Video Picks Archive

September 12, 2001
This Week's Video Picks
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Reviews by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>

This week my picks are Memento (2000 - ) and Double Indemnity (1944 - ).

The first film this week is quite simply the best film of the year so far, by far. Christopher Nolan's sophomore feature stars Guy Pearce as an insurance investigator whose wife was raped and murdered by robbers. Amid the altercation, he suffered a brain injury which made him unable to make new memories. With the help of a Polaroid camera and a body full of tattoos, he attempts to track down and kill his wife's assailant. Nolan tells this story in two threads, one of which goes backward. Eventually, the backward thread catches up to the end of the forward thread, and the surprising true nature of the characters (including Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano) are revealed. This highly unconventional narrative structure provides a brilliant thriller that continues to work in your mind long after you see it. In my case, between the time I saw it in theatres and finally bought the DVD, I realized during the second viewing that I had re-arranged the film mentally to follow a single, linear thread, and was once again surprised and intrigued to see it split in half and reversed. The DVD provides many interesting features, including an IFC interview with Nolan hosted by The New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell and a re-creation of the game found at otnemem.com (the film's original promotional website, which won't stay on line for much longer).
Full review by Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles from May 8, 2001

Of course, Memento didn't feature the first insurance agent to kill for the woman he loved. That ground was broken by Fred MacMurray (long before his Disney/"My Three Sons" days) in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity, which is the second pick this week. Now, MacMurray's memory was in perfect working order, but his decision-making skills were hampered by sheer animal lust for Barbara Stanwyck. After selling her an insurance policy for her husband, she convinces him to kill her husband in such an extraordinary way that she can collect double the coverage and run off with him. This, of course, is thanks to the double indemnity clause in the policy. And thanks to this film, now everybody is familiar with this legal term, and should know better than to trust a vampy femme fatale like Stanwyck, especially when money and murder are on the line. Yes, this is one of the prototypical examples of film noir which went on to be copied throughout the rest of the 1940s. This film made Wilder one of the biggest directors in Hollywood, and earned him his first Academy Award nomination for direction (having already earned three nominations for writing, including two in 1941). Yet, despite being nominated for seven Oscars, Double Indemnity took home none, losing out to the nearly forgotten Bing Crosby vehicle Going My Way in most categories, including Best Picture.


For more information, visit the Internet Movie Database:
Memento (2000)
Double Indemnity (1944)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Memento (2000) -- VHS
Memento (2000) -- DVD
Memento: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc
Double Indemnity (1944) -- VHS
Double Indemnity (1944) -- DVD
Double Indemnity: The Complete Screenplay, by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler -- Paperback
Double Indemnity, a novel by James M. Cain -- Paperback
Double Indemnity (BFI Film Classics), by Richard Schickel -- Paperback


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