The ending didn’t ruin it, but I found the very last moments of Road to Perdition unsatisfactory. You know exactly what the narrator will say next, and it is eye rolling.
The ending of Chinatown was the typical doom and gloom,“we are helpless in this 70’s era of corruption” type, ending so it was perhaps a powerful reflection of the attitude of the times.
But you are right, it certainly isn’t ‘satisfying’. When can the good guys giving up to the nihilism of society ever be satisfying, where all the struggle and resistance to fight and carry on is lost. Therefore, it’s not very interesting to me as a film, other than in a historical/political context.
As I remember, the originally scripted ending of CHINATOWN—-
SPOILERS AHOY — Beware!!
involved Dunaway escaping to live with her daughter/sister, far from Eli Cross’s malign influence. I can’t imagine that being any more effective than the ending that Polanski added to the film. Of course, the Happy Ending is a more complete up-ending of the film’s film-noir Chandler-esque conventions, which might have been the point all along.
I’ve never been a particular fan of CHINATOWN. I can certainly appreciate it, and Mr. Huston’s Eli Cross is a marvelous creation, but the film always leaves me cold — guess what folks, the bad guys win, and I can’t really say I care. I’ve known folks who find the film absolutely devastating. I attended a screening with a friend who had to sit in silence while the credits rolled and the lights came up and the audience left, he was so totally knocked out by the film. Whatever.
Gittes’ mistake was thinking that the system would behave idyllically, and he could get the police to act against a rich, powerful man who can get them fired and destroyed on a whim.
It doesn’t negate the previous two hours that the good guy failed, and the cause of that failure really drives home the point, the powerful can do whatever they want.
If you’re watching it looking for the bad guys to crumble under their own corruption and the good guy to go off into the sunset with a catch phrase and his girl in arm, you chose the wrong film. How can you negate a film’s ending for declining to meet the expectations you projected onto it?
“If you’re watching it looking for the bad guys to crumble under their own corruption and the good guy to go off into the sunset with a catch phrase and his girl in arm, you chose the wrong film.”
Yeah, if anything wrapping it up in a neat box would’ve been the disappointment. What’s the point of making a film about political corruption if the end is literally the death nail in the totality of political corruption?
I believe the only Chaplin film in which he appeared as The Tramp and wound up with the girl at the end of the picture was the last film he ever appeared as The Tramp in. The ultimate conclusion of a happy ending is the knowledge that nothing living can continue its existence after because there would be no point.
Finding ultimate meaning is therefore, the ultimate meaninglessness.
“He’s rich! Do you understand? He thinks he can get away with anything.”
See the difference between Cross and Gittes is Cross knows, Gittes thinks.
Falderal — you’re thinking of Chaplin’s MODERN TIMES.
“Forget it Jake, It’s Chinatown.” The rich and powerful always get away, if I’m not mistaken it’s been that way for a long long time. The ending is what really makes this movie great and timeless. But yes a bad ending can sometimes ruin a whole movie for me, I thought the ending to the Dark Knight was when the JOker got killed but it didn’t end there, and I lost focus and interest from that point on.
The Dark Knight did have a lame ending. So did Take Shelter and Se7en, but neither of those were all that great to begin with. Chinatown however has a great ending. Gittes can’t do anything, Joey, because Cross owns the judges, cops, and politicians. Proof means squat against that. Remember this financial downturn that’s the worst since the Great Depression? How many rich and powerful men were punished for piling dangerous mortgage debt into inscrutable derivatives and destroying the economy? How many escaped with golden parachutes?
But if that is the case what was the point of watching the first two hours
Joey: Are you saying that a film which offers a more truthful look at the world is not worth watching? If a film is pessimistic it is not as good as one that leaves you with a warm glow by righting all the wrongs shown in the earlier parts of the film? Are you watching – dear God in heaven – films just to be… (gulp)…entertained? Strike that last bit (it makes it sound like I really agree with you – I don’t). Chinatown has often been praised for its perfect script; the ending is the best part of it.
No I don’t just watch films for entertainment, and if you think that I only like positive films then take a look at this:
I wouldn’t call those all very uplifting pictures, I like the films with truthful look at the world
The ending of No Country For Old Men almost ruined the film for me.
Joey: But if that is the case what was the point of watching the first two hours
You stated earlier that you loved the first two hours, that up to the end it was one of the best movies you’d ever seen. What was the point of watching the first two hours???
The ending doesn’t erase the first two hours, but the first two hours make the ending more devastating.
Yes, your comment about what was the point about watching the first two hours led me to think you were responding to the post directly above your one and that you were suggesting that a film which is all doom and gloom leading up to a final scene of doom and gloom is not worth bothering with as it is one-note and not very well paced…? Need a glass of water now.
I tried to click on your Top 30 but I’m getting an “Oops! Page doesn’t exist”-type message.
I need to rewatch Chinatown, as I did not think the ending had much of an impact. Perhaps I missed something.
