36 The Wages of Fear

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HerrSchreck
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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#51 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Jan 24, 2009 5:43 pm

Matango wrote:The subtitles on the most recent CC (2005) are still in need of an upgrade re the profanity, which is watered down from the rich French expletives. I wonder if that'll happen on the Blu Ray. I emailed Mulvaney once (2005) about this on the rerelease, but never got a reply. Anyway, so now I have a VHS Video version (non-Kino), two laserdiscs (one CC, one Japanese), and both the CC DVDs. Going Blu Ray will make it six versions of the same cut. Oddly enough, I never liked this film more than I did when I just owned the VHS video and a small 21-inch CRT telly.

While we're on the subject, will anyone agree with me that Peter van Eyck's character Bimba is meant to be Dutch, not German? Vanel refers to him as 'Le Dutch' at least once, but all reviews and write ups (including Danny Peary on the earler CC DVD and laserdisc) peg him as German.
I'd have to throw it on again but I seem to remember him rendered as a Dutchman as well.

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HerrSchreck
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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#52 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Apr 08, 2009 3:28 pm

Salaire de la bleu.

The SE SD dvd (w the same transfer as its source) holds up quite well v the blu-ray, I'd say.

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#53 Post by aox » Wed Apr 08, 2009 4:29 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:Salaire de la bleu.

The SE SD dvd (w the same transfer as its source) holds up quite well v the blu-ray, I'd say.
It does indeed. Still want to upgrade, but I have had my 2005 copy on amazon for 3 weeks now. Not replacing until I sell my SD copy.

Herr S, can you think of anywhere in the City that gladly will buy DVDs and give a somewhat fair price. I have been buying and upgrading to BR so much that I have doubles of too many films. Need to get rid of some SD DVDs.

thanks.

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#54 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Apr 08, 2009 8:17 pm

Not really. I never really got into the habit of selling duplicated stuff. I can't even tell you how many copies of like Nosferatu and Frankenstein, for example, I have laying around this junkyard of mine.

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#55 Post by david hare » Wed Apr 08, 2009 10:23 pm

I nned to make a field trip to the Bronx to whip you into shape, obviously.

SNAP! AI--HEEEE!!!

Gary makes a very important point in his BD review - this transfer - obviously a monumental improvement over the old piece of shit from a decade ago - really only begins to yield its beauties the more exacting (and just plain fucking BIG) your display is.

Following from this - a complete brain wander - I've been googling up things about OLED/LED technology, stepping beyond the fairy lights stage and into things like home lighting and video projectors. When the day comes that someone can cheaply make an OLED 2k PJ with a lamp life of 70,000 hours - entirely feasible - every cinephile will be able to quietly retire to heaven, at home. And never have to go out again.

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#56 Post by skuhn8 » Thu Apr 09, 2009 4:35 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Salaire de la bleu.

The SE SD dvd (w the same transfer as its source) holds up quite well v the blu-ray, I'd say.
Finally went blu this past weekend--seeing reviews like this help pacify the soul and ease the strain on the wallet: no need to upgrade. Just shows how fine of a job they did nearly four years ago on SD.

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#57 Post by Rich Malloy » Thu Apr 09, 2009 11:54 am

skuhn8 wrote:Finally went blu this past weekend--seeing reviews like this help pacify the soul and ease the strain on the wallet: no need to upgrade. Just shows how fine of a job they did nearly four years ago on SD.
You might have a different opinion when seeing the film in motion. In my experience with blu-ray, still images simply cannot capture the smoothness of motion and particularly the resolution of complex textures like film grain. One of the more notable improvements I've seen on blu-ray is the resolution of the step-printed blurs and swooshes of the first half of "Chungking Express". I'd wager that the resolution of film grain in "Wages" is equally improved over the SD edition.

On these matters, Netflix is your friend and has thusfar stocked every Criterion blu-ray upgrade. Nothing like comparing discs on your own equipment to know whether it actually represents an upgrade for you.

EDIT: I'm sorry for not noticing you're in Budapest (and Netflix-deprived). Guess you'll just have to trust us! :P

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#58 Post by skuhn8 » Thu Apr 09, 2009 12:00 pm

Rich Malloy wrote:
skuhn8 wrote:Finally went blu this past weekend--seeing reviews like this help pacify the soul and ease the strain on the wallet: no need to upgrade. Just shows how fine of a job they did nearly four years ago on SD.
You might have a different opinion when seeing the film in motion. In my experience with blu-ray, still images simply cannot capture the smoothness of motion and particularly the resolution of complex textures like film grain. One of the more notable improvements I've seen on blu-ray is the resolution of the step-printed blurs and swooshes of the first half of "Chungking Express". I'd wager that the resolution of film grain in "Wages" is equally improved over the SD edition.

