BSP Episode 217: Following

2nd in this series of four Modern Black & White movies

Release date: 4/2/99

Zeitgeist Films

Directed by:

Christopher Nolan

Written by:

Christopher Nolan

Produced by:

Emma Thomas

Jeremy Theobald

Peter Broderick

Cast:

Jeremy Theobald         The Young Man/Bill

Alex Haw                    Cobb

Lucy Russell               The Blonde

John Nolan                  The Policeman

 

Initial comments by the hosts:

Sam wasn’t really all that interested until the last eight or so minutes, and then it ended up being an OK movie, not a great movie (Tony was convinced that Sam would change his mind by the end of the discussion… he did not).  He thought it took too long to set up the premise and he also thought some pieces were sloppy (fight scene) and some of the cuts were not very good.  Jill agreed in that parts of the movie were slow, but overall, she liked it.  She knew it was going to follow the same formula as Memento (Christopher Nolan’s 2ndfull-length film) so she was already looking for clues as she watched.  The idea that he made this for 6 million dollars with only two or three takes per shot and the way he had the film structured, which was relatively new at the time, solidified Nolan as a genius filmmaker to her.

Darrell liked it and thought it was a nice tight little drama.  He said that you can get a lot out of this film.  Tony also really enjoyed it, too. He said he could completely see how Christopher Nolan got every other job he ever got after Following.  Watching it through a 2ndtime, he saw how many little things were laid out from the very start.  Nothing is actually hidden, but it’s obfuscated by the nature of jumping through time.  Tony also said he almost wished they hadn’t reviewed Clerks earlier so that they could compare the two to show what a great director (Nolan) can do against what a great writer (Smith) can do.

The hosts all thought that the acting as a whole was OK, unimpressive, passable.  Alex Haw (Cobb) was the best actor of the bunch. As for Lucy Russell, they all pretty much agreed that she was probably very lucky in that her bad acting played well into the cold character she portrayed.  Jill countered that female characters in film noir usually aren’t multidimensional characters.  Tony added that they tend to play damsels in distress, vamps, ice queens… and she played all three of those, but still all “cold”.  Lucy Russell’s character struck Sam as a more jaded Ilsa from Casablanca.  Darrell said to keep in mind that she’s playing The Blonde as cold because she’s setting Bill up, but she truly cold/stoic throughout the scene.

Jill thought that she was dressed in black in every scene except the one when the gangster is leaving the house and she’s waiting for Bill to arrive, in which she’s dressed in white.  Sam said that she’s also in a white shirt in the last scene when she tells Bill how he’s been set up.

Cobb tells Bill, as they’re going through someone’s apartment, “You take it away… to show them what they had,” and this is the recurring theme in the movie.  What Bill doesn’t realize is that Cobb is flat-out telling this to Bill that this is what he’s doing to him, but Bill doesn’t realize this until the end.  Bill only sees what’s going around him and not what’s literally being put right in his face.  Tony brought up that it’s similar to what M. Night Shyamalan does not too long after in The Sixth Sense, when the boy tells Bruce Willis that he sees dead people.  They don’t know they’re dead yet, but they are.  The boy is telling Bruce that he’s dead but he doesn’t see the big picture right that’s right in front of him.

It’s a very short, compact movie; 70 minutes long including the credits.  Sam notes that the ending is very abrupt.  All the “webs” that are set all comes together in the last eight minutes and then it’s over… nothing extra, noting unnecessary.  Tony compares the ending of Following to the ending to Usual Suspects, differentiating by adding that the ending of Usual Suspects almost feels like a “cheat.”  The audience never sees any of the clues in the Usual Suspects until they’re all laid out at the end, as opposed to Following, in which the clues are throughout the movie.  The audience is shown the clues and they get to enjoy the discovery of piecing it together themselves. The audience is not given this opportunity in The Usual Suspects.  The beauty of Following and The Sixth Sense is that you can go back and see the clues that you might not have caught the first time, the clues that were easily glossed over until the ending is fully presented.  It’s an intellectual puzzle for the audience to solve.

Sam thought that Following was more of a master’s thesis, so to speak, that sets the style for Christopher Nolan films.  Sam is still not convinced that this was a great film.  Ultimately it was slow and it came together too quickly at the end.  He thought it didn’t have the amazing visuals (Batman Begins), the creative storytelling (Dark Knight) or the jaw dropping reactions (Memento) of Nolan’s later films.  In essence, it’s like watching his first “student film.”  You can see a lot of artistry and craftsmanship in this first film.

Even though Nolan chose to film this in B&W, for budgetary reasons, but none of the hosts can imagine this film in color.  This is the resume for the rest of Nolan’s career.  This is the film in which you can see what he has to offer in all of his later films, in how he tells a story both visually and through dialogue; it’s creating his brand in the same way that Do The Right Thing IS Spike Lee and Clerks IS Kevin Smith.

Jill mentioned how the movie was shot on Saturdays because everyone (cast and crew) had full time jobs.  The cost of making the film ($6 million) came out of Nolan’s pocket.  Darrell brought up how Nolan had the actors were made to practice their lines so that he would only have to have one or two takes per scene, to conserve film and time.

Bill’s apartment, with the Batman sticker on the door, was Bill’s real apartment.

Christopher Nolan came up with the idea for Following because his home had been broken into and he wondered what the people thought as they went around looking at his belongings.

As Nolan’s debut film, it was designed to be as inexpensive as possible to make.  He mostly used available light to save on the expense of professional lighting equipment.  Apart from providing the script and direction, Nolan also did the photography, editing and production himself.

Your Producers for this episode were:

  • Tony
  • Darrell
  • Jill
  • Sam

This episode was recorded: 2/1/2012

20. February 2012 by Tony
Categories: Back Seat Producers, Season 07, Shows | Leave a comment

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