento is an innovative film, a successful exercise of style that disrupts the laws of narrative. With conventional treatment, the film would not have been of great interest, but in the hands of director Christopher Nolan becomes a satisfying cinematic feat. The full-length film even manages to offer some shocking and unexpected twists that call everything back into question. It is obvious that such a film is not addressed to everyone, considering its complexity. Incessant popcorn eaters and summer blockbuster aficionados must kindly disregard this film. Also appreciated is the real pleasure the director takes in the manipulation of his main character and the audience, injecting some touches of irony and self-derision taking advantage of the situation.

Thanks to the unpredictable nature of film, the actors are lucky to be able to act in different registers according to the evolution of the story. Pearce is excellent, skillfully passing between confusion and calculated coldness. He carries film on his shoulders while Carrie-Anne Moss is also convincing in the various layers of her role. Only Joe Pantoliano, though likable, seems to spend too much time on a Joe Pesci impression.

Memento is without any doubt one of the most captivating films to arrive this year. A film that gnaws at you, amuses you, seduces you, and will give you one wish: to watch it and take another hard look.

  Fred Thom

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