Memento is the best film I've seen in a long time
and it is my early pick for best of the year. This a most unusual
movie both in its plot and in its style. The story follows Leonard
Shelby (Guy Pearce) who has suffered a head injury at the hands of the
man who also murdered his wife. As a result of the injury, Shelby
cannot retain any new memories but his old memories remain intact.
Despite this handicap, Shelby is trying to find his wife's killer.
He resorts to some very ingenious ways of keeping track of things even
though he can never remember anyone he's met before or anywhere he's been.
In the mix, are a cop (Joe Pantoliano) who may or may not be trying to
help Shelby, and a bartender (Carrie-Anne Moss) whose drug-dealing boyfriend
has disappeared. Added to the confusion of the main character, is
some confusion for the audience. Memento is shot backwards.
The film opens with the last scene and every scene thereafter is followed
by the scene that happened just before it. This technique is applied
with such dexterity that each scene naturally follows the one before it
even though we are moving backwards through time. And it is amazing
how it kept me on edge trying to figure out what's going on even though
I'd seen the end of it. Australian actor Guy Pearce is excellent
as the guy who can't remember who he's talking to unless he has a polaroid
of him or her in his pocket. I've only seen him in a couple of movies
previously but they were both good ones, The
Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and L.A.
Confidential. Joe Pantoliano, who meets Shelby over and over
again for the very first time as they investigate the murder, is one of
my favorites. He is one of those character actors, referred to as, "the
busiest man in Hollywood." And he is always good. He first appeared
on my radar screen way back in 1983 as Guido, the killer pimp in Risky
Business and recently was Cypher in The
Matrix, my favorite film of 1999. He is joined in Memento
by his co-star in The Matrix,
Carrie-Anne Moss. She does another good turn here as the bartender
who uses Shelby's memory problem to solve her own problems. And I
don't love her just because she's Canadian! Memento is so
well structured that at least until the end (the beginning?) of the film,
it is quite easy to follow the story. It gets purposely quite murky
before the credits roll as facts that seemed very clear cut earlier (later?)
on in the film disappear like Shelby's memory. Go see this one.
It's very memorable.