What to See After You’ve Seen INCEPTION

SOLARIS (dir. Andrei Tarkovsky)

Christopher Nolan’s Inception takes place in the “architecture of the mind”–and, like Solaris, in the absence of a spouse. Tarkovsky’s film is pure speculative fiction–it’s set on a space station, where a human psychologist grapples with a basically unknowable alien intelligence. But it’s also a meditation (which is an overused word for stuff like this, but appropriate here, promise) on loss, longing, and the hazards of holding on to too tightly to the past. Solaris runs a whopping 165 minutes, and (if memory serves) has about 100% fewer explosions than Nolan’s movie. That said, only one of them is free to watch on Film Annex.

LE CERCLE ROUGE (dir. Jean-Pierre Melville)

Melville‘s influence is more obvious on Jim Jarmusch than on Nolan, but this 1970 heist movie is ideal for viewers who want more of impeccably-dressed criminals attempting the improbable. It’s also maybe the most homoerotic crime film ever made, but that’s another post.

BLADE RUNNER (dir. Ridley Scott)

This one’s maybe the most obvious and the most difficult to talk about getting too spoilerish. So suffice to say Scott’s atmospheric thriller about an android (or “replicant”) hunter in the Los Angeles of 2019 is one of the films that Inception’s joining in the cerebral sci-fi canon. And unlike Solaris, there are all kinds of explosions in Blade Runner.


A lot of critics and fans think of Until the End of the World as the place where Wim Wenders veered off track after making classics like Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire. But it’s still one of New German Cinema‘s finest doing a film about a high-tech dream recorder, and it’s got Talking Heads, Patti Smith and Nick Cave on the soundtrack.

MAJOR LEAGUE (dir. David S. Ward)

Tarantino gets singled out for casting from the B and C lists (Robert Forster in Jackie Brown, David Carradine in Kill Bill, etc), but Nolan is doing his part to restore the cache of the critically uncelebrated. It’s not a total shock seeing Major League star Tom Berenger in Inception–both because Eric Roberts and Anthony Michael Hall popped up in The Dark Knight, and because Berenger doesn’t look quite like his ’80s self–but his appearance does invite a few seconds of hey wait isn’t that–. Fortunately they’re followed by a longer stretch of you know what he’s pretty good in this. Selecting Berenger isn’t Nolan’s most inspired bit of stunt casting; that’d be Bowie as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige. Even so, it ought to get people looking at him a different way when they revisit Berenger’s 1989 baseball comedy.

ADAPTATION (dir. Spike Jonze)
[Spoilers being at this point kind of unavoidable]

Nolan’s neatest trick where Inception‘s concerned is also his broadest: making a film about art (creating it, responding to it) disguised as a heist movie. During its climax, Inception encourages us to react a certain way and also to second-guess our reactions, cutting back between Dom Cobb’s breakthrough and Robert Fischer’s. Other people have literally invented Fischer’s catharsis for him. Cobb’s is (theoretically) more genuine. But neither character’s moment of clarity is treated as more genuine than the other. Inception calls attention to its third act manipulations like few films, summer blockbusters or otherwise. Few mainstream films other than Adaptation, really.

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