On a very rare occasion comes a film that simply gets so much right that there doesn’t seem to be anything of real worth left to say about it once you see it–and Memento is one such film. I had seen Christopher Nolan’s indie sensation more than a few times over the past few months (dating back to even before the film’s release), yet I could not get myself to write a proper review for it. So far this year there hasn’t been anything quite as exhilarating in form and content as this masterfully executed thriller in which Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man who has lost the ability to form new memories, attempts to find his wife’s killer. Much has been made of the film’s unusual time structure (which, in fact, it is a bit more complex than backwards), but it is less a gimmick than a necessary and ingenious storytelling device that places the viewer squarely in the point of view of its extremely unreliable protagonist. But Nolan doesn’t rely on the device to generate thrills and suspense; the story takes many surprising turns as the story winds down to its beginning, and immeasurably helping Nolan keep the audience involved and riveted is a superb Pearce, who leads a solid principal cast rounded out by Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano.
Given how intricately constructed the film is, one would want and pretty much expect a supplement-heavy special edition DVD, but that’s not what Columbia TriStar has released–at least not at this time. That said, this is a well put-together and cleverly designed standard edition. Jonathan Nolan, brother of Christopher and the author of short story on which the film is loosely based (“Memento Mori,” which is included in its entirety on the disc), designed the menus. Like the nebulous notion of “truth” in the film, the menus are in constant shift; don’t be alarmed if your remote control buttons suddenly don’t function as they normally would. Nolan does not provide a running audio commentary for the film, but he does say his piece in a 23-minute interview with New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell that originally aired on the Independent Film Channel. Of course, this segment hardly makes up for the absence of a commentary, but it is nonetheless insightful and informative. A gallery that compares production sketches of Leonard’s many tattoos with actual photographs is good for nothing more than a single look; a feature with more repeat value is a DVD player-ready duplication of the film’s official website (otnemem.com), here simply labeled Memento (or “Otnemem,” depending on which version of the special features menu you happen to land on). Branching out from a mock newspaper article that covers the aftermath of events depicted in the film, this feature takes a look at various handwritten notes and other documents–some seen in the film, some not–that more extensively flesh out Leonard’s story. The film’s trailer; one for Nolan’s debut feature, Following; and director and cast biographies fill out the generally satisfying but still mildly disappointing disc–even if the light amount of supplements feels completely, perfectly in line with the air of mystery about the film. Come to think of it, that may have been the point.
Specifications: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; English 5.1 Surround; English Dolby Surround; English and Spanish subtitles; English closed captioning.