Memento is a splendid piece of noir, a puzzle to be figured out. The clues are there, but the movie-goer as detective, like the protagonist, has to sort them out, put them in order, and come up with a synthesis.
Everything might be important or it might be a lie, just another red herring swimming in a sea of propaganda. The protagonist is a man carrying an injury. That part of his brain that retains short term memory has been damaged. So every day, he wakes up knowing the past, he knows who he is, but he can't remember what happened yesterday.
If this happened to you or me, it might not be such a bad thing. Today is what's important, not yesterday. That's where the propaganda comes in, incessantly driving otherwise peaceful people toward hysteria. The protagonist is constantly being told things about his life. He has to sort out the truth for himself.
And there's a puzzle within the puzzle.
The way the movie unfolds will test your own short term memory. You have to pay attention, remember what you have seen and put it in context with the greater puzzle. Noir? Yes. You can't trust someone just because they are attractive or because they have a knack for persuasion. Think of Condoleezza Rice arguing weapons of mass destruction. The powerful lead you to fear and violence all the time.
But this is a noir parable, and in the end, you've been dragged down into the circle of vengeance and violence. At least that's the way it all appears. A cautionary tale, and a marvelous ride.
This is an adjunct to Todd Mason's Friday's Forgotten (or overlooked) Film or A/V. You can read today's other selections by a bevy of authors and bloggers at this link.