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Christopher Nolan
Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Writing Credits:
Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan

Some memories are best forgotten.

The revenge thriller gets an unforgettable new twist with Memento, an intricate crime story about a man with a damaged memory chasing a murderer whose identity he cannot possibly ever know for sure. Directed by newcomer Christopher Nolan, Memento has blown the minds of audiences around the world by deftly forging a reality in which neither the lead character nor the audience know who is pulling the strings, until everything that seemed true flips upside down.

Leonard (Guy Pearce) suffers from a rare brain disorder, the inability to form any new memories, caused by the injury he received in a struggle with his wife's murderer. He can remember in detail everything that happened before that night, but everyone he has met or anything he has done since then simply vanishes - unless he writes it all down. Who are his friends? Who are his enemies? What is the truth?

Box Office:
Budget $5 million.
Opening Weekend
$235.488 thousand on 11 screens.
Domestic Gross
$25.530 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $27.95
Release Date: 5/21/2002

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Christopher Nolan
Disc Two
• Chronological Version of the Film
• Shooting Script
• ďAnatomy of a SceneĒ Documentary
• ďMemento MoriĒ Story Treatment
• Trailers
• Still Galleries

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Memento: Limited Edition (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 30, 2003)

Some folks confuse ďoriginalĒ with ďgoodĒ. Just because a movie does something new doesnít necessarily mean it works. In fact, many times flicks that go down an unusual path fall flat because they seem self-consciously odd. Plenty of ďground-breakingĒ offerings appear to try weird things for no reason other than to be different, which can make them unsatisfying.

And then thereís Memento. Weíve seen a number of non-linear flicks over the years, with Pulp Fiction but Memento takes this concept to an extreme. Essentially, it runs its story in reverse. Of course, thatís not literally possible, since itíd require everything to go backwards, which would make it awfully tough to understand the dialogue. Instead, Memento provides a series of scenes. Those go in the normal direction, but director Christopher Nolan compiles them in a way that goes against the standard chronological presentation. Nolan connects these sequences with linking and expositional pieces.

The story of Memento presents an interesting tale no matter in what direction we see it. It concerns Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man who believes burglars killed his wife during a break-in. A violent part of this traumatic incident affected his brain and left him without any short-term memory abilities. As he tries to find the murderers and exact his revenge, his disorder means that he finds it exceedingly tough to maintain focus and piece together the mystery.

Leonard involves some others in his quest. Primarily we get to know Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), but their involvement with Leonard seems shady at times. Since the movie progresses in an episodic manner with a reverse chronology, their motives and actions generally remain mysterious.

Memento easily could have degenerated into nothing more than a cheap gimmick, but it never does so. Instead, Nolan uses the altered chronology as an asset. Would it hold up as well in the standard direction? I donít know, though this DVD will let you find out for yourself; as Iíll discuss later, it includes an ďEaster eggĒ that allows viewers to watch the movie in chronological order.

As it stands, the unusual structuring works as an asset, mostly because it helps put us in Leonardís head. It forces us to gain an appreciation of the confusion he must experience. Of course, we remember what we see, which makes some of the scenes so powerful, but the chronology creates disorientation in the viewer to forces us to deal with events in a weird way. That makes us identify with Leonard to a stronger degree, and it also means that we question what we know much more strongly.

In addition to Nolanís sturdy direction, Memento benefits from consistently solid acting. Pearce seems especially solid as Leonard. He allows himself to portray the characterís confusion and coping strategies but doesnít turn him into a cartoon. Pearce makes Leonard a compelling and believable personality despite his unusual affliction. He seems just confused enough for us to accept it, but he doesnít overdo the issue.

Ultimately, thatís the main reason why Memento works so well. At no point does it ever go over the top in any way, as it grounds its unusual stylistic choices in a tight and compelling tale. The movie seems consistently clever and provocative, and despite the quirky elements, it holds up very well to additional viewings. Memento seems like a terrific modern film noir.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B (DTS) B- (DD)/ Bonus B

Memento appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture showed a few small concerns, but it generally presented a positive image.

Sharpness seemed fine. Softness created no concerns, as the movie remained distinct and accurate from start to finish. Jagged edges and moirť effects also caused no problems, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, I saw light grain on occasion, and I also witnessed a few bits of grit and some speckles.

Colors varied, but they usually remained natural and accurate. At times, the hues came across as somewhat overblown and excessively warm, however. In general, they stayed reasonably clear and vivid. Black levels were dense and tight, especially during the filmís black and white segments; those demonstrated very solid contrast and definition. Shadow detail looked accurate and nicely opaque. Overall, the image seemed a little iffy at times, but Memento offered a good image as a whole.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks of Memento came across as fairly modest but effective. For the most part, the two mixes seemed largely identical, but the DTS demonstrated enough advantages to merit a slightly higher grade. Iíll first discuss that track and then get into the ways I felt the two versions differed.

