Movie Night: Memento

MoviesOkay, in a most likely doomed attempt to bring this column back around to its original not-strictly-political purpose, I think I’ll start adding a “movie night” feature. Basically, whenever I actually manage to sit and watch a movie — in the theater, on DVD, whatever — I’ll make a brief note of it and jot down a couple of quick thoughts. Nothing approaching a true “review” (’cause I’m already about six months behind on my official reviews), but just whatever little “nugget” crosses my mind.

Just to allay any incipient fears — I’m not about to start pulling a Harry Knowles, enumerating every nauseating little detail about my movie-watching experience. Just a few sentences about what I came away with. Nor do I expect this to be an all-too-frequent feature; since most of the movies I enjoy aren’t exactly child-friendly, my opportunities to watch — at least until the girls get older and can more readily occupy themselves during the evening hours — are frightfully limited.

So last night’s movie of choice was Christopher Nolan’s Memento. I’ve got the Limited Edition version of the DVD, which has been the subject of innumerable tirades against its near-incomprehensible navigation scheme. While I will say that it’s... difficult to navigate (I’m getting pretty good at this understatement thing), that’s part of the appeal; the disc’s layout perfectly sets the tone for the picture, a bit like an opening act for a stage performer. I absolutely love it, and wouldn’t have it any other way. I wish more discs took chances like this and produced something which truly enhances the movie-watching experience; given the disc’s overwhelmingly negative reception, however, I think the chances of that happening are somewhere akin to the odds of my (ever) voting Republican.

In essence, both discs open with what appears to be a memory test. The first disc — containing the movie itself — flashes an increasingly rapid-fire series of words, then presents a five-column list of words asking you to select those that were not shown previously (the second disc — the special features — does the same but with images). Of course, it’s impossible to remember the words that were displayed, as many of them lasted all of a single frame of video. A little patience will pay off, though — first of all, not all of the words can be selected. Second, only one word in each column really makes sense in context: “read” (subtitles), “listen” (audio options), “watch” (view movie), “chapters” (chapter selection), and “comments” (director’s commentary). And third, if you wait a few seconds, the wrong words will all dim to about half-opacity, making the correct options all the more obvious.

Admittedly, the second disc is more obscure — the pictures don’t make any intuitive sense, and don’t lead directly to the extras, but rather to succeeding “psychology test” pages. But then again, the extras are just that: extras. If you’re obsessive enough to want to watch all of them (as I am), then you’re likely to be sufficiently persistent in your investigations of the disc itself, in the process gaining a healthy appreciation for the massive amount of thought and creative artistry that went into the mastering. In the end, of course, that persistence will pay off — probably the best extra on that second disc is the ability to watch the movie in chronological order; if you haven’t actually seen Memento, that might not seem to make sense, but trust me, that’s a pretty illuminating feature. Better yet, don’t trust me — just go watch the movie.

All of which brings me to my real observation about the movie itself, a point which was driven home to me by the neophyte audience with whom I was watching. Yes, Memento is a fascinating tale in its own right, but what never ceases to amaze me is how such an amazingly complex storytelling method can at the same time be completely comprehensible. Whereas, say, Pulp Fiction played with chronology and generated no small amount of confusion in the process, Memento manages to keep the audience completely aware of where events fall in the film’s ordered world (or at least as “aware” as they need to be at any given moment).

Unfortunately, Pam wasn’t able to watch the movie with the rest of us last night, occupied as she was with getting the girls ready for bed. Which means she’ll want to watch it again later. And I’ll happily join her.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home