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CRITERION

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Christopher Nolan
Cast:
Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell, John Nolan, Dick Bradsell, Gillian El-Kadi, Jennifer Angel
Writing Credits:
Christopher Nolan

Tagline:
You're Never Alone.

Synopsis:
Before he became a sensation with the twisty revenge story Memento, Christopher Nolan fashioned this low-budget, 16 mm black-and-white neonoir with comparable precision and cunning. Providing irrefutable evidence of Nolan’s directorial bravura, Following is the fragmented tale of an unemployed young writer who trails strangers through London, hoping that they will provide inspiration for his first novel. He gets more than he bargained for when one of his unwitting subjects leads him down a dark criminal path. With gritty aesthetics and a made-on-the-fly vibe (many shots were simply stolen on the streets, unbeknownst to passersby), Following is a mind-bending psychological journey that shows the remarkable beginnings of one of today’s most acclaimed filmmakers.

Box Office:
Budget
$6 thousand.
Opening Weekend
$1.636 thousand on 1 screen.
Domestic Gross
$48.482 thousand.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 70 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 12/11/2012

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Christopher Nolan
• Interview with Director Christopher Nolan
• “Linear Edit” of Following
• “Script to Film” Comparison
Doodlebug Short Film
• Trailers
• Booklet


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Following: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 17, 2012)

Even directors of billion-dollar movie franchises must start somewhere, so today we’ll look at where Christopher Nolan began his career. This takes us back to 1998 and Following, a 16mm black and white feature that was Nolan’s debut.

To gather ideas for his work, a young writer (Jeremy Theobald) follows strangers around London. This turns into a strange addiction, and the writer violates his own rules when he starts to shadow non-random people.

One day he gets caught and confronted by Cobb (Alex Haw), a self-assured petty thief who breaks into residences less for the goods he can steal and more for the voyeuristic thrills. Despite the writer’s non-interference policy, he gets involved in Cobb’s life/career and starts to go along on robberies. This leads to complications and additional “follows” that get the writer in deeper than ever imagined.

Nolan had a super-low budget of only a few thousand dollars for Following, and he wrote, shot, directed and edited it himself. He made it on weekends and used friends/acquaintances as cast and crew.

All of this means that you’ll not find a flick you would readily refer to as “professional” with Following. The low budget isn’t a problem in terms of production values; indeed, the grittiness and basic feel might be a positive for this tale. But the absence of a true cinematographer leads to some clunky photography, and the actors become the film’s major weak links.

The performances have their pros and cons, but you’ll find a lot more in the “con” range. Theobald provides a passable performance but Haw seems far too artificial to pull of the confidence needed for Cobb. In addition, Lucy Russell seems flat and uninspired as the neo-noir’s resident femme fatale.

Despite these factors, Following keeps us intrigued, almost entirely due to its script. It uses a non-linear structure that jumps around from time to time; actually, it starts in a fairly straightforward way, but soon after the writer and Cobb meet, we flit about in a dynamic manner.

This bears the potential to become confusing – and will likely throw off the viewer when the writer’s look changes radically from greasy/unshaven to slick/suave, among other shifts. Nonetheless, as he would later do in Memento - a flick for which Following feels like a “dry run” – Nolan ensures that we never lose our footing. Even when the story disrupts continuity expectations, Nolan keeps us with it.

The film also progresses at a good pace. That helps us avoid too much confusion as well; even when we find curveballs, the movie moves along quickly enough to allow us to catch up before too long. Nolan may’ve still been an amateur when he created the flick, but he wrote a really professional script.

That factor carries through the rough patches of Following. Nolan would create vastly superior films in the future, and some aspects of the movie make it a little tough to take. Nonetheless, the strong quality of that screenplay allows us to remain involved in the story and displays hints of the filmmaker yet to come.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

Following appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given its extremely low-budget origins, the flick never would’ve looked great, so don’t expect wonders from the Blu-ray transfer.