On these matters, Netflix is your friend and has thusfar stocked every Criterion blu-ray upgrade. Nothing like comparing discs on your own equipment to know whether it actually represents an upgrade for you.

EDIT: I'm sorry for not noticing you're in Budapest (and Netflix-deprived). Guess you'll just have to trust us! :P
I thought you were intentionally taunting me there for a minute with the Netflix reference. I'm sure you're right about noticeable improvement in motion...but I need it to kill SD in order to justify laying out the shekels. Never mind the fact that I'm blu locked to Region B ](*,)

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#59 Post by Rich Malloy » Thu Apr 09, 2009 4:26 pm

If I was ribbing you at all, it's only for having to rely on we imbeciles for your purchasing decisions! O:)

Netflix is no panacea, as they often do not upgrade their stock when remastered transfers become available (Kino's newly released "Happy Together" DVD appears not to have made the cut). But, so far, all the blu-ray upgrades I've been interested in checking out have been available, and of course that includes all the Criterion blu-rays.

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#60 Post by eerik » Fri Apr 10, 2009 4:46 am


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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#61 Post by kinjitsu » Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:39 pm

DVD Talk BD review by Stuart Galbraith IV

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#62 Post by cdnchris » Wed Apr 22, 2009 9:18 pm


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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#63 Post by aox » Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:52 pm

got this Blu in the mail today from wherehouse.com.

This and The Third Man are my first Blu Rays of old black and white films. While some of the blacks do in fact look deeper, I don't see much of a difference in the BR vs. the SD. However, I know the difference is there from the professional screen caps and essays I have read on the topic. What I think doesn't help is that I am running a '32 LCD, and I have read that the noticeable differences can really only be seen from '42 1080s to projectors. The larger the system, the better. Even with all of this said, the transfer is still really gorgeous (even the SD looked fantastic) and the film seems in good shape.

I will continue to buy Blu because I hope someday to move out of my shoebox in NYC and have the ability to have a larger setup. They are essentially the same price anyway, so why not.

The Seventh Seal is already pre-ordered.

I just wish The Wages of Fear had a commentary... but that has been my wish for pretty much all Criterion releases that don't include them as they are usually the only extras that interest me besides deleted scenes.

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#64 Post by david hare » Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:10 pm

Im glad to see people here enthuse aqbout these B&W Blu transfers. THe thing about even living in a shoebox is that Projectors when they eventually topple in price (and they will) are in a sense even more protable than any LCD or whatever, and you just have to clear some space on a wall to projecto onto, and, with the benefit of the projectors' veritcal/horizontal shift adjustments you can place it very flexiubly around your shoebox space.

But mroe to the point in this thread the 400 BLows Bluray reminded me, even more than the Warner Casablanca Blu how particularly beautiful grain is in B&W photography, in fact it's an integral part of the composition, epseically with DPs like Decae for Blows who meshes the grain into the whole texture of fast film shooting with grain as a third element, against whites and blacks. The best Blus really are delivering this nicley, something SD video could NEVER properly do.

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#65 Post by aox » Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:57 pm

Has anyone seen or heard of the Iranian 1976 remake: Atash-e-jonoob?

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Tom Hagen
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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#66 Post by Tom Hagen » Tue Apr 28, 2009 8:05 pm

Directed by Billy Friedkin's Iranian cousin?

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#67 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:00 pm

Since I've just run across it on in my videotape collection, I thought I would transcribe the introduction that Robert McKee did to the film when it was screened on the BBC in the Filmworks season back in 1993. It is just a general introduction to the film, and likely will not add any new information than the forum isn't already aware of regarding the film, but I thought it was a nice appreciation all the same:
I first saw tonight's film, The Wages of Fear, when I was a teenager in Detroit, Michigan and I had to break the law to do it. It was a foreign film you see: adults only. And so I had to use a bit of wire to burgle my way through the rear exit of the cinema. I love that word: 'cinema'. There is a hierarchy to these things you know: from Persona to Godzilla - 'cinema' at the top; then 'motion picture'; 'film'; 'movie'; and finally 'the flicks'. When I was a kid if they called a moviehouse a cinema, it meant there would be no popcorn and Pepsi in the lobby. No, it was cappuccino and Italian chocolate. The film would be in any language but English, unless of course it was made in England. It was all so pretentious but God how we loved art movies!

