Following

Shot on a nothing budget over a year's worth of Saturdays, Following, first-time British writer-director Christopher Nolan's fast and clever little noir exercise, is one of those increasingly rare instances in which the film's story turns out to be as interesting as that of its shoestring production. Jeremy Theobald plays a typically dimwitted genre foil, an unemployed "writer" whose boredom leads him to pick out strangers from a crowd and shadow them all day just to see what they do. His cover is blown when elegant burglar Alex Haw catches on to his conspicuous methods, but Theobald soon discovers that they share a similar taste for voyeurism and the two become partners. Rather than simply robbing the flats they break into, they use the time to peer into other people's private lives. A femme fatale (Lucy Russell) and some predictable double-crosses are added to flesh out the standard-issue noir plot, but the most compelling scenes in Following are the burglaries themselves, in which Haw accounts for his victims' entire personal history simply by rifling through their things. When Theobald secretly invites him to break into his own shabby apartment, Haw lays out his pathetic existence with hilariously devastating accuracy. Nolan survives his budgetary constraints, excelling in those crucial areas that require more ingenuity than money. His fluid, hand-held black-and-white cinematography and fractured cutting are exercised with undeniable skill and, in one or two takes, he coaxes solid performances from his amateur cast. It's a distinct, if minor, pleasure.

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