#1  
Old 09-12-2010, 07:23 PM
The Last Scene of Magnolia

First of all, I did search around trying to find this, and there is obviously a lot of Magnolia discussion around these parts, but I couldn't find this topic...apologies if I missed something.

I adore Magnolia, start to finish. It's imperfect, but it moves me like no other film does; on most days, if I had to pick just one, it's probably my favorite.

As I said, though, there are plenty of topics to discuss the merits of the film (and it's obviously a great topic since it has many lovers and many detractors and by its very nature lends itself to good discussion).

My point here is a specific question about the final scene of Jim talking to Claudia: are we supposed to hear what he's saying? I've watched the film dozens of times in dozens of venues of varying sound quality, and the sound mixing seems to be just awful. Aimee Mann's song, while a perfect choice, drowns out almost everything he's saying.

My gut certainly tells me that we're supposed to hear it. It appears on the subtitles and in the script (unlike, say, Bill Murray's final line to Scarlett in Lost in Translation). On the other hand, how was this missed by everyone when the film went out? Unfortunately I wasn't able to see it in theaters so I can't say what the sound there was like, but again, I don't think you can hear it clearly unless you know what he's saying, and even then some parts are very tough. Obviously the final image is all we need to know about what he said -- my heart rises in that moment as it probably never does for people I don't actually know -- but it's certainly well written and well delivered and makes sense to me as the final line. Off topic a little, I also find it interesting and wonderful that that monologue and Jim's "tough part of walking down the street" one right before could both serve as very good endings; I love PTA for using both (and will defend the rightness of that choice till my last breath).

So, again, what do you think? Am I crazy and just listening to a bad cut or on a bad system? Are we supposed to hear it in the film? The first time I viewed it I only heard a few snippets but I fully believe I got everything I needed, but I always think about this and wanted to offer this question up to you schmoes -- whether you like the movie or not -- to hear what you think about this.
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  #2  
Old 09-12-2010, 07:41 PM
I'm pretty sure the dialogue is intentionally low. PTA can use a soundtrack as effectively as dialogue and even earlier in the movie he had his Aimee Mann music video so it doesn't surprise me that he would emphasize the music over the dialogue for the final scene. Notice the way the shot focuses on Claudia, Jim is barely on camera, his dialogue is barely heard. It's not the words that Jim is saying that are important, but the fact that he's sitting down with her after what they've been through and saying that I'm going to love you, despite all of your flaws, I'm going to love you because of your flaws. Like you said, her smile says everything we need to know. It's a vestige of hope.

The fact that he came back instead of running the hell away from her says more than his actual words. I like to cite the old screenwriting rule "show, don't tell" in cases like these. That's what PTA did here. John C Reilly could have been reading the recipe for his famous tuna salad sandwich but we know what's really going on in the context of the scene.

BTW watching this scene with the subtitles on was one of the first things I did when I get this on DVD years ago.
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  #3  
Old 09-12-2010, 08:12 PM
I remember being able to hear the dialogue in that scene.
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  #4  
Old 09-12-2010, 09:26 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveyJoeG View Post
I'm pretty sure the dialogue is intentionally low. PTA can use a soundtrack as effectively as dialogue and even earlier in the movie he had his Aimee Mann music video so it doesn't surprise me that he would emphasize the music over the dialogue for the final scene. Notice the way the shot focuses on Claudia, Jim is barely on camera, his dialogue is barely heard. It's not the words that Jim is saying that are important, but the fact that he's sitting down with her after what they've been through and saying that I'm going to love you, despite all of your flaws, I'm going to love you because of your flaws. Like you said, her smile says everything we need to know. It's a vestige of hope.
Yeah dude; I think that's probably correct. I was hoping you'd weigh in on this. Also hoping to hear from Q, since he digs the film quite a bit too.

Quote:
I remember being able to hear the dialogue in that scene.
In the theater or on DVD?
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  #5  
Old 09-12-2010, 09:43 PM
I'd basically agree with DJG.

I've always thought the last scene is intended to be heard about to the degree it is. In other words, what's important is that Jim has come back and he's talking to Claudia. We need to know what he's saying is soothing, kind, and loving so we can pick up on that enough in the mix. Precisely what he's saying is secondary to the nature of what he's saying and while the specific words work on their own and are audible to some degree, our focus is more on the tone of his voice, the general sentiment he's expressing, and her reaction in that wonderful final moment.

But I think for an authoritative final word we should turn to Buck Turgidson, the site's biggest Magnolia fan.
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  #6  
Old 09-12-2010, 09:50 PM
I'd agree with the general consensus thus far. We know the nature of what he is saying is loving and caring, the specifics are not necessary. It's a beautiful moment and i love that it's on her the whole time, her reaction is heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Also, if you check out the "Magnolia Diary" documentary on the dvd and blu-ray, there is a scene of PTA and John going over the scene and changing the script on set. They also show a moment of them shooting the scene, you can hear his performance clearly for a bit.

I am interested in the process PTA took in that scene, if he intended to overshadow the dialogue with Aimee Mann's music or if it was something him and Dylan worked out in editing. Inaudible dialogue that comes at pivotal moments is common in PTA's work, we can't hear what Daniel says to Eli after being baptized in There Will Be Blood.
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  #7  
Old 09-16-2010, 05:59 PM
I think the reason it plays out distorted in the film because we are seeing things from Claudia's perspective. It keeps us from thinking okay this is her and him bringing closure to their situation.
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  #8  
Old 09-17-2010, 05:30 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by QUENTIN View Post
But I think for an authoritative final word we should turn to Buck Turgidson, the site's biggest Magnolia fan.
Col. Travis, Lady E and I say "Feh" to the whole business.
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  #9  
Old 09-17-2010, 06:51 PM
PT Anderson never makes mistakes. Even Paltrow.
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  #10  
Old 09-19-2010, 12:43 PM
I agree with everything said, including that Magnolia is (one of) the best films of all time. I recently bumped it up to #3 on my personal list. I love it that much. Just thought I'd throw that out there.
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  #11  
Old 09-24-2010, 02:52 AM
I'll just say this... the last scene in Magnolia is certainly not a case of bad sound design.
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  #12  
Old 09-24-2010, 03:26 AM
I remember on his website some years back, PTA was talking about Magnolia, the 82 enigma, bible references, the singalong interlude and other parts, saying that a lot of people think he did these things for a deeper meaning to be explored, but really he did them just because he thought they would be fun to do from a director's standpoint. It was somewhere on his official website when it was called coffee and redvines, but that was like 10 years ago and I can't find it.
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  #13  
Old 09-24-2010, 03:46 AM
yeah, cigarettes and redvines is a pretty excellent fansite of Andersons, it's not really official, but they know PTA to some extent (they often discuss e-mails shared with him and run-ins at the largo, etc.)

I remember that article. He said he didn't even know about the frog plague in the bible, and he would have made it rain cats and dogs if he could afford it, haha.

cigarettes and red vines had to change their address a while ago, and in the process of using a new one they haven't filled in their previous articles.

Last edited by APzombie; 09-24-2010 at 03:55 AM..
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