As much as a mind F#%@ that Memento is, there’s something about it that draws the viewer back for more. Maybe even for a third or fourth time. But the question has to be asked…what is it about this movie that makes it good enough to warrant so many repeated viewings? Well, for one, it’s a very confusing movie and a few more viewings certainly couldn’t hurt and maybe the film would start to make some sort of sense. Does it make sense the first time around? Sure it does, but some of us aren’t all the same speed (especially when it comes to soaking in films) and the way Memento is filmed, edited and written…we’ll need every bit of screen time that is allotted. And in a nutshell, that’s it. That’s the “buzz” over Memento. While this might not seem like a lot, trust me, if you haven’t seen it the film will either make perfect sense or you’ll be scratching your noggin’ trying to figure out what happened to who when. The premise is simple enough, and written by the Director’s brother, a bit of nepotism might have played a part as well. If nepotism does this, I say cast the Fonda’s, Huston’s and Barrymore’s!
We first see Leonard (Guy Pearce) as he has just put a bullet into the back of Teddy’s (Joe Pantoliano). The scene plays in reverse, come to think of it the entire movie plays in reverse, and it’s downhill (or should I say uphill) from there. We don’t know the characters, what their motivations are and what’s even more hard to explain is the fact that we have just seen the main character shoot another in the head. But we’re asking the same question he is…why? The story is told in a series of flashbacks (though we’re not quite sure how to follow it) that are in Black and White. The “new” information that we see is in color. As Leonard tries to reconstruct (or construct, rather) the little things that make up his day, we are confronted with his problem. The “problem”, essentially, is that he is no longer able to form new memories since the death of his wife. This problem of his is unique, but not unheard of. Each day is new to him, each face a new one though he might have met them day after day after day. To remember the key points of his life, his ongoing investigation and so on, he tattoos key items on his body. These range from a license plate number to a tattoo that is scrawled backwards on his chest that says “John G. raped and killed my wife”. How would you like to wake up every morning and see that in the mirror?
What’s so interesting and therefore frustrating for us and Leonard is that we’re not sure how to proceed. I draw the parallel that we take one step forward and then two steps back. We (and he) make progress, but very slow. The movie makes no mention of exactly how long he has been conducting his investigation. All we know is that he used to be an insurance claims investigator and that now he drives a Jaguar, wears the same clothes and is on the constant lookout for the person responsible for the murder of his wife. Memento truly is one of the more original movies to come out of Tinsel town in the last few years, and it’s a breath of fresh air. What’s more is that repeated viewings of this film are not only wanted, but almost required to decipher what’s going on. Proof that good acting, a well-written script and a thought-provoking storyline still make a good movie. Highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since we were introduced to Leonard and his strange world, but it has. The movie was actually an early arrival on the burgeoning Blu-ray format a few years back but it’s now been given a new AVC HD transfer thanks to Lionsgate (the initial release and previous DVD releases were done by Sony). The 2.40:1 image looks much cleaner since the original was an MPEG-2 codec. Colors are still muted as a majority of the film takes place indoors and it also helps convey Leonard’s sense of “where the hell am I?” The black and white flashback sequences look better too, containing a bit more grain but in a good way.
Audio: How does it sound?
As with the audio, “Memento” has also been given a new DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. While not quite as noticeable as the video, it’s an improvement over the previous Blu-ray and DVD tracks. Dialogue is very crisp and as we hear the whisper of Leonard’s inner voice, we’re reminded of how important audio really is to a film. While this won’t blow you out of the water, this uncompressed track is a bit easier on the ears than the prior edition.
Supplements: What are the extras?
If you remember the older Limited Edition DVD’s that came in somewhat of a case file cardboard type of packaging, the supplements here are carried over to this new Blu-ray. I’m glad this is the case since the studio distribution rights have changed over the last ten years. That said, the disc format has come a long way since this edition first debuted and the supplements don’t seem as robust as I recall. The audio commentary with director Christopher Nolan is rather intriguing and he tells us about the screenplay and some of the more technical aspects of the film and its shoot. Next up is “Remembering Memento” and we learn of the varied non-linear style in which the film plays out and was shot. There’s an IFC interview with Nolan as he discusses his own memory and memory loss. He discusses this theme as well as its significance in other movies. There’s also a short story that’s written by Jonathan Nolan (Christopher’s brother) that inspired the movie. We also get a sketch gallery of some of Leonard’s tattoos. I’d have liked to see some new material here, but since it’s been a decade since I last watched most of this stuff, I guess that’s about as new as it’ll get.