Movies: All ends well


Life has felt too heavy to me in recent days. I feel like I’m shouldering a lot of spiritual responsibility and information is buzzing through me. However, we all need to escape, do something silly and laugh a lot. One of my favorite escapes besides photography and music is watching movies. My tastes tend towards highbrow, but I like the occasional chick flick too. I even enjoy nonsensical Fellini and early Almodovar films when the mood strikes me. So here is a list of movies with memorable endings. Some of these endings fall under romantic, but others just reach a logical and thoughtful conclusion such as the bittersweet ending of Denys Arcand’s 1989 Quebecois movie, “Jesus of Montreal.”

In fact the last time I ever wore mascara was in 1999 when I watch the 10 year anniversary of the Arcand movie. Sadly, not many Seattle International Film Festival attendees showed up at that anniversary viewing. Two gay men sat behind me and cried as long and hard as I did while viewing the brutal scenes that culminated in the film’s ending. And I swore I would never wear mascara again after it streaked my face.

Other movies that bring tears every time are Wim Wender’s 1989 movie, “Wings of Desire,” and Audrey Wells’ “Under a Tuscan Sun”. I think Diane Lane deserved an Oscar for her performance of Frances, but chick flicks don’t garner Oscar nominations. Oh, yes, and if you want to see me cry (why would you?) play me the Pope Scene of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1972 movie about Saint Francis’s conversion, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”. That scene is brutal on the tear ducts.

I’m too lazy to research actors, directors, etc in the following movies, but head on over to YouTube and watch the trailers and then IMDB for movie details. I reviewed movies for over 3 years and do not wish to delve into movie details today. My brain still feels fried from the years in which I crammed 100s of movies into it. I might not remember actors’ names or the correct spellings, but certain scenes and quotes still play continually in my thoughts.

1. Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders, (1989)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ic8iGIdv80o

Here is the official trailer of a 2+ hour German black and white movie about angels. When a colleague described this movie to me, I braced myself for another boring evening. However, when the movie opened with its abstract music and the angels (one played by Bruno Ganz), I felt my heart open. Bring in the trapeze artist, and Peter Falk (Columbo) and some serious spiritual messages, and I am hooked.

This movie ends on a bittersweet romantic note with Gantz giving up his wings for the love of the trapeze artist.

2. French Kiss, Lawrence Kasdan (1995)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF9xsk3tmoA

I am including the official trailer to this famous Franco-American relationship comedy starring Meg Ryan as a Francophobe afraid of flying and Kevin Kline as a believable Frenchman. This is probably the most quotable movie on my list with lines such as “Fester, Fester, rot, rot, rot…” and “Wear the corresponding face with the corresponding emotions!” I enjoy Meg Ryan with her twinkling blue eyes in any movie. If she spoke Spanish, she could have delivered an over-the-top performance in a Pedro Almodovar movie. Imagine the possibilities.

3. Green Ray (Rayon Verte), Summer, Eric Rohmer (1986)

The uncomfortable “I’m a vegetarian” scene (In French with no subtitles)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCgfzkFIxeY

A film journalist colleague introduced me to Eric Rohmer. He told me to watch “Rayon Verte” because he enjoyed the way the director weaved in the Jules Verne story with a lovelorn tale. He warned me about the character Delphine who he found annoying. Delphine (Marie Riviere) suffers from isolation and depression because she is single and especially during her summer vacation (which is 3 weeks in France). Delphine drags us on her sad adventures of seeking the right vacation spot, but really a mate. However, the ending which involves discovering the truth when viewing the green ray (last rays of the sun before it falls under the horizon), delights viewers who might have up to that point felt like they were watching paint drying.  Fortunately, I happily went along on Delphine’s melancholic journey and chuckled along the way.

4. Amelie , Jean-Pierre Jeunut (2000)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sECzJY07oK4

Another shy French woman, Amelie falls for an equally quirky Parisian man, but is unable to act on her desires. She hides behind her simple acts of kindness and cruelty (to a neighbor), while also mourning the death of Princess Di. The movie plays like an urban faerie tale that takes place in a glossy postcard-perfect Paris. The film’s ending is also cartoonish but satisfying nonetheless. The perfect chick movie. Love the French chansons played mostly on accordion too. Ah, Paris!

5. Cleo from 5 to 7, Agnes Varda (1962)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVvHG5rd824

I found Agnes Varda’s “Cleo from 5 to 7” on a library shelf. This black and white French New Wave movie portrays a woman who transforms from spoiled diva to a wiser woman due to meeting “The Fool” at a Parisian park. The movie opens with a tarot reading in which the mature reader sees impending death of the protagonist Cleo, a young pop vocalist suffering from stomach cancer. However, by the movie’s end viewers realize that this movie portrayed a different kind of death, of the old self, and not the physical self.

6. Under a Tuscan Sun, Audrey Wells (2002)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdJGMZDY0-8

Diane Lane delivers a luminous performance of Frances Mayes, a San Franciscan professor going through a divorce. Frances goes on a Gay tour of Tuscany where she discovers a villa for sale then on impulse buys the large house. She meets a ragtag group of characters and she quickly settles in solving other people’s problems. However, by the movie’s end, Frances realize that she has everything she could ever need and her divorce acted as a catalyst to this new life.

7. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Pedro Almdovar (1988)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PypMOEKJuh8

One of Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar’s campy movies from his early years, this screenplay barely hinges on a plot. However, the over-the-top Spanish soap opera performances and dialogue provide a silly escape. So many years later, and I still enjoy this Spanish language romp. The movie’s ending with Pepa talking to a virgin who just lost her fiancee leaves viewers on a semi-peaceful note.

8. 8 1/2, Federico Fellini (1963)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtDQOF_pU8A

Again, we have a long black and white movie with subtitles and unlike “Wings of Desire,” “8 1/2” barely hinges on a plot and possesses a macho attitude. So why is this movie on my list? I love Nino Rota’s soundtrack for the movie and the surreal imagery. The ending with all the movie characters and the protagonist’s movie characters dance in a circle while bringing up a “life is a circus” theme. They also dismantle an expensive movie set when the director realizes that his movie won’t manifest.

9. Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Franco Zeffirelli (1972)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dlwFd7UhN0

 

I am ending this list with two spiritual movies. “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” combines the hippie flower power with the story of Saint Francis’ and Saint Clare’s of Assisi religious conversion. The first time I watched this movie, I found it disjointed and the Donovan song felt hokey. However, after watching the movie a second and third time, the spiritual message of transformation hit me over the head. Zeffirelli’s movie provides many memorable scenes, and many that resonate during this era, including the scene when the humble Francis in his rags and bare feet grabbles at Pope Innocent’s feet and the Pope kisses Francis’ dirty feet. The actual ending of the movie feels slightly ambiguous as we see Francis blissfully walking into the distance with the Donovan song playing on the soundtrack.

10. Jesus of Montreal, Denys Arcand (1989)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXqJyR67Uis

I haven’t seen Denys Arcand’s classic movie “Jesus of Montreal” in at least 10 years, but I remember this powerful story that parallel’s a Gnostic version of Jesus Christ’s life with a passion play set in Montreal. The actor-director channels the role of Jesus until he becomes one with Christ, literally. The tragic ending has too beautiful a message to pass up. Arcand took emotional and professional risks with this movie and his risks paid off in my opinion.

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