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Memento's Mementos

Feb 18, 2011 10:59 AM | 0 comments

In the ten years since it was first released, Christopher Nolan’s Memento has crossed over from indie success to general popularity. The story of an amnesiac investigating his wife’s murder, Memento’s questions of identity, memory and authority seem irrevocably modern. However, it would probably be most at home alongside the great film noirs of the 1930s and 1940s.

 

The classic Hollywood noir was film’s answer to hardboiled detective novels—stories where cynical, world-weary investigators take up with mysterious femme fatales to solve convoluted cases. Some of the most enduring noirs bridged the gap by directly adapting successful hardboiled novels from writers like Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler. Other enduring noirs just borrowed their themes and worldview.

 

By the end of the 1990s, most filmmakers only addressed film noir and hardboiled crime fiction with a superficial wink—through loving homage or self-conscious parody. Memento, on the other hand, managed to bring the concept of the film noir into a contemporary setting without a hint of irony. It plumbed hardboiled fiction for its core motifs: mistrust of police and authority, infatuation with feminine mystery, and a conviction that the world is complex and humans mostly selfish.

 

The books that are the source for Memento’s themes are some of the best pot-boilers and page-turners in American literature. Why not stop by your neighborhood library and pick up a book by one of the genre’s godfathers?

 

Books by Dasheill Hammett

 

The Maltese Falcon

The Dain Curse

Crime Stories and Other Writings

 

Books by Raymond Chandler

 

The Big Sleep

Farewell, My Lovely

The Long Goodbye

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