Saturday, May 31, 2014

The End

I just watched James Gray's latest film, The Immigrant, and among other things I felt it had the most masterful final shot/image of any film I have seen in a very long time.  It reminded me of probably my favorite closing shot of all time in Antonioni's The Passenger then got me thinking about some of the other all time great closing shots in the history of the medium. 

Among my other faves are:

Kiarostami's Through the Olive Trees
Godard's Contempt
Truffaut's The Soft Skin
Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces


  1. Couldn't agree more - one of those almost literally breathtaking moments (and what a film...)

    A few favorite last shots from the top of my head would be A nos amours, Night Moves, Repulsion and more recently Meek's Cutoff.

    None of those are really technical coups as the Gray and Antonioni are, but they do something else which I also love, closing with a somewhat banal, unresolved moment that becomes loaded by virtue of the fact that THIS is the ending that has narratively been selected, and then asks to a degree for everything that came before to be read through it. This has always been a very appealing thing for me.

  2. I like how you put that, Drew. If I understand you correctly, I think I share your affinity for those types of final shots as well. What other films would you say end in that way - the first Godfather? Taxi Driver? As much as I love Night Moves, I am not positive I can pinpoint its final image. Is it something hazy of a boat involving Hackman?

  3. It's a drifting aerial shot of the boat with Hackman on it doing aimless circles in the middle of the ocean, which works to underline an idea that only begins to become apparent very late - that's it's not a mystery film so much as a film about a guy who can't crack the mystery.

    The 400 Blows is another (justifiably classic) example of what I'm talking about, I think, which isn't exactly ambiguity but rather a downplaying or even ignoring of dramatic values in favor of a sense of something ostensibly more arbitrary. From my previous post, the Pialat is probably the very best example, and it wasn't an uncommon way for him to end one of his films. Actually, the French in general have always pulled this off very well.

  4. Yes now I remember that final image in the Penn film. Thank you. I needed that little nudge.

    The Pialat final image I cannot recall either (even though I am very much a fan of the film and of the filmmaker in general) but I believe I am arriving at a better sense of where you are going - "a downplaying or even ignoring of dramatic values in favor of a sense of something ostensibly more arbitrary." I can certainly see that in The 400 Blows, even if I guess one could argue that the final freeze frame is the perfect embodiment and even in perfect congruence with the where the story has pushed the drama - i.e freezing Leaud's most liberated moment thus far in the film highlights the importance of that particular emotion to the character and his arc through the course of the story.

    On a slightly tangential note, the French in general I always felt would rather end their movies five minutes too soon than five minutes too late which, as long as we are speaking in generalities, long-windedness seems to be a common negative tendency among many in the American cinema. All that to say, I could not agree with you more. If I had to put a list together of my 50 all time favorite endings, I am sure at least 30 would be French.

  5. Sam Juliano was trying to add this comment but for some reason the blog was not taking it so I have attached it below:

    I have always thought of the final shot of Truffaut's THE 400 BLOWS as one of the most unforgettable of all. I'd also pose the final images in CITY LIGHTS, CASABLANCA, THE GODFATHER, JEAN DE FLORETTE and THE GRADUATE as particularly memorable. Of course I completely agree with the ones you have chosen here Jeffrey. Generally I'd say you are right about the French movies having so many great endings.
    Yes the ending of THE IMMIGRANT is powerful for sure, though I like the film in its entirety. Great visual look and electrifying performances.

  6. Sam, thanks so much for the great addition. I could not agree more about Truffaut's debut and even if I cannot remember a few of the others on your list as well, I imagine they all deserve to be at the fore of this conversation.

    Looking forward to having some movie viewings to report back on soon. Been quiet on that front unfortunately.

    Thanks so much, Sam!