Thursday, April 09, 2015

THE IMITATION GAME ... The Enigma Of Cinema "Truth"


I am too picky about pictures like this — I mean those with “based on a true story” disclaimers prefacing a movie that dramatizes the lives of real people and real events.

I accept the notion that certain liberties (dramatic license) will be taken in order to enhance the story-telling.  Characters may be embellished or eliminated or combined into one person, events can be telescoped or re-arranged to fit into the time limits.  

But aren’t there limits, rules that the dramatist should follow, especially when dealing with a historically or culturally important person or event? Oliver Stone has been accused of crossing this imaginary line in NIXON and JFK. Of course the most notorious and often cited abuses are Griffith’s BIRTH OF A NATION and Riefenstall’s TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. Both of these films are considered masterpieces, landmarks of cinema art because of their outstanding technical achievements in editing, pacing, and emotional impact. But as documents purporting to tell true stories, they are tragically flawed. Both contain many blatant lies, distorting the events and people depicted so much that they should be labeled propaganda.

The line between a true story and propaganda includes the intent of the artist, of course. Griffith was trying to glorify the heroes of his Southern youth, the Klansmen who “defended white rights” in the post Civil War era. Riefenstall was selling her patrons, Hitler, Goebbels, and the other Nazi leaders of Germany. Oliver Stone had an agenda, too. His bitterness about the 1960’s is a recurring theme of his films and his paranoia saturates his work.

Alan Turing is a fascinating person, a fit subject for dramatic treatment. Although he died sixty years ago, his story involves two issues that concern us today: computers and the plight of homosexuals. Turing, like many geniuses, had colorful eccentricities. In an academic paper, he imagined a “thinking machine” that seemed to foresee the computer age. In World War II, he used his genius as part of the Bletchley Park secret code and cypher school to create a calculating machine (the Bombe) and other techniques (called Banburisms) that aided in breaking the Enigma code.

Turing’s work during the war was known to very few because of the secrecy required. After the war, he taught in Manchester and while there continued his occasional sorties to underground gay bars. He met men and boys and brought some to his digs. One of them burglarized his home, and stole his father’s watch. Turing reported the burglary to the local police, and told them that he suspected one of the young men who had done it. The police knew the bar and instead of pursuing the theft, arrested Turing for the same crime that Oscar Wilde had committed.

Turing was offered a choice by the judge: prison or undergo a treatment that was considered a cure of homosexuality. He chose that; large doses of estrogen, known as chemical castration. He lost his security clearance, his sex drive, grew breasts, and felt depressed and humiliated. Eventually, he committed suicide by ingesting cyanide.

Fifty years later, his achievements were finally recognized, both as to computers and the war work. The homosexual laws were by now repealed and the government apologized to his memory.

That is a terrific story, an important one to tell.

So why did the filmmakers feel compelled to lie to us in important as well as trivial details and fail to focus enough on the real drama?

The first disturbing distortion is the depiction of Turing as seeming to suffer from some form of mental illness like Asberger’s. He is shown to be socially inept, obsessive compulsive (as a student he carefully separates his peas from carrots on his dinner plate, is ridiculed and tortured by classmates).  According to most witnesses, this is a gross exaggeration. He was eccentric, but by no means was he anti-social. He had many friends, had a sense of humor, was polite (in a professorial way).

The filmmakers decided to use the formula of A BEAUTIFUL MIND (which had its own significant distortions) and Turing becomes a sort of John Nash. In fact, they contrive scenes in pubs in which he shows his social awkwardness and then suddenly hits upon the key to break the code that reminded me of similar scenes in A BEAUTIFUL MIND.

The second distortion was the fictional character of Detective Nock, who is insulted by Turing who says he does not want the burglary pursued. This is not true. Turing reported the burglary in the naïve belief that the police would want to solve the crime rather than punish him for his honesty admitting his homosexual acts. 

The entire plot of Nock deciding that Turing’s secret must be that he is a Soviet spy is complete nonsense.

The same is true of the egregious fiction related to Alastair Denniston that almost amounts to malicious slander of the man’s reputation. Denniston was a career codebreaker, having served in World War I in Room 40 the famous British team that broke the German code in that war. Their work was responsible for bringing the U.S. in that war when they translated the Zimmermann Telegram that showed German intentions to side with Mexico in a war against the U.S.

