Reason #336 why DiB Doesn’t Date Well:
I am watching Lost in Translation with this girl I really like and it gets to the end where Johanssen says something into Bill Murray’s ear. The girl turns to me and says, “So what do you think she said?”
Alicia: “What do you mean?”
DiB: “Sofia Coppola did not think to herself, ‘This character said that, but I think the emotion is more in the action of saying it than the words she says, so I’m going to leave it up to the audience to decide what the words are,’ she said to herself, ‘You know what would really make this movie artistic? If I had a character say something to the other character ambiguously so that the audience could wonder what she said.’”
Alicia: “……..Uh, how do you know?”
DiB: “Because this movie is stupid.”
Oh. She actually liked that movie. My bad.
Life is full of ambiguity. How many situations in our lives (the life of an ordinary John Doe) are clearly resolved? In my life many aren’t and probably won’t be. Things left unsaid, choices we didn’t have the guts to make, people that come and go… etc, etc. If we want an neat little ending tied up in parcel then films featuring Hercule Poirot as the main character or Miss Marple should be the way to go. ;) (Not that they aren’t very good films: Murder on the Orient Express for instance… excellent).
-Life is full of ambiguity.-
Very true. I’ve always felt that this was part of what makes the clear fictional resolution so appealing—we get it so rarely in actual life.
Well, M.P., let me state that I do not think “No Country” has one of the worst endings ever. What I’m saying is ever since that film came out, I’ve noticed more filmmakers trying to emulate that type of ending. I’ve seen a lot of films with that sudden-cut-to-credits approach to their endings. And they can’t make it work.
Now, to answer your other question: when I first “No Country” (and, for the record, it’s been a while since then), I thought the main story was the story of Josh Brolin’s character and the money. It seems to me that he’s really the one moving the story, though Javier Bardem does a lot as well. I’m actually re-watching it now just to see if I view it any different. So we’ll see.
And might I add, as a general question, do we really want our movies to be mirror images of life? Because life is ambiguous, should the movies, or any kind of literature, be as equally true?
I’d like to hear answers to that question before I comment.
A suggestion: watch it as if it were actually about Ed Tom (Tommy Lee Jones) rather than Llewelyn (Brolin) or Chigurh. This may make the ending make more sense.
I knew you were going to say that! All right, I’ll keep that in mind.
“do we really want our movies to be mirror images of life? Because life is ambiguous, should the movies, or any kind of literature, be as equally true?”
They don’t have to be, but why shouldn’t they be? Know what I mean? No one is saying that every film/book/etc. has to end ambiguously, on the other hand however, why shouldn’t some art reflect life in this way? I suppose what I’m trying to understand at least is: what is your objection to art imitating life?
@ M.P.: Well, I tried watching it under your reccomendations. I can’t really view it that way. Ed Tom isn’t really as driving a force as the other characters, at least the way the film is put together. After all, he doesn’t really appear physically until almost half an hour in. He just doesn’t isn’t put in the postion to be the senter of attention, at least in my opinion.
@ Deckard Croix: Let me put it to you this way: I’m not aginst truth. I’m not against honesty in storytelling. But, I think every good film should be a good story. And I mean that is a very basic term. If you tell an anicdote to someone, and you leave off the last two sentences, what really have you told them? What was the point of even opening your mouth?
A story should be enlightening. When you hear a good story, you gain something from it. If you tell a story, and you leave it ambiguous or undefined because “that’s life”, who’s really being enlightned there? I know life is uncertain. I think everybody knows that, just as much as they know what two plus two is.
“But, I think every good film should be a good story.”
There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’re speaking purely in the conventional sense of the term. Sure, by tradition and established method, a story must begin and end clearly and cohesively, but this can become boring. It’s such a predictable and linear way of storytelling that an audience must be introduced to a character, get to know him, understand him, sympathize with him, and all of the story’s conflicts are neatly wrapped up in the conclusion … why should we only follow this one track? Storytelling should be an organic experience, something which grows on you (and with you) and you growing with it.
Why does a story have to be an anecdote? Why can’t it just be a story? You’re interpreting the ending of No Country for Old Men as being purposely obtuse, but perhaps the writer intended it to end that way? And who’s to say that that wasn’t his intention? I’m doubtful that the writer had written an “actual ending” and then just left it off just to toy with the audience … where’s the evidence to support that?
As you say a story should be enlightening, but what is enlightening about a story which follows a convention and ends in the traditionally narrative way? No one’s just saying that the ending to NCFOM is simply “that’s life,” that’s just part of it.
You say that the film should end with some kind of closure, but what is the benefit of deliberately denying reality? In real life, when someone is arrested or dies or some mystery is solved, the “story” doesn’t end there, there is no closure, so why force it in film/literature/etc.?
I like movies that end like that. Not for any meaningful reason like “it’s more realistic” but a lot of times I end up kind of stuck to my seat thinking about the ending. It’s not just an intellectual thing; it helps the experience aspect too.
In the end I agree the most with “The difference between a good ending and a bad ending is how good the ending is.”
I’m not saying the ending “No Country” is purposely “obtuse”. But, it is possible to interperet it that way. So, some filmmaker sees what the Coens did, and thinks by cutting their film suddenly, it’s some sort of brilliant. artistic touch. So, “No Country” may end that way, and have some real reasoning behind it, but when other filmmakers emulate it, they don’t do it with any real meaning. It’s the other filmmakers, I think, that are being purposely obtuse.
But, let me ask you this. The stories of your life that would make a good book, play, movie, etc.: are they ambiguous? I’m not asking what they are, but would they be ambiguous stories and is there some closure in them?