Hidden Meaning in Memento – Earthling Cinema


Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema.
I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Memento, directed by this guy
and starring this Guy. The film takes place in ritzy Los Angeles, the capital of Earth.
Our protagonist is Leonard, a forgetful human male who lives in a motel and reads police
files for shits and gigs. If you call trying to solve your wife’s murder shits and gigs,
which I do. Not. Do NOT. Leonard’s favorite person in the world is
Sammy Jankis, but he doesn’t get to hang out with the Jankster. He has to hang out
with a cop named John Teddy G instead. Teddy gives Leonard a smokin’ hot lead about an
abandoned warehouse where they can film skate vids and also, if they have time, kill someone
named Jimmy. Well Leonard does have time for killing, but not quite enough time for shopping. Further eating into his time is Teddy droning
on about Jimmy not being the one who murdered Leonard’s wife, and Leonard having already
killed his wife’s attacker and forgot about it, and her actually dying from a medicine
overdose administered by Leonard. Blah blah blah.Teddy tries to get Jimmy’s money from
the trunk of his car, but nothing doing, because Leonard has already left to get a tattoo of
his favorite band, SG137IU. Then he goes to a bar for a nice cold glass of spit. Impressed by his refined palate, Jimmy’s
girlfriend Natalie decides to use Leonard to put a some dude in a closet.In exchange,
Natalie sleeps with Leonard, apparently having gotten over the disappearance of her boyfriend.
She also informs him that, much to his surprise, Teddy is in the band SG137IU. Leonard is pretty
lukewarm on their new album, so he takes Teddy to that same abandoned skate park and shoots
his glasses off. All of that, except backwards. Memento’s defining feature is its retrograde
narrative form, just like how my defining feature is a mustache on my forehead. By presenting the story in reverse, the film
makes the audience experience the same sense of disorientation associated with
Leonard’s brain goofs. “Oh, I’m chasing this guy. No, he’s chasing me.” Just as Leonard searches his surroundings for clues to acclimate himself
every time his memory resets, so too does the audience have to constantly rewind
in order to know what the hell they’re watching. The film offers a variation on the “film
noir” genre, my second favorite noir after pinot. Noir films often feature a lonely,
hard-boiled egg of a private dick. Here, Leonard is a retired insurance claims
investigator, giving him all the tools for sleuthing, but none of the cachet, which is
French for “money.” And though he may be able to play detective, “I think someone’s f*cking with me trying to get me to kill the wrong guy.” he breaks the cardinal
rule: “Never have the mysterious culprit turn out to be yourself.” Voiceover narration
is often used in noir to orient the audience, “Maybe you’d like to hear the facts, the whole truth.” but Leonard’s unreliable narration isn’t
the slightest bit oriental. “It’s amazing what a little brain hemorrhage will do for your credibility.” Which brings us to the subjectivity of truth. And I guess
that makes me the truth fairy. Leonard wants to believe that the world operates
independent of his warped perspective — that his actions have meaning, even if he can’t
remember them. “My wife deserves vengeance, doesn’t make any difference whether I know about it. The world doesn’t just disappear when you close your eyes, does it?” Maybe not for you. See? Leonard claims to value only the facts, and dismisses
memory as a bunch of big city hogswallop. “Look memory can change the shape of a room, it can change the color of a car. It ain’t relevant if you have the facts.” But by deliberately manipulating the truth
in order to construct a more palatable reality, Leonard proves that facts are a hog that can
be just as easily swalloped. “You don’t want the truth, you make up your own truth.” He uses repetition to condition himself to believe his mistakes
belonged to Ned Ryerson, I mean Sammy Jenkis. He CHOOSES to make Teddy his victim by writing
down his band name and labeling it a “FACT.” And he bleaches his hair blonde just so he
can have more fun. Leonard’s untrustworthiness forces us to
re-evaluate our opinions of all the other two characters in the film. We are quick to
condemn Natalie for exploiting Leonard, but her actions become more understandable when
we find out Leonard killed her boyfriend, stole his car, and fit into his clothes perfectly
without getting them tailored. Our opinion of Teddy is also constantly in flux. At first, we think he’s the real John G; later, we think he’s
a crooked cop. Ultimately, we give up and move on, since the movie’s over and we’re
out of snarfcorn. At the end of the film, the viewer is thrown a curveball that calls
all of Leonard’s recollections into… question? As Leonard drives away, he very irresponsibly
closes his eyes and we see a quick image of Leonard in bed next to his wife. He has a
tattoo that says “I’VE DONE IT” in the spot that Leonard reserved to memorialize
his revenge. Is this just Leonard’s fantasy? Or did it really happen? Is it possible that
Leonard killed John G, got the tattoo, accidentally killed his wife, then removed the tattoo so
that he could begin his endless quest for John G? What is his relationship with the
local tattoo artists at this point? “It’s private back here.” Like Leonard, we’ll never know for sure what’s real
and what’s not. We’ll just have to make something up. Like this promotional tie-in
candy! Mementos: The Refreshmaker. They’ll make you completely forget your bad breath. For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid.

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