Getting out early

It was my favourite Alfred Hitchcock movies that first introduced me to the idea of "getting out early", namely the bleak ending of Vertigo and the fun and sexy ending ofNorth by Northwest. I was reminded that I enjoyed this little used cinematic practise when I re-watched Ghost Town again last week, the ending of which I called in my 26.10.08 review a last line that would leave you "grinning all the way back home".ghost460 It's effect on me is quite great. Simply put, it's a technique where the movie you are watching ends suddenly, almost without warning. For a moment, you are genuinely surprised to see the credits roll but within a millisecond you realise it was exactly the right thing to do, as everything that had to be said had already been said, usually from a character who has just delivered a killer punch line. Ya know, the kind of ones novels have used for decades now (my favourite being Casino Royale's,"the bitch is dead"). Getting out early means there's no camera panning back as our lead drives off into the sunset, instead it just ends. "LIGHTS UP, please leave the theatre".Getting out early leaves you a little hungry, and fuels the imagination as to where the characters are now headed. The film stops existing as the filmmakers movie and becomes completely your own. Which similar to the mystery box theory I was talking about earlier, is infinitely more satisfying. After all, who needs a song and dance? Who needs a montage telling us how the characters have coped after a moment of significant hope or a moment of significant loss. When James Stewart sees Kim Hunter fall down the bell tower at the end of Vertigo, already a man at the depths of absolute despair because the woman he loved was only ever a fictional character, and now his only link to her is dead, well that's all we needed to see. The movie ends there, Stewart hanging in eternal damnation but cured of his vertigo. We never need to see him come down from that perch. We know he is broken. We have seen the love of his life die for the second time, this time for real. What else is there to say? vertigo_bell_tower In The Apartment, resolution comes with Shirley MaClaine telling Jack Lemmon to "Shut Up and Deal", after hearing a declaration of love from a guy who has so much of it to give, a moment with so much open endedness you could probably write several thesis' on that line alone. Movies that get out early, that don't hang around for the credits once everything has been resolved, I can guarantee have much healthier longevity. Like Ghost Town.

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Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.