Christopher Nolan's first film had few playdates and only sporadic if enthusiastic reviews, but DVD is a perfect format for 1998's Following it's a "small" film, intellectually clever but emotionally downbeat, technically proficient yet ultimately for specialized tastes. Made for $6,000, filmed in black-and-white, and with a budget-mindedly small cast and clandestinely shot footage, Following is a textbook "calling card" film designed to gain its maker attention in the industry, a process that begins after the requisite panoply of festival awards. The plan seems to have worked. Following duly won the Sundance "Black and White" award, among others, and writer-director Nolan went on to deliver the indie sensation Memento. The fatalistic, noir-ish story of Following concerns an unnamed aspiring writer in London (co-producer Jeremy Theobald) who fills his days by trailing random people, ostensibly for research. One day he is confronted by one of his subjects, who turns out to be Cobb (Alex Haw), a handsome, confident rake who presents himself as a professional burglar. Cobb invites the otherwise unengaged author to join him on his escapades, but then off the clock so to speak the "author" proceeds to shadow one of their recent victims (Lucy Russell). From there, the plot takes hairpin narrative turns. It's obvious that Nolan favors Cornell Woolrich-style tales (or is it Nabokovian? Or DePalmian?), in which an earnest quasi-innocent is manipulated by a crueler, craftier male. As in Memento, with Following Nolan "disrupts the narrative." The film begins with a suite of images that don't make sense until the conclusion, and it tells the story from three vantages simultaneously, shuffling the chronology like a deck of cards (but in a much more sophisticated manner than Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994), the cinematic Godfather of narrative distortion). The "now" is the young man telling a police inspector his story. Beneath that, his relationship with Cobb and his encounters with the mysterious woman jump back and forth in time. The film is not at all difficult to follow, and on a second viewing Nolan's technique emphasizes how our futures, or our fates, are embedded in our present. Columbia TriStar has done the sort of job on their Following DVD release that many expected for Memento, as the 71-minute movie comes on a disc loaded with extras. The grainy black-and-white photography, by Nolan himself, receives a solid full-frame transfer (1.33:1) with a Dolby 2.0 audio soundtrack that is more than adequate for a film recorded or dubbed on the fly (also included are English and Spanish subtitles). Supplements include a commentary track by Nolan, in which he talks in a subdued voice about the tricks of guerrilla filmmaking, heightening the intricacies of an already complicated plot filled with visual motifs while dwelling very little on the film's meaning. Also on hand is the screenplay, viewable in conjunction with the film via the multi-angle function, and an alternative version of the movie presented in chronological order. Trailers for Memento and Following, bios for seven cast and crew members, DVD credits. Keep-case.
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