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Heroes of the Zeroes: Memento

by on July 11, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

Rated R

Oh, the irony that a movie about a man who sees no value in revisiting fiction would be eminently re-watchable. But “Memento” — the first of Christopher Nolan’s cinematic gazes into an abyss of madness, obsession, identity and wrath — remained a compelling puzzle long after its revelations rolled out.

That’s because Nolan, a modern master of misdirection, went miles beyond his narrative hook of churning out classic noir in reverse chronology.

Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) seeks “John G.,” the brute that killed his wife and left him unable to form new memories. He scribbles notes to tattoo the case’s “facts” on his body and reaffirm allegiances to cop Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and barmaid Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss).

More than an enigmatic, jittery and occasionally funny treatise on the fruitlessness of vengeance, 2000’s “Memento” never abandons its emotional quandary: How can a man unable to feel time expect to heal?

Nolan reveals Leonard’s guilt, pathology, delusion and perception to uncover a fascinatingly unreliable narrator losing himself (as we all do) in habit, repetition and delusional conflations of memory and fact.

Some scenes wear the influences of dog-eared detective novels on their sleeves, but consider how “Memento’s” structure cleared a path for so much popular Zeroes entertainment —influencing the flashbacks, flash-forwards and flash-sideways of “Lost” and other serialized dramas.

Time teeters away from the viewer’s grasp, too; time and again, “Memento” feels like it’s over in 13 minutes, not 113. Like Leonard’s introductory shtick, this great story gets better every time you watch it.