…and the quest to see everything

Best Shot Redux: Memento

This post is part of Nathaniel’s Hit me with your best shot series.

That’s fortunate since this season of the series requires me to rewatch movies that I’ve either seen before, or like Memento, four times. Twice, when the movie had its run on Showcase in Canada, when it still showed turn of the twenty-first century American independent film that began a new chapter of my love for cinema, unlike the less challenging cable programming and box office movies it shows today. The third time in Cinema and Modernity class, part of the Film Noir section, the first time I saw the beginning of the movie – or is it the end?

ph. Newmarket/Summit/Columbia TriStar/Alliance

Where was I? Rewatching any film means noticing things that I haven’t before. The first series of shots I’m going to talk about are what I thought my best shots were going to be. The bullet casing, animating itself through the film’s first scene playing in reverse, reminding me of Cobb’s totem in Inception. I started looking for other images here that reminded me of the other Nolan films. The birds in Natalie’s (Carrie-Anne Moss) room are less glamorous versions of the birds in The Prestige. Lenny’s (Guy Pearce) fire like the one that burned Bruce Wayne’s house down in Batman Begins. I’ll go for a stretch for The Dark Knight and talk about how both hero and villain mutilate their bodies and how both have unknown pasts.

But all roads lead to Inception, the connection between that magnum opus of a movie and this one are stronger than with Nolan’s other films. Like Cobb, the film shows Lenny remembering his wife through second long shots of her, the objects she used, of the things broken when she was attacked. Instead of the vivid feel of Mal’s flashbacks, Lenny’s wife’s seem fleeting and poetic, like how the only army wife in Malick’s The Thin Red Line is depicted. It’s also strange watching Jorja Fox be the prototype to Marion Cotillard, or is Cotillard Fox’s photocopy?

This one.

Second. The elusive Natalie, going from ordinarily shady character to foul-mouthed villain to everything in between. The audience sees minor characters like her through Lenny’s eyes and encounters. She’s the exception to the rule. Lenny leaves Natalie’s bedroom, leaving  her three seconds to herself, making me wonder about the film’s subjectivity, or if subjectivity is what Nolan is aiming for. She touches Lenny’s side of the bed. Who is she yearning for, Lenny or Jimmy, her drug-dealing boyfriend that Lenny has killed? Is she finding a kindred spirit with her boyfriend’s murderer, since they both have lost loves? Falling in love with him and falling into the trap that she has originally set out for him? The film repeats this moment but instead Lenny acts it out, his reactions to the half-empty bed in his motel room feel less genuine.

I tried avoiding the ‘beautiful woman’ shot I’m always tempted to use, but I couldn’t resist with Carrie-Anne Moss here. What kind of performances she would have given if she wasn’t relegated to being Trinity from the Matrix trilogy? She makes my favourite shot of the film. Also, a few bloggers, including me at one point, have accused Nolan of writing terrible female roles, but it takes him three seconds to turn a seemingly bipolar femme fatale into a nuanced, complex character. And he really likes his brunettes. Whether you think that’s enough is up to you.

Third. In which Nolan gives us the film’s twist, making me wonder why I haven’t noticed this in earlier viewings, or if Nolan just hid this well. And do you have any idea how difficult it was for me to get this screen cap? Ten minutes, seven times. Sammy Jankis (Sephen Tobolowsky) turns into Lenny. I am proud of this shot.

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6 responses

  1. Nolan still writes terrible female characters. The fact that the character has a little bit of nuance and complexity really isn’t much of an argument. Like it said, it took only a few seconds to do that and add in the actress doing what she can in this department and it’s not that difficult to have somewhat of a two-dimensional female character in any movie.

    March 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm

  2. True. It’s hard defending Natalie. And the story told on reverse made it harder to decipher who she was to Lenny and what she really wanted.

    March 16, 2011 at 2:25 pm

  3. I’ve never watched it in reverse (i.e. forward) and I have always wondered if the performances make sense. But i do think pretty much all of what;’s interesting about Natalie is Carrie Anne Moss’s facility with the fierce women.

    sad that hollywood didn’t really use her responsibly.

    March 16, 2011 at 11:50 pm

  4. That’s true. Teddy constanly wants Lenny out of town. Lenny plays detective. Natalie is the only one with the arc, but unfortunately or otherwise, it isn’t really clear what her arc is or where it’s going.

    She goes all out here, a precedent for more coarse yet sympathetic female characters. The last time I checked on Carrie-Anne Moss, she’s doing Canadian dystopian films. I miss her.

    March 17, 2011 at 12:58 am

  5. Cotillard kicks all these hos’ asses though.
    Nah just kidding. As someone who never got what The Matrix fuss was all about, I actually love Carrie in this movie. She’s such a perfect femme fatale!
    Kudos on acing that shot too!

    March 17, 2011 at 2:05 am

  6. Great post! I never noticed the similarities of the shots – just makes me appreciate this movie more.

    March 17, 2011 at 11:44 am

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