Tenet ★★★★★

crazy thing abt this is how it begins as a very straightforward spy movie / bond riff, with a pointed cause/effect between events — go here to do this so they can get this so they can go there, etc. then as it goes on and the inversion concept plays a greater role the distinctions between cause and effect become noticeably blurred and eventually completely annihilated. point a to point b, then b to a, then c to d (and d to c) between a and b, until "a" and "b" and "c" and "d" no longer mean anything at all. whatever happened happened — the film is its own argument for the core arbitrariness of its storytelling, an endless loop. the midpoint car chase is especially wild bc of how the two iterations of the scene contain forward and backward perspectives, but either go-around actually reveals more about and feeds into the other. previous sequences aren't recontextualized so much as context emerges on either side from a mutual absence of it, the narrative literally folding upon itself.

what else is how weirdly economical and stripped-down the style of this movie is even though it feels like it's doing a lot. i dont think there's a single shot in this that isn't trying to directly deliver crucial visual or verbal information, with zero extraneity, and the pace feels as if each image can't be lingered on for longer than it has to be to land, rendering it both incoherent and gripping, building tension from nothing. and the action often feels like it's following the similarly minimal grammar of dunkirk, like the car chase consisting of just three types of shots (car pov, driver reaction, wide shot of both cars), or the hallway fight in split-second mediums in a sea of restless, obstructive closeups, or the final battle in explosive/implosive chaos (which, by the story's rules, is all metaphysically ordered) — there's still no regard for geography, but it flows nonetheless. opposites collide and the winds of entropy prevail.

so there's an ascetism to the style here that keeps your attention even when it's not particularly interesting to look at, bc nolan is obviously more concerned w structuring images rather than composing them. but now he's found a way to place an abstraction within the images — it's a really simple one, but it's charming and fun, because the inversion shots never really feel like reversed footage, but like reverse physics happening in normal footage. it's a damn slick and convincing effect, especially with how it's timed in the edit. but then an even more significant discovery is made; along with inception, to compare it to samuel delany's notion of the "science fictional sentence," there is a breakthrough in truly science fictional sequences that science fiction cinema has rarely if ever been able to develop, except in these two cases (not even interstellar, which is a great film, is quite on this level). but still, as time goes on i'm just more and more drawn to nolan's admittedly cavalier form for some reason; so many technically "sloppy" shots and striking cutting "errors" but it all still remains alive and immersive to me, without being "verite" necessarily despite his own ideals, instead utilitarian but still bizarrely unpredictable. i just like how gangly and visibly imperfect this is, and think nolan's obsession with the materiality of the image rather than its individual affect is a lot more compelling than it has any right to be, as he exploits the scientifically greatest image quality known to man in this shaggy, renegade manner. even in his mission of immersion there's something so noticeably compromised about the shooting and finally you can feel the film struggle to make sense of itself after the fact, and have real fun with that process too — that a blockbuster of this scale makes this apparent to more forgiving viewers, such as myself, is exciting.

overall it's very interesting how this takes such an incredibly tantalizing sci-fi concept and spins it into both a formal and structural/narratological one, and with repeated viewings u get to see just how harmonious the internal paradoxical logic of the concept is with its overarching construction. in this case it's almost certainly one of the greatest works of science fiction cinema in the past couple of decades, or at least one that should be considered significant for its innovations alone, its innumerable contradictions aside. what it offers could have been in a "better," more wieldy film, one that nolan is definitely capable of making, maybe with more runtime and room to breathe for a scope it can barely contain, and yet i feel like no one else will attempt to (or could ever) make a film like this one, so i will take it as is. plus it's just a neat time travel romp and throw-shit-at-the-wall auteur mess, a meat grinder of past -isms, both innovative and regressive, nolan on autopilot and absolutely coked out of his mind, undoubtedly frustrating for many but just pushed a lot of very deep and personal buttons for me. good shit i think

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