I love that Leonard (Guy Pearce) is crying in this shot. He finally got his “man.” But how long will the satisfaction last? Truly, where does Leonard go from here? Will he meet back up with Natalie? Will the “real” cops track him down? Will he actually remember? I’m talking about the movie like it’s the end, because it is. Sort of.
Chewing gum is hard to pull off in movies. Chiefly, it is a nightmare for sound mixers to deal with, but also, most people look ridiculous when they chew gum. As a result, gum chewing is pretty rare on film, unless it factors into the plot (as it does for Al Pacino’s character in Nolan’s film, Insomnia). Point being, the way Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) chomps on his gum in his opening scene tells us so much about the character. Mostly that he’s a little obnoxious, and doesn’t really care what others think.
Memento contains some of the best narration in all of cinema. That’s thanks to the writing, and Pearce’s command of his voice. Listen here, as he discusses the motel room Bible. After he says “…which I of course read… religiously,” he chuckles a bit then lets out a slight “Mmmm” sound, as if he’s satisfied by the thought, but also embarrassed that he admitted to reading the motel Bible. Such a nice beat, that little “Mmmm.”
I always thought it was weird that Leonard keeps his map above his bed. I mean, he walks on his pillows, with his shoes on, as he looks at the map. I suppose he’s so obsessed he doesn’t have time to care about hygiene. (Which, come to think of it, is probably true, since he never washes that damn shirt of “his.”)
Memento benefits from repeat viewings in a way very few films do. Initially, we have no idea what Natalie’s intentions are, but after we’ve watched the film a few times, it’s clear (to me, anyway) that she is the main villain of the film. Lying, cheating, beating, killing – it’s all done to benefit her. But why?
Our first glimpse of Leonard’s wife (Jorja Fox) has a distinctly Terrence Malick vibe. Handheld, quick, abstract. We’re 20 minutes into Memento and the film introduces a sequence that is unlike anything we’ve seen in the film thus far. This is Memento’s magic – it keeps revealing itself to us up until the very end.
This was the shot. All those years ago, as I sat in the theater with my dad, watching Memento for the first time, this was the shot that finally made my dad speak up. We went into the movie blind, knowing absolutely nothing about it. When he saw this gun, he leaned over to me and said, “Do you have any idea what the hell is going on?” To which I replied, while smiling, “No, not at all, but I absolutely love it.”
This scene breaks my heart. Mrs. Jankins (Harriet Sansom Harris) yelling “You did something wrong!” while her voice cracks, Sammy (Stephen Tobolowsky) pleading “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” – it’s just so sad.
This scene has been talked about a lot, but one thing that isn’t mentioned often is Pearce’s calm, relaxed narration. You’d expect the opposite. But Christopher Nolan fools us once again.
Leonard and Natalie’s first meeting is probably my favorite scene to pick apart on repeat viewings. The weight added to throwaway lines like, “You can’t come in here dressed like that…” is so heavy when you watch the film again. Also, why doesn’t she seem remotely upset that her boyfriend is (probably) dead, and his (assumed) murderer is sitting directly in front of her?