Overall, the audio maintained a rather simple soundfield. It strongly emphasized the forward channels, which displayed good imaging. The spare score presented a fine stereo presence, and effects also appeared in natural and clearly delineated locations. Surround activity showed up infrequently. I noticed some sound from the rear when Leonard shot Teddy, but mostly, those channels featured little more than general reinforcement.

Audio quality seemed positive for the most part. Speech displayed minor edginess on a few occasions, but dialogue usually came across as natural and distinct, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility. Given their low-key presence, effects didnít tax the track, but they seemed accurate and detailed, and they displayed solid bass punch when appropriate. Music sounded clear and lively and also presented nice dynamics.

As I noted, the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks generally seemed identical, but I bumped up my grade for the DTS mix due to a few minor factors. The DTS audio featured moderately stronger bass response and it seemed a little more involving. It also presented somewhat better integration and came across as a bit more distinctive. While both tracks worked well as a whole, I preferred the DTS mix of Memento by a small margin.

This two-DVD special edition release of Memento includes a mix of extras. Most of these appear on the second disc, but DVD One tosses in a few bits. Up first we find an audio commentary from director Christopher Nolan, who offers a running, screen-specific affair. Nolanís dry personality makes the track seem a little slow at times, but he nonetheless offers a lot of solid information about the movie. He usually focuses on the particular challenges created by this unusual production. He includes some nuts and bolts material, but most of the time he chats about interpretation of the film, what he intended to do with various techniques, and the intricacies of the format. Nolan helps explain some issues that can seem confusing, like the alternate use of black and white or color photography, and he generally provides a compelling and useful discussion of the production.

One weird aspect of this commentary: Iíve not tried it myself, but according to the excellent Memento DVD guide Iíll soon reference, apparently Nolanís track branches into one of a few different possible streams at the end of chapter 13. These offer a few contradictory statements about the movie. Very odd, but it seems like it matches the movie itself.

On DVD Two, we encounter a mix of extras, but you may find it difficult to get to them. Thatís become the DVDís producers have encumbered it with a genuinely nightmarish interface. Thereís no simple way to get to these components. Instead, you need to muck around with questions from alleged psychological tests. Itís a clever concept but a serious nuisance to try to navigate.

Happily, someone sat down and created a thorough guide to this stupid disc. Douglas Bailey has his detailed chart posted on his homepage: http://world.std.com/~trystero/Memento_LE.html . Unless you enjoy beating your head against the wall, Iíd recommend it.

One of the more substantial components of DVD Two, Anatomy of a Scene offers a 25-minute and 15-second program originally aired on the Sundance Channel. The show provides a mix of movie clips and interviews with writer/director Christopher Nolan, editor Dody Dorn, composer David Julyan, producer Jennifer Todd, actor Joe Pantoliano, production designer Patti Podesta, and cinematographer Wally Pfister. They cover some general issues like casting and visual design, but they mostly hold true to the programís title as they discuss the movieís opening (or ending, depending on your point of view). We get some very nice details about the production and how they wanted to work things in this interesting little piece.

A text extra, Memento Mori takes us through Jonathan Nolanís original treatment for the story. More text appears in the Shooting Script area. This runs in real-time with the movieís soundtrack, and it also allows you to flip between the script and the movie. Itís an unusual presentation that seems satisfying.

Various collections of stillframe materials also appear. We find a somewhat bland package of 40 Production Stills and Sketches and also 18 examples of International Art. The latter seem a little more creative and intriguing than the former. A more irreverent addition, we also find two frames of bootleg cover art.

With a little work youíll find Leonardís journal from the movie. Handwritten and disjointed, it makes for a cool addition if just because it gives us a closer look at a production element. In a similar vein, we get a set of 24 images of props.

After we get two trailers - one international and domestic Ė we can dig into the much-desired chronological cut of the film. Though anamorphic, it comes only with Dolby 2.0 audio. Iíve not taken the time to sit through the whole thing this way, and I may never do so; Nolan had a good reason for doing it the way he did, so the chronological one remains a cool novelty but nothing more. That said, I suppose curiosity will eventually get to me and Iíll check it out this way. I must admit itís a very fun option to have.

A genuinely unusual and intriguing movie, Memento provides something different for the film noir genre. It never falls back on gimmicks and it seems like a consistently entertaining and compelling effort. The DVD provides good picture and sound along with a fairly nice roster of extras that lose some points due to the packageís absurdly complicated interface. Iíll still recommend this ďlimited editionĒ of Memento, though; itís a terrific film, and this is the best DVD release of the flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5483 Stars Number of Votes: 93
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