The Thrill of the Final Image

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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?

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15 thoughts on “The Thrill of the Final Image

    Kelli Marshall said:
    August 2, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Nice! I like it — even though you “damned” me. =)

    I’ll go with the haunting last shot of THE 400 BLOWS, found here: http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/Images/stories/2009/mar/400blowsrev.jpg

      princesscowboy responded:
      August 2, 2010 at 4:56 pm

      Gah! Totally forgot about that one. A perfect final image indeed. Damn you Kelli!

    Dana said:
    August 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    The final shot of SAFE with Carol White staring into the mirror repeating “I love you. I really love you. I love you.” I read it as the bleakest moment ever, while others see a happy ending. Love that it is impossible to be sure.

    One more and then I will stop – the track and zoom in to the photograph of Carole in Polanski’s REPULSION – crazy eyed and isolated in the midst of her family – unnerving end.

    I am terrible at actually finding screen grabs of these images though.

    amanda's brother said:
    August 2, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    The final scene in Star Wars. The three heroes turn to face the adoring crowd after receiveing their medals (Chewbacca, strangely, never received one). Han Solo looks a bit embarassed while Luke has the “gee whiz” grin. The music soars and then abruptly cuts to “Directed by George Lucas” and the John WIlliams score. Corny? Maybe; but I don’t think any movie has ever had such a purely uplifing ending.

      princesscowboy responded:
      August 2, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      why didn’t Chewbaca get a medal? That blows.

    Marianne said:
    August 2, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    The final still in Thelma and Louise. Movement stops, time stops.

    Tara said:
    August 2, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Nope. Still in the cave. Ha.

    Timothy Yenter (inessentials) said:
    August 2, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Let’s not forget Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. Is there a more memorable closing image so perfectly designed to be seared into our collective brains?

    Another (to me) obvious choice would be The Third Man. (Here: http://users.design.ucla.edu/~thisisthat/Johanna/thirdman.html )

    And, pushing further the ambiguity and disappointment and longing that has been well represented by all of our choices, I’ll remind you all of the emotionally complex perfection that is the ending to City Lights.

    Chuck said:
    August 2, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Crap, I was gonna use 400 Blows, too.

    Nick said:
    August 2, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I started thinking about this and shortly realized that Stanly Kubrick is the master of ending-frame images. I can’t pick just one, either: the long, slow tracking shot through the great hall of the hotel and closeup on the photograph of Jack Nicholson in the crowd at the end of the ‘The Shining’; the menacing closeup of Alex at the end of ‘A Clockwork Orange’; the mushroom cloud obscuring the sun in ‘Dr. Strangelove’; Nicole Kidman’s “Let’s Fuck” closeup in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’; and yes, even the floating space baby in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ The man knew how to end a movie.

    Even so, with all the great Kubrick images I just listed, my favorite ending-frame image of all time isn’t one of his. It’s the freeze frame of Judd Nelson walking across the football field and throwing his fist in the air at the end of ‘The Breakfast Club.’

    I can’t explain why, but that shot always gets me, to the point where I have to suppress one of those random ecstatic giggles you get sometimes for no reason at all. That film, and that image, were such a fundamental part of my formative years that I’ve found myself imitating it during little moments of personal victory. That’s the power of film, I guess 🙂

      princesscowboy responded:
      August 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm

      I am sucker for all things John Hughes. That image is really enhanced by the song “Don’t You Forget About Me.” Ahhh, 80s nostalgia…

        Nick said:
        August 2, 2010 at 7:24 pm

        Oh hell yes. I sing the chorus every time I throw that fist up.

    Stella said:
    August 3, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Thank you for highlighting Umberto D’s final image.
    My pick would be Marie Antoinette directed by S. Coppola.

    Andreas said:
    August 13, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    That final image/line from I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang: one of my favorite endings ever. So bleak, so unexpected, so perfectly carried out. The lights just cut, and it’s as believable a depiction of life on the run as any film has ever had.

    I also love the ending to Breakfast at Tiffany’s: the movie itself has many problems and usual Blake Edwards sugariness going on, but the embrace in the rain (while searching for Cat) brings out the sentimentalist in me.

    Or, why not, the ending of Being John Malkovich: “Look away, look away…”

    Urthstripe said:
    August 19, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I’m quite partial to the final shot of A SERIOUS MAN. Just seems so perfectly ominous, yet unexpectedly powerful coming from that movie. And we’re all fans of the Airplane, right?

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