 Denniston (played by Charles Dance, a frequent film villain, usually as an upper class snob) is depicted as hating Turing, accusing him of being a Soviet spy, and then trying to fire him.

In truth, Denniston had recruited and consulted Turing and many other academics even before September 1939. When the war started, Turing was hired full time. Denniston did have disagreements with Turing and others and eventually was replaced in the job, but he didn’t accuse Turing of spying. That is simply invented to spice up the plot and add conflict.

John Cairncross (played by Alan Leech) was not one of the team in Hut 8. He was at Bletchley but probably never met or knew of Turing. In 1951, he was revealed to be a Soviet spy. The scene in which Turing discovers his secret and Cairncross threatens to expose Turing’s is a total fabrication.

The same is true of Stewart Menzies (the head of MI6 – played by Mark Strong). In the movie, Turing tells Menzies about Cairncross. Menzies says he knows all about it and uses Cairncross to relate secrets to the Soviets because Churchill foolishly refuses to do so. This is completely untrue.

In truth, Menzies was fooled by all of the Cambridge Five – the traitors who were his friends and colleagues for many years. He refused to believe that he had been deceived by people of his own class and education.

There are other distortions that are more or less significant. Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) is not given enough credit for his contributions. Turing didn’t build The Bombe alone – Gordon Welchman helped him to build the first one.

 “He had also been busy devising a machine, called the Bombe, after the Bomby, although it was a more complex piece of equipment than its Polish namesake. This would test the encyphered messages against commonly used streams of text – known to the codebreakers as cribs – to narrow down the possibilities for the keys, settings and wheel orders of the Enigma machines. Turing enjoyed a good degree of
progress on both. Menzies agreed funding of £100,000 for the construction of the first Bombes and the British Tabulating Machinery company (BTM) was commissioned to build it, with the work supervised by the BTM research director Harold ‘Doc’ Keen. Then in December 1939, Turing managed to work out the indicator systems for five days of pre-war Naval Enigma traffic.”

Smith, Michael (2011-10-31). The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win the war (Kindle Locations 644-648). Biteback Publishing. Kindle Edition.

One thing the movie does almost get right is the clue (called a crib) that led to the first successes in breaking the Naval Code. One of the women whose task was to listen to and record Morse code transmissions noticed that the operator was using the same letters – probably a girlfriend’s initials – as identifiers at the start of each message. This was a violation of German protocol that ordered using random letters, changed every day. Once the codebreakers had this head start their task was easier.

But it was by no means the breakthrough that won the war. Many more Bombes were built to shorten the calculating time and when the Germans distributed a new Enigma machine that was even more complex, the British were lucky to capture one along with codebook from a German ship – and to keep it all secret.

The movie oversimplifies and flattens a complex story. In so doing, they reduce heroism and tragedy into a trite movie formula. The hope is always that people will be intrigued enough by the subject matter that they will seek the whole truth but the fear is that movies will become the legend and then will become history.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Truth And Justice In The Movies: "Unbroken" and "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"


