Back before Christopher Nolan blossomed into a transcendent filmmaker, reaching gargantuan mainstream heights with slickly-made, highly intelligent action movies, he crafted a tiny neo-noir film called Following. Even though I have sincere respect for Nolan’s recent work, I am still partial to his early stuff. Following may well be my favorite.
Made on a shoe-string budget, shooting with 16mm reversal black & white stock, in a mostly guerrilla-style around the streets of London, Nolan weaves a simple story of moral bankruptcy, romance, seduction, and crime. Like his later films, it’s simply not enough to only spin a complex web of a plot. Nolan uses the tale of a man (played like a deer in headlights by Jeremy Theobald) stuck in a lonely obsession with following strangers to slowly unravel the moral compass of both his main character and humanity at large. While independently made, this film feels huge. It’s smart, but also wildly entertaining. Possibly due to the use of timeless, grainy photography or it’s non-linear structure, the film has aged quite well, unlike some other low-budget 90s films like Shallow Grave.
The Criterion Collection announced yesterday that they will release a restored version of Following to both Blu-ray and DVD. Not stacked with rare “making-of” features (though the “chronological rendering” has me a little giddy), the disc still looks to contain a number of enticing desserts for after the main course:
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director Christopher Nolan, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the
- New 5.1 surround sound mix by sound editor Gary Rizzo, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition
- Audio commentary by Nolan
- New interview with Nolan
- Chronological rendering of the story
- Side-by-side comparison of three scenes in the film with the shooting script
- Doodlebug (1997), a three-minute film by Nolan, starring Jeremy Theobald
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic and programmer Scott Foundas
It’s always fun to go back and watch the early works of highly successful filmmakers. Perhaps, no recent debut is as powerful as Following. Even classics like Reservoir Dogs and π aren’t as much a warning sign of things to come from their makers. That Following stands on its own is further testament to Nolan’s inherent abilities.
Grab this one as soon as you can.