For the most part, sharpness appeared adequate. The original photography occasionally rendered things somewhat indistinct, but not to a terrible degree. The movie retained a fairly positive sense of definition. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was absent.

Unsurprisingly, source flaws were an issue. Due to its 16mm origins, grain became very heavy, and I also noticed some other few defects. Specks, gate hairs and some lines popped up sporadically throughout the film. These weren’t overwhelming or surprising, but a smattering of defects occurred.

Black levels looked pretty nice and deep, and contrast was adequate. I wouldn’t claim that the project came with an appealing silver sheen, but low-light shots demonstrated reasonable clarity. This was a more than acceptable presentation for a production of this sort.

Paired here with the film’s original monaural audio, I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Following was decent. The mix remained monaural much of the time except for the stereo music, which displayed good delineation and spread. Some ambience popped up at times, especially during street or restaurant scenes, but this didn’t have much to do, and it could be fairly “speaker-specific” without much blending. Surround usage was minor and added nothing of note.

Speech seemed acceptable, as the lines were intelligible. They could come across as a bit dense at times, but they were usually fine. Effects played a minor role and seemed passable. They failed to present much range but the mix didn’t ask much from them, so that wasn’t a problem. Music was reasonably bright and dynamic.

As with the picture, the audio worked fine for a film of this one’s origins, but don’t anticipate more than that. In fact, I’d probably go with the original mono if I viewed the movie again, as I didn’t think the 5.1 remix added anything to the proceedings.

From there we shift to the Blu-ray’s extras, and we launch with an audio commentary from writer/director Christopher Nolan. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion of the film’s origins and development, story/character areas, the script and the movie’s structure, cast and performances, locations, camerawork and the choice to shoot black and white, the restrictions of the “no-budget” production, and a few other areas.

From start to finish, Nolan delivers an engaging and informative chat. He touches on a good variety of topics related to his debut and delves into the subjects well. This allows the piece to become useful and worthwhile. Maybe Nolan will make all of us happy and record commentaries for the “Dark Knight Trilogy” someday!

For more with the director, we go to an Interview with Director Christopher Nolan. During this 26-minute, 21-second piece, Nolan addresses how he got into films and his early days, aspects of shooting Following, the movie’s release and its legacy in terms of his career.

I worried that Nolan would simply repeat info from the commentary here, but happily, that doesn’t become the case. More technical in nature, Nolan touches on a variety of nuts and bolts details connected to Following. He delivers another engaging, informative piece here.

Similar to a feature found on the Memento DVD, we can watch a “Linear Edit” of Following. Like the final version, it runs one-hour, 10-minutes, 10 seconds, but it radically alters the movie’s sequencing, as it re-orders the scenes to run in chronological order. That makes it interesting as a novelty, but it’s not an enjoyable or effective way to watch the flick.

Next comes a Script to Film Comparison. It goes for nine minutes, 55 seconds and shows screenplay pages next to shots from the movie. This allows us to view how closely Nolan adhered to the script and what changes he allowed. It’s a fun way to view parts of the original text.

For more early Nolan, we go to the Doodlebug Short Film. In this two-minute, 56-second piece from 1997, we find actor Jeremy Theobald in a surreal tale of a man who tries to kill an unusual “pest”. Though not particularly successful, I’m happy we get to see Nolan’s first work.

In addition to two trailers for Following, we get an eight-page booklet. This throws in an essay from Film Society of Lincoln Center associate program director Scott Foundas. It’s less substantial than most Criterion booklets, but it still has merit.

I find it interesting to view early films from notable directors; they’re usually flawed, but they’re good to see for historical purposes. That goes for Christopher Nolan’s Following, a movie with ups and downs that still works, mainly due to a strong script. The Blu-ray provides acceptable picture and audio as well as some useful supplements. I’m happy to have seen the flick and think other Nolan fans will dig it, too.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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