            This movie taught me a few valuable lessons, especially after listening to director David Fincher’s commentary track. I love mysteries, especially the classics  that are old fashioned, linear, following a detective uncovering clues to crimes as they occur or those of the cold case variety. A rich and powerful family concealing their dirty secrets. Scenes are salted with juicy suspects, and there is an enormous amount of exposition required in order to be fair to the viewer so that we experience what the detective does.
            The genre is more difficult to carry off than a straight thriller, in which we share the culprit’s point of view as well, and the tension comes not from anticipating a whodunit reveal, but in the hero vs antihero chase. The viewer need not think too much to figure things out; just sit back and veg out while the bodies pile up.   
            The straight mystery genre has retreated in recent years because filmmakers have no confidence that audiences have patience or willingness to concentrate long enough to solve complex puzzles. The genre includes long periods of relative inaction, which the best filmmakers used to fill with character and something called “suspense.”
            But today’s action films jettison suspense and resort to characters derived from comics and video games whose traits are so familiar, there is no need to develop them further. The only mystery left is how many henchmen are going to be wasted on route to the violent CGI laced climax.
            The mystery genre has gone the way of the western and the musical comedy. It barely survives on TV, in formula police procedurals and gimmicky quirky takeoffs of the Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes models.
            Added to those hurdles, Steven Zallian’s script adapts the first of Stieg Larsson’s Swedish best seller series of books which already had been translated into many languages, including English, and also made into a hit film in Swedish. The book and film was much admired and the solution of the mystery had been widely told. The lead characters, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist, had already become “iconic” characters and were repeated in Larsson’s sequels. 
            So Fincher had many problems to solve.
            He doesn’t solve all the problems. In fact, he adds another one. The casting of Stellan Skaarsgard (Ronin) as one of the suspects was a problem for my enjoyment of the mystery. He is too important an actor to be a minor character. This is a clue that any devotee of the film genre should see. I was able to discern quickly that he was the killer.
            The Harriet mystery runs up against a similar problem. Harriet is presumed to be dead and we are told that the aim is to find out who killed her. But she disappeared forty years ago, and no body was ever found. In this genre this always raises the probability that we are being deceived: she is not dead, but is one of the other characters and that other secrets are beneath the disappearance.
            A third problem lies in the need to make the plot relevant to today’s concerns. Sexual abuse (all abuse but particularly, of girls or women) is a popular cliché of modern crime films. Sex perverts / serial killers are also rampant in today’s mystery-thrillers. The character of Lisbeth is iconic because of her attraction as a sort of superhero to girls and women. She is damaged as a victim of incestuous sex abuse and we know, while watching her suffer additional abuse, that she is going to have her revenge.
            We know more about her than any other character and she is an extreme symbol for empowered young adult females and a warning to anyone who isn’t. At 12, she killed her tormenting father and since, has been a ward of the courts until, at 23, she has become a far more complex character. She is “different” looking – punkish, gothy, facial piercings, and of course tattoos.
            She wears her anti-social almost autistic attitude with a brooding arrogance that teenagers adore. She is intelligent, gifted with a photographic memory, and techno-hip nerd genius who can hack into any computer or security system to gain access to data she needs to solve the case. Of course she hates authority, macho males, judgmental adults.
            She is bisexual but defensive, closed off emotionally, and fiercelt private. She has a tenacity borne of rage and obsession about justice and retribution. This makes her a worthy heir of the Sherlock Holmes brand of sleuth.
            Salander’s character is so fully formed and fascinating that the other characters are mere sketches. Even Blomqvist, played by Daniel Craig, a male actor with great presence, is almost reduced to a sidekick, who must be saved by her. This in itself is something of a breakthrough in fiction.
            The “damsel in distress” is no more. GONE GIRL took the femme fatale to another level. DRAGON TATTOO now eliminates the manic pixie dream girl.
            As in Batman, there is not enough oxygen for Commissioner Gordon or anyone else to fascinate viewers. The best superheroes face a supervillain. Batman has The Joker and Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger showed important that was.
            A problem with the sort of superhero who is supposed to be existing in a real world — rather than a Gotham or Metropolis — is that real world crimes like sexual abuse are too real. These predators are not trying to take over the world like a Bond villain. They do not come from other galaxies or times or mythologies. They are not foreign terrorists with beady eyes.
            In real life, the abusers may be our priests, bosses, teachers, neighbors, or even close nurturing loved ones we trust and need.  
            Batman trumped Superman by acknowledging his dark side in seeking vengeance rather than the lukewarm ideals of “truth, justice, and the American way.” Now, Liam Neeson (TAKEN) kills the abductors of his daughter. He is the follower of Clint Eastwood (DIRTY HARRY) and Charles Bronson (DEATH WISH). These also spawned movie franchises that traded on the populist revulsion with violent predatory criminals that dominated the law and order demands the 1970’s and 80’s and continue to provide answers to such fears and wishes.  Salander satisfies the modern audience’s lust for revenge against male victimizers of women.  
            One reason for the popularity of these revenge movies is the widespread belief that justice is denied in the real world. Media saturation assures us that our justice system can’t prevent or punish these predators. This is not a new phenomenon. The gangster movies of the 1930’s were “torn from headlines” about real life criminals like “Scarface” Al Capone, Bonny and Clyde, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson.
            Villains of literature often represent current social nightmares. Grimm’s tales codified the fears of town dwellers about dangers lurking in the forests. Victims of the early flickers were often the familiar ones of stage melodramas, landlords who held the mortgage and leered at the maiden with an offer to save her family by yielding to his lust.
            Immigrants who lived in crowded tenements and others who were moving from the country to the city found plenty of other predators there. The rich, the powerful, the reckless playboys, the factory foreman; all were sources of villainy that the moving pictures exposed as sexual predators.

