Pop quiz! Quick: name the one movie by Christopher Nolan that is basically flawless.
And while you’re thinking of that — quick! — answer this too: what’s the one thing that should be done to flawless movies?
If your answer to question one was ‘Memento’, then you started off well! If, however, your answer to question two was then, ‘remake them,’ then congratulations, you are the morons at AMBI Pictures. Collect your free dunce cap here, go sit in that corner, and never have anything to do with cinema ever again.
Let it be known from the outset that this is not a fiscal argument. I don’t care if AMBI — after acquiring EMG, the owners of Memento — have done the projections, and have got the figures, and they know for sure that this is going to be a worthwhile return on their investment. I’m not writing this in a spreadsheet. This is a nakedly emotional and aesthetic argument. Really nuanced, actually, too. It goes like this: WHY?! WHY IN ALL THAT IS HOLY WOULD YOU REMAKE THIS MOVIE, OF ALL MOVIES?!
Everyone remembers seeing Memento for the first time. It’s impossible not to. It was the turn of the millennium, and Christopher Nolan wasn’t yet a thing. Not in most people’s minds, anyway. Some of those insufferable types we all know will probably now claim to have seen and loved Nolan’s micro-budget, black and white debut, The Following at the time of its release, but they’re lying through their teeth, and you should punch those teeth down their throat. No, Memento was Nolan ground zero, and those of us who were there at the time still resonate with it to this day.
Making $25 million on a $9 million budget, Memento was a bona fide indie hit, and it deserved every single penny it made. It tells the story of Leonard, a man who can no longer make new memories after the murder of his wife, and the movie follows him as he tries to track down those responsible for her death. Leonard is covered in tattoos that read as notes to himself on his ongoing, obsessive investigation, and Guy Pearce plays him absolutely perfectly as a man grieving, confused, but determined. The extra sauce on this already delicious movie pie is the splitting of the narrative into two interweaving segments: one running backwards, scene-by-scene; and the other forwards. There’s also Carrie Ann-Moss and Joe Pantoliano, and a surprising amount of pitch-perfect dark humour.
I know that in this day and age we’re supposed to be inured to remakes and reboots and reheated franchises and everything else. We’ve seen Spider-Man get rebooted after what felt like a week after the last one ended, just to secure the rights; we’ve seen one of the best movies of the new millennium, Oldboy, get a completely needless American remake that wasn’t terrible or anything, but it added absolutely nothing and was the filmic equivalent of a light shrug; we’ve seen a perfect John Carpenter/bearded Kurt Russell horror movie get remade, without John Carpenter or bearded Kurt Russell; we should be completely unfazed by any of this.
But not Memento dammit!
There must be a way out of this.
Guys at AMBI Pictures, I hereby offer you a sacrifice. A fair trade. Here are five 2000-and-after classics that you could remake instead. They’re all great. On a normal day I’d howl in pain at the prospect of a remake of any one of these, but if Memento’s at stake, just — please — take one of these instead:
Sure, it’s already a remake of a brilliant Hong Kong movie, but it’s a damn good one. But, just take it, we don’t need it - let Memento go!
Yes, it’s entirely impossible, by its very nature, to remake this documentary about Timothy Treadwell’s untimely end at the hands of the bears he so loved; and, yes the movie is absolutely just as much about Werner Herzog as it is about Treadwell, but go ahead, give it a shot. Just let Memento go.
I concede that it’s an entirely singular vision born in the mind of David Lynch, but maybe just do one of those shot-to-shot remakes. Like Gus Van Sant that time with Psycho. Remember? Everyone loved that! And don’t worry, I’m sure Lynch won’t start appearing to you in your dreams as soon as you begin production.
Hey, you know, there’s nothing really that special about what that David Fincher does, right? I know that, you know that! Take this one, I’m sure you can make it better.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
*winces in pain* Sure… It’s one of the best movies ever made about love, but… I’m sure we can do without it… Just… let Memento go…please…