Sunday, December 13, 2009

Just the facts, ma'am

Memento (2000), the famous "backwards" movie apparently poses as great a dilemma for writers on film as it does for audiences. In the course of preparing to show it for Film Studies, I was looking for a decent piece of analysis of the film, element by element. What I have found is that nobody writes ANYTHING about Memento other than recounting the fact that it is backwards (except for the parts that are forward) and recounting exactly how that works. Cinematography, acting, music, editing, none of these seems to get any attention whatsoever from writers about film. It's all story structure all the time. Only celebrity "journalists" rehashing the latest scandal display this level of utter unanimity.

The fact is, there is some remarkable acting, editing, cinematography and music in Memento. Everyone involved seems to have been intrigued by and committed to the concept. Actor Joe Pantoliano reportedly made a critical contribution to the montage of the opening scene. Moreover, the structure of the film has implications other than that of the manipulation of story. By viewing extreme violence backwards, we are able to look at its horror dispassionately, without the cheap recoil of our own squeamishness, and contemplate its dreadful consequences more thoughtfully than in a conventional film. I was particularly taken by the editing by Dody Dorn, which must, as a necessity, constantly hover between revelation and concealment. Never has the syntax of knowing looks been more critical to a film.

I see Memento is making a lot of lists for the best of the decade (2000-2009)--because of its story structure. How much longer will it take to see all the good things in this fine film?

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