            In the early 30’s, the era known as “pre-code,” the early talkies revealed a new kind of woman, one who overcame the label of victim by using her sexuality to survive and even to dominate her would-be predators.    


            After so many recent movies that revel in the violent pleasure of serving the cold dish of revenge, it would seem that a film that prizes forgiveness of even the most heinous crimes might be refreshing and uplifting.
            But, sorry, not this one. 
            As I watched it, I knew I was being led into hatred of the villains (particularly the lead villain (Corporal Watanabe), and now, after being told to forgive, I do not feel redeemed. Rather, I admit to resenting being deprived of the satisfaction that the revenge films accords. But I don’t feel guilty about that feeling in this particular case and I’ll explain why.

            Unbroken is an Angelina Jolie directed film of the Laura Hillenbrand best seller about Louis Zamperini, the Italian-American 1936 Olympic runner, B-24 bombadier, survivor of 47 days on a life raft and two plus years as a POW in Japan.
            Eschewing the usual disclaimers (“based on” . . . etc.), Jolie opts for a bold claim that it is “A true story” - period - as her preface.  My research suggests that the phrase is accurate . . . as far as it goes.  She shows the details of his ordeal at sea in vivid detail, which is disturbing and impressive as a document of the man’s will to live. But that is merely a first act to his sternest test: the years of his captivity, including unending sadistic abuse and mistreatment by Corporal Watanabe, the evil camp commandant who wants to break him.  The dramatization ends with the liberation at the war’s end, and Zamperini’s welcome home to his family.
            The character traits that allowed him to survive are laid out clearly enough in flashbacks to his youth. A child who is naturally stubborn, introverted, and contrary, he fights bigoted school boys and is on the way to reform school until his older brother convinces him to try the track team. To impress girls, Luis agrees, and then finds he has a talent for long distance running. His brother adds the element of discipline by pushing him to levels beyond his apparent limits.
            His running style is a metaphor for his character, or at least good training for his coming crises: to come from behind in distance races after his opponents have exhausted themselves. He is able to draw upon a reservoir of strength to endure tremendous pain.
            In the prison camp, he is given another key piece of wisdom. When he expresses his hatred for the tormenting Japanese sadist and desire to kill him even if he would be executed for it, a fellow prisoner tells him that his job is to survive; that will be your victory, your revenge. 
            A brief epilog tells (not shows) us that after the war he became a Christian and turned from revenge to forgiveness. It shows the real man at age 80 running in a race in Japan. He lived well into his 90’s. We are told (not shown) that Watanabe escaped punishment by evading capture and then obtaining amnesty.  We are informed that he refused to meet with Zamperini later in life to accept his prisoner’s forgiveness. We are meant to infer that his captor was the broken man.
            My own cursory research expands on these facts. While not controverting any of the claimed “true facts,” the facts which were not included in the film include some which might have challenged the intended theme and thus made a more meaningful movie.
            Apparently, after the happy ending depicted in the movie, the courageous and mentally tough Zamperini suffered from nightmares for many years, part of what we would now call post traumatic stress. He survived that, too, by finding religious faith. He became a part of Billy Graham’s Christian crusades, lecturing about his ordeals. Through his conversion, he decided to forgive his tormentors in order to find peace. He claimed that some of the prison guards he later met and forgave became Christians as a result. He lived a long and useful life.
            The epilog of Watanabe’s journey, however, would not fit into such a nice Hollywood ending. He was interviewed later in life, when Zamperini’s story was being told to the next generation in Japan. Like the Nazi war criminal, Dr. Josef Mengele, Watanabe had come from a wealthy family. After years in hiding, he had become respectable, wealthy, comfortable.
            When interviewed in the mid 1990’s, he was unrepentant about the harshness of his treatment of American prisoners, asserting his mantra that they were enemies of Japan and deserved no better. He owed no apology and did not seek forgiveness. He thus justified his cruelty and denied any sense of defeat.
            I think that might have made a better story. Certainly, it is one that would have elicited more interest — for me, at least. I have been fascinated by stories involving the frustrating search for Nazi war criminals to prosecute. I hate the fact that leaders of nations and churches abetted the crimes, concealed the criminals, and conspired to deny justice to victims and escaped even societal censure. They not only survived. They went on as if nothing happened, while their victims lived with the nightmares and sense of guilt that the criminals never faced.
            I am appalled by the arguments that excuse those who committed such heinous crimes as soldiers following orders. I don’t understand how amnesty can apply to such crimes or how a statute of limitations can estop prosecution for murders of hundreds, thousands, or millions, when it there is no limitation in law for punishing a murderer of one person.
            I spent a lifetime defending accused murderers and specialized in finding arguments against executing them as punishment for their crimes. Yet, I never argued as a matter of principle or morality that no person ever deserved to die for crimes. The issue for me always depends on the individual, the motives, the procedure for finding the truth, the rules and evidence and fairness of the system devised to make the decision.  
            One self-truth I have to admit is that I am Jewish. The Holocaust is very personal to me. When I am forced to see the proof of the worst crimes ever perpetrated, I cannot deny that those responsible — and I mean ALL of those responsible — should be prosecuted and punished by their execution.
            The purpose is not revenge, not a biblical notion of an eye for an eye, or as a matter of lynching from hatred and rage. My purpose would not be as a deterrence. It is really a simple matter of justice.
            And so I would not forgive Sargent Watanabe. Even if forgiving him provides closure for his victim and even if giving him amnesty serves the purpose of Japanese – American politics. Not even if he did express remorse. To me, his crimes are unforgivable and civilization should demand that he forfeit his right to exist.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


