Following (The Criterion Collection) ★★★ Empire US iPad Review

FollowingSquareIn Christopher Nolan’s first almost-feature-length film, a would-be writer (Jeremy Theobald) takes to following people, looking to find inspiration (or perhaps a simple human connection), until one of his quarries (Alex Haw) leads him into a dark criminal underworld, where nothing happens by chance, and no one is what they seem to be. It’s a dark, compelling and psychologically complex film noir, and the rush by critics to confer significance on the 70-minute film, shot guerilla-style on black and white 16mm film stock, is understandable: so keen is the mind of the man behind Inception and the Dark Knight trilogy, Following must surely contain evidence of genius at work. After all, the cut-up chronology feels like a dry run for Memento, the smooth criminal has the same name as Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Inception, and isn’t that the Batman logo stuck to somebody’s front door? Here at Empire towers (imagine a cross between Barad-dur in Mordor and Bilbo’s house in Hobbiton), where we like to call a spade a spade, we’re inclined to stick with our original 3-star rating, and suggest that Following is to Nolan’s later output what Fear and Desire is to Stanley Kubrick’s oeuvre: uneven, burdened by some subpar performances (one of which virtually sinks the film), but narratively sound, and with enough portents of auteurish skill to make it required viewing for anyone with an interest in the development of Nolan’s nascent talent. ★★★

EXTRAS Criterion’s customary attention to detail extends to a brand new, restored digital transfer, supervised by Nolan himself, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack – although the lo-fi monochrome visuals barely benefit from the process – and, on a separate audio track, an alternative 5.1 surround sound mix. Both formats preserve the (frankly rather dull) audio commentary of the original release, the multi-angle comparison of the shooting script with scenes from the film, and an alternative, chronological edit of the film. More interesting are the new inclusions: Doodlebug, a distinctly Lynchian 3-minute short film (circa 1997) also featuring Following’s Theobald, a new Nolan interview and an essay by film critic Scott Foundas. ★★★

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