This is the end, my only friend, the end.
That's right, movie fans, this is my final blog here at The Picture Palace. The curtain is coming down, the shutters are going up on the door and the organ player has been fired.
So, to celebrate, I'm going to write about movie endings. Pulling off the perfect ending is a very fine art that many movies fail to master. Considering we are talking about endings here, there may be a few spoilers ahead, so be warned.
I think British film critic Mark Kermode nailed it when he said the perfect ending should be downbeat with a slight sense of hope.
A great example of this kind of ending is Children of Men. Here is the final frame of that masterpiece:
If you've seen the movie, you will know exactly what I mean. The downbeat bit is in the rowing boat, the slight sense of hope is in that larger boat shrouded in mist. It is the perfect image and plot point to end on. So many films reach this point and then babble on for another 10 minutes tying up every loose end and spoiling everything with some kind of trite epilogue.
I remember from my film course at university that another key element of a perfect classical Hollywood ending is what was called "the formation of the heterosexual couple". Or, to put it more simply, boy gets girl. This is a satisfying way to end a film, we all want to see the hero find true love, but I also think there is something primal about the desire to see a couple at the end of the film. We are so desperate to see this happen that we will often clutch at straws. For example, at the end of ET, this happens:
The kind scientist guy glances at Elliott's mum for just a few seconds. That one short moment is enough for me to hope that Elliott's lonely mum will end up with the kind scientist guy. It's a desire that feels primal and is a powerful force to use at the end of a movie.
It's a desire that makes the ending of Casablanca unusual and interesting. It ends like this:
OK, spoiler alert, you don't get the couple you want at the end of Casablanca. Instead, Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart stroll into the mist with the classic line: "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." It alludes to a coupling that is far from heterosexual and messes with the conventions in a brilliant way. Is this how slash fiction was born?
Then there is the twist ending.
You can keep your M Night Shyamalans. For me, the two best twist endings are Seven and Psycho. The first time I saw Psycho as an impressionable teenager I was utterly blown away. I had no idea what to expect and my noodle was thoroughly baked by that ending. I remember that so vividly. In fact, until the psychologist came in at the end to explain, I had no idea what was going on. Then, there's the killer final image:
But, if I had to choose a single ending on which to close The Picture Palace, it would be this:
The Life of Brian has a perfect ending and feels right as the final clip to appear on my blog.
But what about you? What is your favourite ending? What do you think makes a good ending? Post below.
And thanks for being such a great bunch over the past 18 months or so. I've genuinely enjoyed our time together. It's been fun.
There you go, downbeat with a slight sense of hope. Perfect.