Sunday, January 03, 2010

[DVD] Following (1998)

Looking Around

Given Christopher Nolan's string of successful films, it's a no brainer for me to want to check out his filmography watch his debut feature, which is shot in black and white back in England, running less than 70 minutes long, done with little budget, but containing all the hallmarks that has made him a master filmmaker and storyteller.

Though short, the film is no less gripping with its meandering plot that will leave you guessing, because the premise doesn't even scratch the surface of this tale, which is pretty amazing considering the depth in the narrative's structure and characterization. As told, we follow a writer wannabe called Bill (Jeremy Theobald) who starts a habitual obsession with following random people he fancies on the streets in a voyeuristic manner, which at first could be conceived as research, before he starts to make up his own rules, and break them.

He meets up with charismatic Cobb (Alex Haw) who turns out to be a robber with peculiar sensibilities and modus operandi, and soon finds himself hooked with hanging out with him as they go about breaking and entering and speculating about their victim's livelihood, as does the pursuit of a femme fatale blond (Lucy Russell), a mobster's moll who rejects his every advance.

Told in a non-linear fashion which comes with scenes that don't quite add up in the beginning, this sets the film up for multiple viewings as you study just how Nolan sustains that suspense and intrigue with you as the audience expecting and wanting more, which gets duly delivered. There are enough twists here which spins the film into a dizzying crescendo, where loose ends begin to come together, and the brilliance of the stellar story start to shine through.

It's also amazing how, as a first feature shot on the cheap, that something that clever and sophisticated can be conceived from his own experience in being burgled, with Nolan involved in every stage of production, from writing to shooting, producing and directing, having worked on the project for a year since shoots can only happen on weekends. I guess here's an example of a successful filmmaker's humble roots, which should serve as inspiration and spur new filmmakers out there. Now I'll patiently wait for Christopher Nolan's Inception due out later this year, whose trailer is already such a tease.

The Code 1 DVD by Columbia Tri Star Home Entertainment comes presented in a full-screen version and in black-and-white. Only its original language track in English is available, with subtitles in Spanish and English (close-captioned). Scene selection is available over 14 Chapters.

For a film that's about 70 minutes long, it does come with a load of extras for the DVD release. Special Features contains a film school with a Director's Commentary which is designed for the no/low budget filmmaker in mind, explaining in detail the filmmaking process, and a Shooting Script Alternate Angle that contains the entire script which you can alternate between the actual scenes shot and the written word. My only complaint for this feature is how you can't see both in parallel through a split screen of sorts. Restructure Following allows you to watch the film in chronological order, though this will take away the suspense of the film, so do this only after you've watched the feature first, and you can appreciate just how the juxtaposition of scenes will bring about a different emotional outcome altogether.

The rest of the extras are standard stuff, with Trailers for Following (1:20) and Nolan's next film Memento (2:11), a cast and crew text based Bios, and DVD Credits.

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