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TIFF [2000]Go to TIFF 00 index

(USA 2000) 113 minutes
Cast: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Stephen Tobolowsky
Director/Screenwriter: Christopher Nolan


[Momento or, the correct, Memento - however you spell it the Memento chat in the forum seems to be about one thing. Who really did it, and what are the clues? Talk back and tell us what you think!]

Leonard knows a few things: that he was once an insurance investigator, and that one night his wife was raped and murdered and he was attacked, suffering a serious brain injury that has wiped out his short-term memory. Everything else he has to remind himself of with an elaborate system.

Guy Pearce and Willem Dafoe at TIFF 2000

MEMENTO star Guy Pearce with Willem Dafoe at TIFF

Where is he? Who's that guy? Who's that girl? What just happened? Notes, Polaroids, tattoos, maps: Leonard's chasing down his distant past without an ability to hold on to the recent past. But every day the largest tattoo on his chest reminds him of why he needs to go on every day: YOUR WIFE WAS RAPED AND MURDERED. And his mission is revenge.


I saw Christopher Nolan's first film, "Following" on whim at TIFF two years ago. I thought its plot sounded kind of neat - a wannabe writer follows people to get inspiration, and ends up in trouble when he follows a criminal. The only thing I didn't think quite worked was its out-of-order narrative; while it didn't affect the story adversely, I think it didn't necessarily added anything either. But with "Memento" Nolan scores on all counts, producing a truly unconventional tale that demands an unconventional telling.

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Based on a short story by brother Jonathan, Nolan has weaved an incredibly complex tale with the main action told backwards mirrored with a phone conversation, differentiated by being shot in black and white, providing some exposition regarding Leonard's bizarre circumstances. It's really quite a feat, because two storylines being told in opposite directions actually merge at a point, and do so with remarkable ease. It reminded me most of "The Usual Suspects"; I instantly knew that "Memento" would require multiple viewings in order to fully realize how deeply brilliant it really is.

And like "The Usual Suspects," it works incredibly well the first time you see it, too. There's a lot of dark humor and the suspense is excruciating; you really won't have the whole story until the very last minute. Imagine: a film with the crucial climax at the beginning! The performances are great across the board, as characters do about-faces in temperament and motive with each segment to keep you guessing the whole way through. A very challenging, very satisfying film, but unfortunately no news on a release.

- Lidia F

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