Every Movie Should End in Song and Dance

To watch the best of musical finales is to grow to be satisfied, nonetheless briefly, that each film ought to resolve this fashion.
Photo-Illustration: by Vulture; Photo by Pyramide Distribution

Federico Fellini will not be the plain touch-point for an ABBA jukebox musical, however the finale of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again inarguably owes one thing to 8½. Hear me out: Fellini’s 1963 masterpiece concludes with all of its layers of actuality, reminiscence, and fantasy collapsing right into a circus, with everybody from its major character’s previous and current — together with his childhood self — pouring right into a circus ring and becoming a member of arms for a messy, sunny promenade. The Mamma Mia! sequel closes with the final of its many musical numbers, one going down on a stage someplace exterior the bounds of area and time the place its ensemble, together with characters who’ve died and some youthful selves, can be part of collectively for a buoyantly costumed efficiency. These finales are completely of a form, splitting open their respective worlds for an unattainable, ecstatic musical quantity. Admittedly, although, solely considered one of them includes Cher kicking off a canopy of “Super Trouper.”

Musical sequences are a kind of issues that cinema feels prefer it was invented to showcase — alongside explosions, scorching folks, and trains coming terrifyingly on the display. They’re the right technique to finish a film, besides once they’re hackneyed and cynical, which they continuously are. Still, to look at the best of musical finales is to grow to be satisfied, nonetheless briefly, that each film ought to finish with a music and/or dance. It’s truly not practically as slender a selection as it would sound. For all the gap there’s between Mamma Mia! 2 and 8½, there’s infinitely extra space for variations between climactic music moments that unfurl throughout the scope of a fictional universe and ones that come from exterior it. Some films construct their use of music towards a robust finale, and others embrace it solely as a coda. Sometimes that’s even higher — as a spectacle, musical numbers are able to a purity that makes them much more piquant exterior the style for which they’re finest recognized.

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Take The Last Days of Disco, which is dedicated to the petty dramas and minor humiliations weathered by a bunch of 20-somethings in the early ’80s. It ends with Matt Keeslar doing slightly shuffle for a laughing Chloë Sevigny on the subway, as if the 2 can hear “Love Train,” by the O’Jays, ​enjoying on the soundtrack, whereas in true New York vogue, nobody else pays them any thoughts. But then there’s a minimize and magically everybody in the automotive begins dancing, and out on the platform too, and it’s simply so joyous. Or take into account the giddiness of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” on the finish of Life of Brian. The major character, performed by Graham Chapman, is among the many crucified after a number of makes an attempt at rescue have come to nothing. The music’s couched in an ebullient irony, everybody becoming a member of in on an ode to maintaining a stiff higher lip as they await a painful loss of life — however it’s additionally merely exuberant, the darkish context making the irresistible nature of the music even higher, the figures onscreen trying no matter minimal choreography they will handle whereas strapped to the crosses.

The second in which a film’s established actuality splits open and offers technique to one thing grander or extra stylized could be electrical. You don’t all the time want that break, although. Mads Mikkelsen’s cathartic closing dance quantity in Another Round is ideal as a result of it exists in-universe, together with his character, a depressive instructor, calling on the jazz-ballet classes of his youthful days for a sequence of celebratory abandon whereas his mates and college students look on in delight. Robert Altman’s Nashville is a diegetic musical that arranges for many of its characters to intersect at a gala live performance that’s interrupted by a taking pictures, and what follows — Henry Gibson beseeching the group to sing, Barbara Harris being handed the mic — is a sharp-edged satire of the act of rallying collectively in music, summoning the flip aspect of the sensation on the finish of Life of Brian. The dance between Julia Roberts and Rupert Everett on the finish of My Best Friend’s Wedding manages to supply some rom-com commonplace swooniness whereas additionally not being in any respect rom-com commonplace, effervescent over with a bittersweet satisfaction whereas additionally subverting the expectations of the style.

Some of the best musical endings discover themselves someplace in between the true and unreal worlds. Bong Joon Ho’s Mother opens with an absurdist dance quantity, with Kim Hye-ja giving a deadpan efficiency alone in a subject because the credit roll. The film solutions this opening scene with an ending one which takes place throughout the world of the story, and that’s simply brutal in its implication of maternal ties as this monstrous burden, its heroine attempting to shimmy away from what she’s realized about herself and the kid she’s devoted her life to. Meanwhile, the chic conclusion to Claire Denis’s Beau Travail is a scene that might be a fantasy or a flashback, or the loss of life dream of a person in the method of killing himself. It’s a part of the film and but it’s untethered, with the French Foreign Legion soldier performed by Denis Lavant alone in a mirrored nightclub, flinging himself round to “The Rhythm of the Night.” His character, so locked down for a lot of the run time, and so seemingly disconnected from his personal needs, all of a sudden seems liberated, and but the sequence carries with it large unhappiness.

The method that it floats aside from the remainder of the movie and but stays so central to it underscores the ability of a musical quantity to convey feelings that may’t be articulated in straight scenes. There’s extra there, in Beau Travail’s ambiguous but intensely eloquent finale, than could be put into phrases. It’s an impact price remembering, particularly in the face of all of the tacked-on finales which were left to date unmentioned right here — the sort which have the Minions dancing to “Y.M.C.A.,” the characters in the Shrek films getting right down to “I’m a Believer” (twice!) and “Livin’ la Vida Loca,” and add as much as a playlist worthy of a marriage reception in hell. They’re price enduring for the unmatchable satisfaction that comes with a musical ending that’s earned. At the top of Ella Enchanted, earlier than the movie goes out with all its characters singing a deeply pointless rendition of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” Eric Idle informs the digicam that “you simply can’t go incorrect should you observe your coronary heart and finish with a music.” Obviously, you may, however Idle put it higher again in 1979 when, strapped to a cross, he sang, “Forget about your sin, give the viewers a smile, get pleasure from it, it’s your final probability anyhow.”

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