Famous Last Words

Movie Buffs Pick Their Favorite Endings

[Spoilers are in bold]

Film endings are often what I like least in a film and they often give me the hardest time in my own films. I have a preference for "false endings" that are followed by an epilogue that takes place after some time has elapsed. One of the most beautiful endings I know is from Bresson's Pickpocket. Several years have passed, yet the man whose destiny is the subject of the film looks exactly the same— same face, same clothes. He's in jail, and through the bars, he tells the woman whose path he has crossed many times, "Oh, Jeanne, how far I've had to go to come close to you," even though they've seen each other without acknowledging it several times prior to that.

— BENOIT JACQUOT (The School of Flesh, February)

Tsai Ming-liang's not one to spill a drop when a gallon's handy. In an interlocked quartet of love-parched weepies, he's single-handedly watered Taipei's concrete garden with free-floating ennui. At the climax of Vive L'Amour, Tsai comes on like Noah himself, sending forlorn realtor Yang Kuei-mei into a half-complete and especially fecal public park, and having her cry and cry and cry for what feels like 40 days and 40 nights. Just one seemingly unending shot, but her tears set in motion The River (Tsai's subsequent film), and in his latest, The Hole, threaten to flood the entire world. — CHUCK STEPHENS

Vertigo:for whom the bell tolls
James Kaston
Vertigo:for whom the bell tolls

I tend to favor guy-gets-girl endings that involve jerks transformed, where the trials the initially undeserving pursuer gets put through are both tremendously arduous and nightmarishly comic. There's Groundhog Day, there's There's Something About Mary, and then there's the ultimate happy finale of Defending Your Life. Following a painfully funny afterlife judging process and an apparently doomed courtship (of twinkly-eyed Meryl Streep), our fear-driven, little-brained hero (Albert Brooks) is inspired to break out of his self-pitying trance. The scene somehow turns the simple act of jumping onto a cheesy tourist tram into a wonderful leap of faith. From here to eternity indeed. — ABBY MCGANNEY NOLAN

I am always startled by the goofy, playful fearlessness at the end of Goodfellas. After floating Henry Hill's disembodied narration above the exotic scenes of his mob life, Scorsese drops the convention of voice-over and has Henry turn to us from the witness stand and talk directly to the camera. He's ratted on his fellow mobsters, identified them for the jury, and now walks through the courtroom like it's a wax museum of his old life. And then the postscript: Cut to an anonymous suburban housing development and Henry's life in the witness protection program— "a place where I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup. . . . I'm an average nobody. I get to spend the rest of my life like a schnook." Henry, in his terrycloth bathrobe, steps out in front of his nondescript house, picks up the morning paper— and BANG BANG! A blast from the past. It's Joe Pesci in a flashback, guns blazing. A beat. Henry cracks a wistful smile, stares us dead bolt in the eye, and slams the door in our faces. Sid Vicious sings "My Way." I get a rush. — TAMARA JENKINS (Slums of Beverly Hills)

One of five articles in our Film supplement.

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