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Before Nolan reinvented Batman

With “The Dark Knight Rises” arriving on disc last week, we’ve had a few days to further study Christopher Nolan’s latest auteur flourishes. Now, in a welcome piggyback release, the cineastes at Criterion rewind to Nolan’s debut, “Following” (1999), a 16mm black-and-white feature shot on a student-film-society budget (read: somewhat less than Batman-in-IMAX money). The 70-minute beginner’s noir features Jeremy Theobald as an on-the-dole voyeur who randomly decides to tail a gentleman burglar (Alex Haw), and is soon being led down some awfully dicey paths. (Hard to figure why this was the only screen outing for Haw, who’s like Rupert Everett with an edge.) Much of the interest lies in watching Nolan develop the non-linear techniques and narrative sleight-of-hand he’d later employ so masterfully in “Memento” and “Inception.” Still, he doesn’t address these aspects of the film in a new half-hour interview. Instead, he keeps the talk more technical, discussing how habits he developed out of necessity on “Following” have helped him on the Batman movies and elsewhere. (Be sure to keep an eye out for the Batman logo in one scene. Coincidence, or aspiration laid bare?) As with “Memento,” the disc also offers viewers an opportunity to watch a chronological edit of the film. And for an even more stripped-down look at Nolan’s vision, there’s “Doodlebug” (1997), a three-minute short that manages some trippy existential effects on a budget that makes “Following” look extravagant. (Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95)

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