J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Nolan’s Following

In just ten years time, Christopher Nolan went from indie to I-max. Even though his upcoming Inception looks like a Matrix make-alike, industry watchers are eager to herald its coming. Regardless of its merits, it will not be hard to find in theaters, which probably explains why IFC’s on-demand service will be offering Nolan’s grubby DIY-debut Following (trailer here) starting tomorrow (while Netflix subscribers can stream it for free tonight).

Bill calls himself a writer, but he is just an unemployed loser. Ostensibly for inspiration, he starts following strangers on the street that pique his curiosity. He sets some hard-and-fast rules, like never follow the same person twice, which he promptly breaks. Bill makes the mistake of following Cobb, who busts him right away. However, the shadowy man senses a kindred spirit in Bill, initiating him into his peculiar practice of burglary as voyeuristic sport.

As in all noirs, there is a woman too. Bill knows a fair amount about her, since he and Cobb hit her flit. However, he cannot resist trying to insinuate himself into her life, despite her dangerous gangster ex looming in the background.

Frankly, Nolan’s set-up is fairly intriguing, and with a brief running time of seventy minutes, he hardly belabors the point. His grainy, hand-held cinematography also nicely suits the noir story. Still, the supposedly surprising twists are pretty obvious coming round the bend.

Essentially a three-hander, Alex Haw’s easily takes the honors, chewing the scenery quite entertainingly as the arrogant villain. Co-producer Jeremy Theobald is deliberately a bit wishy-washy as the hapless Bill, but unfortunately Lucy Russell makes a weak femme fatale as the Blonde.

Needless to say, Nolan went on to bigger and better projects, like The Dark Knight, which will probably come to be regarded as the masterwork of the superhero genre. An okay noir, Following is the sort of film where most characters are playing each other and everyone deserves to be played. Stylistically diverting and historically interesting as Nolan’s first film, Following is worth streaming for free, but paying customers might not find it fully satisfying. It debuts on IFC’s Festival Direct tomorrow (7/7).

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