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The Films Of Christopher Nolan: A Retrospective

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist July 19, 2012 at 2:04PM

We can all agree at this point that a certain sub-set of Christopher Nolan's fans are out of hand, what with the death threats to critics and all. But even if we were one of those who didn't like "The Dark Knight Rises," or indeed the rest of Nolan's output, we suspect that we'd still be glad he existed. While some might find his movies humorless (though we'd disagree), or chilly (though we'd disagree), or overly rigid (we'd... mostly disagree), but no one else is making films like Christopher Nolan, taking nine figures of Warner Bros.' money, pairing it with big ideas and concepts, and making resoundingly entertaining and thought-provoking blockbusters.
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Christopher Nolan

We can all agree at this point that a certain sub-set of Christopher Nolan's fans are out of hand, what with the death threats to critics and all. But even if we were one of those who didn't like "The Dark Knight Rises," or indeed the rest of Nolan's output, we suspect that we'd still be glad he existed. While some might find his movies humorless (though we'd disagree), or chilly (though we'd disagree), or overly rigid (we'd... mostly disagree), no one else is making films like Christopher Nolan, taking nine figures of Warner Bros.' money, pairing it with big ideas and concepts, and making resoundingly entertaining and thought-provoking blockbusters.

 It's almost easy to forget that before he was making some of the biggest-scale movies in history, Nolan made his name on low-budget, ingenious film noirs. And yet, when you looking at the sub $10,000 "Following" or the $200 million "The Dark Knight Rises," you clearly see that it's from the same filmmaker. We're dying to see where Nolan goes from here, but in the meantime, with "The Dark Knight Rises" hitting theaters at midnight (read our review here), and feeling like the end of the first act of Nolan's career (the end of the franchise that made his name, seemingly his last collaboration with DoP Wally Pfister, who's heading off to become a director himself), it seemed like the right time to look back at the director's last fifteen years or so of movies. Check them out below, and let us know your own thoughts on Nolan in the comments section below.

Following
"Following" (1998)
A writer (Jeremy Theobald) falls under the spell of a stranger, Cobb (Alex Haw, with a character whose name would return for the protagonist of "Inception"), who breaks into strangers' houses. The young man starts following in his new mentor's footsteps, only to fall for The Blonde (Lucy Russell), one of his victims, and ends up way over his head. A simple enough premise, but as we'd all come to learn about Christopher Nolan, that simplicity is deceptive. Shot on weekends on a tiny budget (about $6,000) over three or four months, not long after Nolan graduated from University College London (he was only 27 when the film was made), "Following," a nifty but rough-edged neo-noir, is certainly a victim of its limitations. Nolan served as his own DoP, and some of the handheld compositions are striking, but it occasionally feels a little amateurish, never coming close to the work Nolan would later do with Wally Pfister. The acting -- mostly by non-professionals (lead Jeremy Theobald is now a psychologist, Alex Haw is an architect, with only femme fatale Lucy Russell continuing to act -- she later led Eric Rohmer's "The Lady And The Duke") isn't the strongest, although partly because Nolan only shot one or two takes to conserve film stock. But the script does also showcase much of what would bring Nolan to fame; a fiendishly intricate structure and a taut pace that rattles along all kinds of twists and turns (though, there is arguably one too many) in a leaner-than-lean 70 minutes. It's a sketch for what would follow on, but one that shows the immense promise he held even at such a young age. [C+]

This article is related to: Christopher Nolan, The Essentials, Features, The Dark Knight Rises, Retrospective


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