I’ve heard this before but I don’t really understand that point of view. To me the last 20 minutes are what elevated the film from very good to fucking great.
The ending to CHINATOWN is famous for being the opposite of what Robert Towne wanted .,.. Polanksi won the battle to end it his way…
now for a bad ending….a cop-out actually, there is THE TWO JAKES…flawed throughout (most glaring is the lack of a truly menacing villain) but still a mostly terrfici film seriously hurt by a silly, unlikely ending.
chinatown one of my favorite’s film , and the ending was just perfect and shocking
i dont call that bad ending , also agree with brad on A.I for me the ending kills a good scifi film with crapy ending like most of spielberg endings
also dark knight rises if you asked me .. yeah the twist in the end was crap to me ruin the context
“I like the films with truthful look at the world”
“Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.”
Intake of breath Ouch.
""The ending of No Country For Old Men almost ruined the film for me."
I’ve heard this before but I don’t really understand that point of view. To me the last 20 minutes are what elevated the film from very good to fucking great."
Completely agree – it’s great throughout, but that last scene is a knockout. That film is like the anti-Tree of Life for me – two films that are borderline great throughout up until the final scenes, and then completely split – one into a masterful but subtle, powerful ending and the other for nonsense. And without much input, I’ll put my hand up on the side of loving Chinatown’s ending.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’s first 2 thirds (nighttime, country) are superior to the last third (daytime, city) – but the gross and macabre ending over the credits is actually pretty great, if still not up to the brilliance of the majority.
On the flip side, Melancholia must surely have the greatest ending or finale in recent cinema, right?
I thought this was a poor ending. I understand what the Coen brothers wanted to do, I just don’t like it.
That is the most nuts thing I’ve ever heard. Chinatown has the perfect ending. What did you want, for them to get together?
CHINATOWN was supposed to end this way, it seems:
Here’s what the link says—-
In 1975, film critic Pauline Kael wrote that the 1974 film noir Chinatown, written by Robert Towne and directed by Roman Polanski, was originally supposed to have a different ending.
In the script by Robert Towne (who also wrote the screenplays for The Last Detail and Shampoo) the monster Noah Cross was killed by his daughter, Evelyn. Evelyn had been raped and made pregnant by her father. In Towne’s version, Evelyn killed her father to protect her daughter from the old man’s predations.
This is the kind of ending you can imagine Raymond Chandler writing. Evelyn might die along with her father, the only way to put an end to his evil, but there would be some hope, with Evelyn’s daughter having a chance at salvation.
Polanski changed Robert Towne’s ending to let Noah Cross destroy Evelyn and take possession of his grand-daughter as his new slave. Why did Cross do this? Because he could. Because he was rich and politically powerful and normal human beings didn’t matter next to his whims. He may even have thought of himself as an artist.
“Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.” That’s a movie cliché now, but there’s a reason people remember those words from that film—they express the time they were written (the 1970s) as much as the time when they were supposed to have been spoken (the 1930s).
Against power, right doesn’t stand a chance.
Pauline Kael called Polanski a “Gothic-minded absurdist,” which is understandable after watching Polanski’s 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby, another movie where a mother is forced to accede to evil to protect her child.
The ending of No Country For Old Men I didn’t appreciate until I went back and saw the film again. But then when I learned about the differences with the book I think it all would have worked better if they didn’t take one particular scene out. (A scene with a hitchhiker picked up by Llewelyn).
Also in the book, Chigirn got the wife to call heads or tails and she made a sincere effort to self-preserve instead of falling on a sword to make a point about how silly old Western ethics are, which I also think might have worked a little better.
Speaking of the Coens, I think A Serious Man had a great ending. So did Blood Simple, Fargo and Miller’s Crossing. The Coens usually have really interesting endings.
Winter’s Bone also had a great ending.
There Will Be Blood I think had a weak ending. It would have been better, in my opinion, if he’d sulked out after Plainview’s speech broken and devastated instead of, you know, what happened. That last minute seemed tacked on and unnecessary for shock value.
And yes, I did enjoy Melancholia’s ending.
To be sure, Chinatown’s ending is a huge kick to the teeth, something you don’t get out of cinema all that often. A comparable ending is Olivier Assayas’ Demonlover. There are sad or down or existential or whatever endings, like No Country for Old Men, but to successfully pull off a kick to the teeth is difficult.
Then there’s the protracted and utterly sadistic ending to Requiem for a Dream.
The end of Chinatown is great. It’s simplistic, noir, character accurate, it took my breath away and sent me hurdling back to the story itself.
I have heard the same complaints with say John Sayles’ Limbo ending where the plane is coming in for the rescue or their demise, which I thought was brilliant, but left others unsatisfied.
Maybe you just don’t like O.Henry endings? And I don’t classify Chinatown’s ending structurally as O.Henry because it’s not, but sometimes they work, and they are very effective in cinema.