Noir, sub-noir and sheer magic

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story - DONAOLD CLARKE

FOL­LOW­ING

(1998) A sin­u­ously hyp­notic com­bi­na­tion of art movie and film noir, Nolan’s de­but stud­ies a strange young man who is ob­sessed with fol­low­ing strangers through the streets of Lon­don. The di­rec­tor’s in­ter­est in non-lin­ear nar­ra­tive is al­ready ap­par­ent in this mi­cro-bud­geted gem.

ME­MENTO

(2000) More sub-noir. More tem­po­ral hi-jinks. Guy Pearce stars as a man with no short-term me­mory who, both to help him solve a mys­tery and to as­sist in ev­ery­day life, takes to tat­too­ing vi­tal pieces of in­forma- tion on his body. Told back­wards, the pic­ture has gath­ered the sort of fa­nat­i­cal cult fol­low­ing that en­ables direc­tors to get gigs di­rect­ing Bat­man films.

IN­SOM­NIA

(2002) More sub-noir. More sur­pris­ing twists. Nolan’s re­make of a clas­sic Nor­we­gian thriller sends a sleepy – and rel­a­tively un­hammy – Al Pa­cino to Alaska to in­ves­ti­gate a mur­der dur­ing a time of end­less day­light. One of the few films where Robin Wil­liams is creepy on pur­pose (we think).

BAT­MAN BE­GINS

(2003) Fol­low­ing the

fran­chise’s col­lapse into rag­ing camp with Joel Schu­macher’s Bat­man For­ever and Bat­man and Robin, Warner Brothers had the bril­liant idea of hir­ing a high­brow di­rec­tor to bring some grit back into the fran­chise. Nolan de­liv­ered. Chris­tian Bale is trou­blingly gran­ite-faced in the ti­tle role. Michael Caine is wry as the but­ler.

Robin is nowhere.

THE PRES­TIGE

(2006) Bale turns up as one of two ri­val ma­gi­cians in a twisty, sin­is­ter pe­riod thriller that al­most be­comes too clever for its own good, but some­how sur­vives on wit, flair and sheer chutz­pah. Nolan even man­ages to draw a good per­for­mance from David Bowie (left), a feat that de­serves an MBE at least.

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