By now, even casual movie lovers know about the “meet cute,” Billy Wilder’s name for the first duty of romantic comedy film makers – introducing eventual lovers in a clever manner. But the finish to the romance — whether happily or — rarely but memorably melancholy — the chase to the finish is the most common end cute, which has become one of the tritest of trite romantic comedy cliches --- the frenetic pulse pounding intrusively soaring music-scored race to the (almost always) happy ending. 

Near the end of Act III, somewhere around the 90 minute mark, shortly after the boy has lost the girl or the girl lost the boy, or (in this century) the boy the boy, or the girl the girl, the realization hits one or the other or both of them what the audience has long known and in the best of the genre, yearned for — that they really, really, really are – after all – meant for each other! 

 . . . He races to the hotel just in time for their New Year’s kiss (WHEN HARRY MET SALLY) ... She races to the boat to sail with him (HOLIDAY) ... She races down the street and climbs the stairs to THE APARTMENT ... They both race to the top of the Empire State Building (SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE) ... He chases her down the street (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK) ... He chases her bus with his car (LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS) ... He climbs her fire escape (PRETTY WOMAN) ... He chases her to a beach in New England (WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS) ... And maybe the most famous chase of all, he races to the church accompanied by Simon and Garfunkel (THE GRADUATE).

Billy Wilder (with partner Charles Brackett) wrote one of my favorite meet cutes for Ernst Lubitsch to direct Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert in BLUEBEARD’S 8TH WIFE. In a department store, they each crave a certain pair of pajamas, but she wants only the bottoms and he needs just the tops. A tantalizing thought for 1938. 

Lubitsch didn’t prefer heart stopping endings. His classic, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, is a model for how to carry off genre tropes that have stood the test of time. They begin in mutual dislike, deny their mutual attraction, a secret intervenes, and just when it seems hopeless, they discover and admit their love for each other. 

When Nora Ephron wrote and directed the remake, YOU’VE GOT MAIL, she wisely kept all the beats and eschewed the chase to the end, relying instead on a more leisurely stroll to a city park. As with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in the Lubitsch template, Ephron could rely on the charm and chemistry of her stars, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, to close the deal.

Wilder gave in to the chase scene in two of his best, THE APARTMENT, and SOME LIKE IT HOT, in each case having the girls — Shirley MacLaine and Marilyn Monroe --- both clothed in fur collar coats, race to the climax.

When I watch these films rush to the inevitable finale, I find myself wondering what all the fuss is about. Most of the running seems unnecessary  — if this were real life in which logical rules might apply. He has to stop her from boarding that plane (or in the old days, train) and leaving his life. Of course, in a sane world not accompanied by frantic underscoring, he could hop on the next plane or train which merely would delay the happy ending by a few hours. 

Admittedly, there are a few plots in which delay might be a nuisance. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT and THE GRADUATE both had the brides leaving the wrong guy at the altar in order to chase after their true loves. But even in the wide world of movie clichés, a bad marriage is rarely an insurmountable obstacle. 

The re-marriage sub-genre of romances is replete with second chances of this sort. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is a classic example: rebounding from the bas first marriage to the right guy, the stubborn heroine is saved at the brink of the altar from the awful misstep of a wrong guy marriage by the re-marriage to the right guy. 

