Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Best Movie Death Scene


My thesis and schedule are eating me alive lately. Sorry for having so few reviews up. There are plenty of films I've seen that I want to review, and hopefully will at some point. But for now...let's just roll with a question of the day.

What do you think is the best movie death scene of all time? Oddly, my selection would be from a movie I think is pretty overrated; nevertheless, its murder scene in the woods near the end is one of the most gorgeously shot and amazing sequences in cinematic history. You got it...I pick (off the top of my head) Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist as the film with the best death sequence. Commence with your opinions in the comments...

13 comments:

Tony Dayoub said...

Uh-oh. Let's go back to the part where you think The Conformist is overrated. Why do you think that?

Best death scene: the locker room shootout at the climax of Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A., or the death we don't see as the credits roll in Passer's Cutter's Way.

James Hansen said...

Haha. Sorry Tony. I know it's one of your favorites.

Here's my quick rambling explanation of my issues with the film (and much of Bertolucci in general)...

I've seen the film four times (twice on 35mm, twice on DVD) and every time I leave wishing that I liked it more than I do. Its beautifully made for sure. Storaro's cinematography is beyond top notch. I just always feel like I'm not given enough to really invest in what is going on. The interviews with Bertolucci say everything that I wish I saw more clearly in the film.

The all-important scene in the hotel that is supposed to be the scene that triggers everything he does from that point doesn't have the gusto it should. So much of it continually feels flat to me. There may be a perfectly good explanation for everything that would make it a theoretically great film, but I don't think that what Bertolucci (and many of the films biggest fans) says the film does is actually there in the movie. Its not even that the visual flare overshadows the content...I just don't think the content is ever made clear enough for the visuals to correctly complement the film.

Everything is there for it to be a great movie, but Bertolucci (per usual, if you ask me) gives too much weight to one aspect over another which makes the film unbalanced and not as strong as it should be. I think its a good, but not great film.

Anyways, I haven't seen the Friedkin or Passer film...guess I'll have to check them out! Thanks for the post. Please feel free to follow up on my CONFORMIST issues with your defense/explanation of why it works for you. I'm always glad to hear smart arguments for/against a film (especially when I disagree with them!) And with a film that I wish I liked more...I can definitely be swayed. :)

Tony Dayoub said...

You're really missing out if you haven't seen either film. Both seem pretty conventional until the climax (To Live and Die in L.A. annoyingly so, I must add). But their respective endings are so stunning, that they make you want to rewind and see the films again.

As for The Conformist, I feel like the flatness you sense is definitely intentional. This film is definitely told from the point of view of Marcello (Jean-Louis Trintignant). And his character is extremely repressed. As events in the film unfold, we find out how much.

The film seems to want us to strike a comparison between Marcello, who is not true to himself, and his mistress, Anna (Dominique Sanda), comfortable in her own skin. Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli) is the uncertain woman who each is trying to bring within their sphere of influence. So it is no coincidence that the film feels colder, flatter, when Marcello is in the foreground, and livelier, more passionate, when Anna is front and center.

The film's flatness definitely seems to stem from Marcello's repressed take on the rather traumatic events depicted in the film. He is after all the eponymous conformist.

chuck williamson said...

Off the top of my head...

* Lulu's chance encounter with Jack the Ripper in Pabst's Pandora's Box--a gorgeously shot, thrilling constructed, near-coital murder scene where "lovers" embrace and a fallen woman falls even harder.

* Tilda Swinton's vampiric turn in Derek Jarman's Edward II--for pure shock value, I doubt much else could topple this out-of-this-world, batshit insane shift in tone, style, and purpose.

* The final moments from Chris Marker's La Jetee--too good for me to spoil here.

* The unexpected suicide from Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse--because nothing in cinema wigs me out more than this single scene.

I'm sure there are more. :)

Ed Howard said...

Obvious spoilers ahead.

* The throat-slitting in Haneke's Cache is perhaps the most shocking and effective I've seen

* Although the movie is mostly lousy as a whole, the long, drawn-out, clumsy murder of the Communist agent in Hitchcock's Torn Curtain is an amazing, horrifying scene, more so for its implicit Holocaust metaphors.

* The funniest death scene is undoubtedly Geraldine Chaplin's prolonged, hammy enactment in Rivette's Noroit, as part of a play within the film.

* Most moving: The Passion of Joan of Arc. Enough said.

* Also, does the entirety of Mulholland Dr. pretty much count if it's all the dream of a character immediately before death?

Brandon Colvin said...

I would have to agree with both CACHE and THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, and also throw in a triple dose of Bresson: Balthazar's death in AU HASARD BALTHAZAR, Charles' assisted suicide in THE DEVIL, PROBABLY and Elle's elliptical, poetic leap from a balcony in UNE FEMME DOUCE.

Also, the death of the baby in ERASERHEAD and Stroszek's chicken-related suicide in the film of the same name.

One more - the father's death in BIG FISH. God, the tears that death scene has caused me.

Tony said...

Brandon, I had to check your netflix rating to see if you were being sarcastic about Big Fish. I'm not as enthusiastic about the movie, but I too cried like a fucking baby at that death scene.

I don't have anything to offer in the way of death scenes and I can say that I have pretty much never seen any of the death scenes you all have mentioned. I feel like a dick.

MovieMan0283 said...

This question of the day is too good for me to resist but also too good for me to do right now, when I can't really think it through. Expect my answer - perhaps in the form of a blog post - in the next couple weeks...

MovieMan0283 said...

Although for now I'd say that you could create a totally respectable top 10 list, perhaps a top 20, just with scenes from the three Godfather films.

elgringo said...

A while back, I made a list of the Top 11 Female Death Scenes. Here's a link.

http://he-shot-cyrus.blogspot.com/2008/07/top-11-female-death-scenes.html

w. said...

william h. macy in boogie nights.

RC said...

best death scene...that's a tricky one...

you'd think that'd be an easy question, but i'm scratching my head.

i think i'd have to go with the crucible and the death of mrs. proctor.

Neil Fulwood said...

My vote: Slim Pickens, gut-shot and watching the patterns of light on water as his breath comes slower and slower, the acoustic version of 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' playing on the soundtrack, in Sam Peckinpah's 'Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid'.