A majority of film-going audiences find the idea of staying back to watch the closing credits of a Hollywood film till the very end, a pointless exercise. Don’t take my word for it? See it for yourself the next time you visit a multiplex near you. How many people do you find lingering by the aisles (if at all you happened to be among the lingerers) when the screen spells out the names of the Foley artistes who worked their backsides off, recreating life-like sounds for the film? Can you remember how many people stayed on to read the names of the matte painters, the compositors, the legal advisors, the caterers, the gaffers and the rest of the crew? Not too many, I am sure, as my outing to watch Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel confirmed yesterday.
For the record, I was the last one to exit the hall after watching a second show couple of days back. And I felt myself amply rewarded for my patience, curiosity and my admiration for the craft of filmmaking as I bore witness to what I consider a personal treat concocted by the director purely for my consumption – a treat called the end credits. It wasn’t elaborate or extravagant. It was just a celebration of the film through its soundtrack, crafted meticulously by Alexander Desplat, whose haunting score for Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution was my introduction to his musical genius. What Desplat accomplishes in the closing credits can leave you giddy with excitement, and dying to come back for the next show, just so you could stay back for the end credits.
The breathlessly-paced Eastern European, or specifically the Hungarian composition, aided by minimalist animation is a marvel of sheer inventiveness. For me, it seemed to be the impetus to kick-start my blog, with a tip of my hat to Wes Anderson, who charmed his way into my heart with Moonrise Kingdom, which I am craving to see all over again. And it also got me thinking about my long-drawn love affair with the credit sequences that bookend a film.
TITLE CARD: <FLASHBACK>
Staying back till the screen has completely faded out has been a ritual in my film-going journey for more than a decade now. I could trace the origin of this addiction back to my school days in the 80s, when I was hung up on an American TV show called Street Hawk that aired on Doordarshan on Sundays at 9 am. It had a B-movie plot, hammy actors and cheesy dialogues. But what elevated this material into the high corridors of pop art was the soundtrack that accompanied the opening credits of this show. In my opinion, the group responsible, Tangerine Dream/Le Parc had created the greatest piece of music to ever accompany a TV show. In hindsight, that soundtrack alone deserved a better TV show, or film, for that matter.
But I digress. The wait for the closing credits of a film had its own rewards in an adolescence marked by the proliferation of raging hormones, pockmarked by the absence of PCs, Google and the Internet. If you found yourself smitten by a movie star and had absolutely no way of finding out who she was, you’d stick around till the end credits so that you could jot down her name quickly as the end credits rolled by. This name would go into the little Black Book of celebrities you had to meet if you ever happened to drive by Hollywood Boulevard. Like I said, raging hormones and unrealistic expectations…
Fast forward to the noughties, prior to the arrival of IMDB – the allure of the closing credits had assumed a more purposeful air. Only in the closing credits of any given film, did you get to see the names of the artists who contributed to the soundtrack. That’s how I rediscovered Rage against the Machine (RATM) and their song Wake Up that was featured in The Matrix , the holy grail of cyberpunk- inspired science fiction movies. I was already a fan of RATM, thanks to their iconic album The Battle of Los Angeles, whose themes find loud and clear resonance even in these troubled, war driven times.
Moving on, the closing credits to Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien also helped me discover, among several other artists, Molotov, a Mexican rap metal band. They lent a very peppy track titled here comes the Mayo to the film, which is an unabashedly sensuous and life-affirming coming of age tale that was considered too controversial for its time. Heck, it’ll never make it to Indian screens unless exhibited as part of a film festival. Of course, the name of the film had cropped up in a recent conversation with a colleague, who is extremely choosy about watching films in the theatre. Her upper limit is five films per year. It might be unfair to expect her, of all people, to sit through the closing credits.
But then, every once in a while comes a film that takes the idea of an end credit and turns it over its head. Literally, in the case of Run Lola Run , a kinetically paced German export directed by wunderkind Tom Tykwer. He went an unconventional notch above ballsy when he let his credits scroll down the screen from the top to the bottom as opposed to the usual bottom to the top approach. Viewers had to realign their vertical perspectives to acknowledge the team that worked on the film.
Of course, there’s also the sitting duck end credits or the blooper reel substituted for end credits which has become an industry joke by now. Almost every major release, from The Hangover to the Rush Hour series and the 80s Lethal Weapon franchise and Jackie Chan flicks from Hong Kong have abused this trope to no extent. But I admit that it is a guilty pleasure just waiting to be unleashed. Think about it. Would the original Hangover be half as much fun and half as kickass had it not been for that big reveal during the end credits that tells us what really transpired on that one night of debauchery in Vegas. The fact that you could barely give two hoots about the rest of the crew that worked on the film is emphasised by the manner in which their names are juxtaposed in these sequences, forgotten even before they fade out.
TITLE CARD <LOCAL INFLUENCES>
The end credit bug seems to have bitten Bollywood as well. In true tinsel town fashion, they milked that cow till the last preposterous drop. Big budgets were getting allocated for item songs doubling up as closing credits that featured cameos from yesteryear superstars and beefcake producers. A case in point: Delhi Belly and Vicky Donor . The end credits in both these films are a riot, to be fair. The former featuring Aamir Khan as a Mithun-da Elvis crossover from the 80s crooning I Hate You like I Love you is a ‘laugh till your belly hurts’ closure to an already howlarious caper. John Abraham takes over the proceedings in the latter film with Rum Rum, Whisky, ably aided by Ayushmann Khurrana and Co.
On a closing note, I’d like to pay my respects to the vestiges of a desi cinematic trope involving the closing credits that might have thankfully abandoned us for good. Remember those Hindi movies that always ended with a title card that probed the audience with piercing questions on the existential conundrums of life? Like that Akshay Kumar film called Zaalim (1994), about a guy with an anger management issue who goes on a killing spree of sorts. The title of the film literally means merciless. And the end credits justify that title as it features the protagonist cradling a baby, presumably his own, and a jarring tagline superimposed on the hero that asks of us, “Is he a Zaalim?” Hell no.
And in case you forget, here’s one more title card to numb you into submission. Remember it’s a VEE CEE PEE Films Presentation. As if I need to be reminded of the geniuses who put this masterpiece together?
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