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Claire Molloy
Series: American Indies
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Ambiguous, complex and innovative, Christopher Nolan's Memento has intrigued audiences and critics since the day of its release. Memento is the archetypal 'puzzle film', a noir thriller about a man with short-term memory loss seemingly seeking revenge for the death of his wife but finding it increasingly difficult to navigate through the facts. Truth, memory and identity are all questioned in a film that refuses to give easy answers or to adhere to some of the fundamental rules of classical filmmaking as the film makes use of some audacious stylistic and narrative choices, including a unique (for American cinema) editing pattern that produces a dizzying and highly disorienting effect for the spectator.The book introduces Memento as an important independent film and uses it to explore relationships between "indie," arthouse and commercial mainstream cinema while also examining independent film marketing practices, especially those associated with Newmarket, the film's producer and distributor. Finally, the book also locates Memento within debates around key film studies concepts such as genre, narrative and reception.Key features:* Presents an overview of Newmarket that maps the company's development from an independent financier to producer and distributor* Explores aspects of narrative complexity in contemporary films and examines Memento as an example of a 'puzzle film'* Considers Memento in relation to genre categories of noir and neo-noir* Examines the marketing of Memento and locates it within independent film marketing practices and strategies

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3773-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Series Preface
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Memento
    (pp. 1-7)

    Memento emerged into the new landscape of twenty-first-century independent film. As the dust settled on the twentieth century, the corporate and independent sectors had blurred into new entities which raised questions about what independent film had become. On one level Memento sat comfortably within one definition of late twentieth-century independence. Produced and distributed by Newmarket, in financial terms the film occupied the low-budget end of the production spectrum with an initial cost of $5 million.¹ In formal terms Memento’s innovative and challenging narrative structure added to its independent credentials, fitting the mould of the off-beat film which would never have...

  6. 1 Memento and Independent Cinema: A Seductive Business
    (pp. 8-25)

    By the time Memento reached Sundance in 2001, a series of corporate takeovers and mergers, which had started in the early 1990s, notably including New Line Cinema and Miramax in 1993, had dramatically reshaped the independent sector. New Line Cinema had been established in 1967 as an independent non-theatrical distributor until, in 1973, the company moved into the distribution of exploitation and art movies. Targeting the markets that the majors ignored, New Line’s roster included George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), Jean-Luc Godard’s Sympathy for the Devil (1968), John Waters’ Pink Flamingos (1972) and Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw...

  7. 2 Searching for a Slam Dunk: Marketing Memento
    (pp. 26-44)

    That Memento struggled to find domestic distribution revealed certain assumptions that distributors held about independent film and its audiences at the beginning of the twenty-first century. US distributors had concerns that American audiences would find the narrative difficult to understand and that Memento would be an especially difficult film to market. This had not been the case with European distributors, many of which had bought rights at the script stage. Summit Entertainment, which had a long-standing partnership arrangement with Newmarket, had been successful in securing pre-sales in European territories which covered $4.5 million of the initial $5 million production costs...

  8. 3 Puzzle Films, Ambiguity and Technologically-enabled Narrative
    (pp. 45-85)

    In the first two months of its limited release, repeat theatrical viewings accounted for 20 per cent of Memento’s $7 million box office between March and May 2001.² The complex narrative was a crucial aspect of the film’s success which drew cinemagoers back to theatres for multiple viewings and, in doing so, contributed substantially to making Memento the top grossing independent film and limited release of the year. Memento continued to enjoy a lucrative post-theatrical life on DVD as viewers remained intrigued by the film’s innovative narrative as well as having the promise of extra features which included a chronological...

  9. 4 Memento as Noir
    (pp. 86-97)

    Memento’s exploration of memory and identity would seem to align it with a rash of contemporaneous texts, including Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004), Being John Malkovitch (Jonze, 1999), The Machinist (Anderson, 2004), A Beautiful Mind (Howard, 2001) and The Butterfly Effect (Bress and Gruber, 2004), as well as with earlier films such as Angel Heart (Parker, 1987), Total Recall (Verhoeven, 1990) and Last Year at Marienbad ([L année dernière à Marienbad] Resnais, 1961). However, Memento’s narrative structure, flashbacks, voiceover, dream sequences and the generic tropes of the detective thriller, coupled with an unreliable narrator, morally ambiguous hero...

  10. 5 So What Really Happened? Memento, Fans and Online Interpretive Strategies
    (pp. 98-111)

    Following Memento’s release Internet forums began to buzz with discussion about Christopher Nolan’s second feature, and debates continued for many months as hypotheses about various aspects of the film multiplied. These forums played a major role in creating word of mouth, especially in the first months of release when posts to online discussion groups made repeated recommendations that people should not wait for the DVD release but see the film immediately. As one poster advised: ‘Go see this film, drive to one of the select cities, it will be worth the ride.’² With Memento on limited release and opening predominantly...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 112-123)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 124-130)
  13. Index
    (pp. 131-134)