Even in a more modern story telling style, like FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, the wrong guy marriage is merely a temporary setback rather than foreclosure of true romance. 

The frantic overly music-scored pursuit strikes me as a cheap device which is stolen from that other enduring but cliché ridden genre, the action thriller. Car chases are the most common set pieces of thrillers as well as slapstick comedies, going as far back as the earliest days of silent movies when Keystone Kops careened over Los Angeles streets chasing Keaton, Langdon, Hardy and Laurel. 

The classic one in BULLIT stood on its own for suspense, gradually quickening pace, and only at the climax, an explosive crescendo of violence. As with all examples, the imitators have had to up the ante each time until all sorts of CGI vehicles litter the freeways in every thriller. (This has happened over and over again in the history of films. Another clear example is PSYCHO, which spawned the slasher genre.)  

I am usually bored with chases in any genre and when watching with a remote in my hand, I make liberal use of the FF button. After all, in the thriller genre, there is not a moment when I doubt that the protagonists will survive the carnage, disposing of all of the stunt workers whose cars are overturned, riddled with shells, forced into oil tankers or over the sides of elevated highways. This is merely akin to a level in a video game in which countless minions of evil are eliminated — just momentary obstacles en route ... to the next level . . . and the next. . . .  

So, why take a device such as the chase from the thriller genre into light romances? I think it is often a failure of imagination or courage. Film makers are often trying to inject into the romantic comedy genre some sense of suspense which is lacking from their story telling. Perhaps these “auteurs” are embarrassed by the commercial nature of their project and wish to put a personal stamp on it, to prove that a director was involved and Action is a director’s forte. 

An inherent problem in the genre is the almost certain knowledge that the satisfying ending will included professions or admissions of love. But many makers of the genre are too embarrassed — or are incapable of or too lazy — to write the sort of scene that Lubitsch admired, closing with wit and charm. 

Cameron Crowe was an exception. He wrote and directed one of the better ones for JERRY MAGUIRE. But maybe the almost too sentimental lines, “You complete me,” and “You had me at hello,” are too risky or too embarrassing for most film makers to dare. 

Another annoying lazy rom-com device is the “lyrical moment,” usually placed somewhere in Act II, when the lovers are beginning to fall in love and need to share intimate details in conversation with each other. Rather than writing witty repartee for the pair, the auteur’s camera draws away and admires the scenery while the orchestra or pop song tells us how to feel ... and we watch the montage of strolls in the park, ferry rides, or other date nights, usually culminating in the tastefully (for PG13) sex scene. (Whenever I saw such movies while with my own date, I found myself wishing for the intrusion of a soundtrack to relieve me from the obligation being witty or revealing to my date, especially while my mind was “racing” to the hoped-for, more R rated, climax!)

A successful exception to this practice are the Linklater / Hawke / Delpy “BEFORE ...” trilogy, in which the essence of these films consists of these walk-and-talk witty and character revealing conversations. 

Wilder, who I cited as one who resorted to chases in his two most famous romantic comedies, had the talent to write (with I.A.L. Diamond) great unsentimental closing lines: in THE APARTMENT, when “Baxter” professes his love, “Miss Kubelik” tells him: “Shut up and deal;” and in SOME LIKE IT HOT, “Osgood,” informed that “Daphne” is a man, responds: “Well, nobody’s perfect.” 

Only a few film makers escaped the oldest cliché of romantic comedies, the finale in which boy gets girl with its accompanying kiss at the fade out. In some notable exceptions, the formula was discarded: boy loses girl ... period!  

The most famous of this rare variant is ROMAN HOLIDAY, in which princess Audrey Hepburn returns to her duty and newspaperman lover Gregory Peck walks away from the castle, to the fade out. 

In the 90's, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING had Julia Roberts losing her friend / desired lover to Cameron Diaz and accepting friendship as the next best thing. 

Kevin Smith’s cult Indie classic CHASING AMY created a new variable. For a new audience, Smith had Ben Affleck forced to choose between his best bro’, Jason Lee, and his lover, Joey Lauren Adams, while she rejected both of them, citing their immaturity and her preference for women. 

Smith foreshadowed the contemporary sub-genre of romantic comedies in which the girl is far more adult than the boy, a variant which Judd Apatow has perfected in this century.