Day: August 2, 2010

The Thrill of the Final Image

Posted on

Somewhere in TV Land Jersey Shore‘s Snooki is carrying around an entire suitcase of bronzer. Nothing but bronzer. Elsewhere, Mad Men‘s Sally Draper may or may not be developing a nasty little eating disorder. And on True Blood Tara just smashed a vampire’s head flat with a medieval mace. I itch, no I yearn, to blog about these programs. But I haven’t. Because my Big Deadline–August 31–approaches and I must focus my energies on meeting this Big Deadline. For the next 4 weeks all intellectual activity must be channeled towards the Big Deadline.

But my Twitter pal, @KelliMarshall,  has managed to distract me with this engaging meme. I could not resist. Damn you, Kelli.

Here are the rules:

The person tagged is to submit a gallery of images that represents “the thrill of cinema,” however s/he interprets that phrase. The other rules are spelled out thusly:

  1. Pick as many pictures as you want, but make them screen-captures.
  2. Pick a theme, any theme.
  3. You MUST link to Stephen’s gallery and my post too.
  4. Tag five blogs. \\ I am tagging the following  (primarily) film studies blogs: Jamais VuThe Lesser Feat, Ludic Despair and The Chutry Experiment. No pressure folks, just giving you the option to participate.

There is so much that thrills me about the cinema. But to convey that thrill with still images, when, as we all know, the cinema is about moving images, makes this meme a little more challenging. However, I have always been a sucker for the images that appear in the last few minutes of the film. These are the images that you just can’t shake. You replay them in you head long after the end credits have rolled. They are the images that have a visceral impact on the viewer.

They reach into your chest and squeeze your heart so tightly you can barely stand it:

Ennis embraces the shirt of his murdered lover in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005, Ang Lee).

Stella's daughter will never know of her sacrifice in STELLA DALLAS (1937, King Vidor).

Or they make the little hairs on the back of the neck stand on end, especially when you’re lying in bed, in the dark, all alone:

The final shot of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974, Tobe Hooper) has been seared in my brain.

The mother at the end of THE DESCENT (2005, Neil Marshall) believes she is sharing a birthday cake with her dead daughter. Nope. Still in the cave.

These are the images that can change the entire meaning of a film, or simply hammer home its main themes:

Not technically the final image of THE CROWD (1928, King Vidor), but almost. Our protagonists laugh in unison with the anonymous crowd.
A momentary respite from the ennui of UMBERTO D (1952, Vittorio DeSica)

Occasionally , it’s not a final image that gets me, but a sound. At the end of I am a Fugitive from a Chaingang (1932, Mervyn LeRoy), Helen (Helen Vinson) asks her perpetually on the run fiance, James (the incomparable Paul Muni), what he will do to survive. “How do you live?” she implores as James slips back into the shadows. As the frame fills with darkness we hear him hiss “I steal!”

James, before he disappears into the darkness, at the conclusion to I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAINGANG

I could go on and on here but like I mentioned: Big Deadline.

Whatr are your favorite final images and why?