When Wages was first screened in the United States, an anonymous Time magazine critic called it "the most evil film ever made". Thanks to such high praise it became the most successful French film ever made. I am willing to bet that for most of the film fanatics of my generation, Henri Clouzot's Wages of Fear was the first foreign language film they ever saw. More than anything by Bergman, Kurosawa or Fellini, this was the movie that taught Americans how to read subtitles and to worship all things foreign.

It won Best Picture at Cannes, Berlin and from the British Film Society. But then in ten years it was buried and forgotten beneath the avalanche of acclaim for he French New Wave. In fact the critics at the Cahiers du Cinema sneered at Clouzot for being in the "tradition of Quality" school of French filmmaking. Why this is a criticism, I have never quite understood - I've always had a certain weakness for 'quality'. It seems to me that year by year as cinema technology develops, the sensibility controlling it becomes more and more bloated and crass, making the clean, craftsmanlike quality of Wages look better and better.

As the title suggests this is a film about fear, but it expresses a quality of fear unlike any other. I have sat white-knuckled in front of a lot of films but, unlike the exaggerations of most horror films and thrillers, Clouzot knew how to prevent fear from becoming too abstract.

The struggles in this film dramatise that fear we all unconsciously live with - the fear you can't escape by thinking: "It's only a movie". Clouzot has often been compared to Hitchcock, but Hitchcock always compromised his darker side. As a gentleman he would let his heroes and audiences off the hook. At the end of his most frightening films Hitchcock would smile, so to speak, and say he's only kidding. Well, Clouzot is not kidding - he means it.

The story takes place in a country, something like Venezuela, in a dirt poor fishing village that has become a minor port. Men from various corners of the world have washed up onto its streets. They all want to leave but they need work to earn the price of a ticket home, and in this Hell there's nothing to do. So they rot as if they were in prison.

Indeed, Clouzot has devised an image system of motifs suggesting just that - entrapment. Shadows create the effect of bars of a jail cell. The clothing of the men is very like prison garb. In fact the first third of the film is devoted to the kind homosexual tensions common to prison life - petty terrorisms and macho rituals of power and weakness, master and slave. A triangle develops: Mario (played by Yves Montand) is aggressively courted, so to speak, by an older man Jo, played by Charles Vanel. Mario lives with Luigi (Folco Lulli) who cooks for him and does his laundry, but the coquettish Mario abandons Luigi for the gangster Jo and Clouzot now has his characters ready for their great adventure.

In the mountains two hundred miles away a fire breaks out in an oil field. The only thing that can extinguish the blaze is huge quantities of nitroglycerine. The oil company readies two truckloads of this volatile liquid explosive and offers thousands to any man who will risk his life to drive the nitro up the treacherous roads to the oil fields. The odds are dead against them but if they make it, it is a ticket out of Hell.

Henri Clouzot was a filmmaker fascinated with evil. In the first images of the film, a man throws stones at a chained dog. The protagonist Mario casually, almost cheerfully, waves to his girlfriend as she disappears into the shadows of her boss's bedroom. Clouzot has been called a misogynist, amongst other things, but of course he is a misogynist because he is also a misanthrope - he doesn't like any aspect of humanity, male or female. He has been called anti-American, and anti-Capitalist, but that is really unfair - he is anti-everything.

But what knocked the 50s intellectual onto his well-padded rear was the ending. It was very un-Hollywood and very controversial. The ending could not be called deus ex machina because the final image grows out of the seeds of absurdity and universal cruelty planted at the beginning. Still, the idea that drives it makes for an exhilarating and strangely satisfying feel-bad movie.

It is not so much that both hero and coward die the same pointless deaths - death is not the issue. It is the terrible unfairness of it all. These characters who begin as such low lifes rise to the occasion and make such a monumental effort and after their investment of such new-found courage; after the inhuman strain of concentration; after putting heart and soul on the line how could they still lose? These men suffer and strive far more than most of us ever will. If such prodigious labour, guts and ingenuity goes unrewarded, what hope have we? Surely the universe - surely God - will not stand silently by and let this magnificent effort go unnoticed. Or will He?
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Oct 16, 2010 6:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#68 Post by Person » Wed Oct 06, 2010 4:47 am

A superb in intro by Mr Mckee indeed. Thanks for transcribing it for us. Filmworks was a damn fine series. Films on British TV used to have true class. Today, Vernon Kaye would introduce Independence Day and reminisce:

"Oh! I remember me and me butha queing for this in Bolton high street. We shat ourselves! Oh it was mega!"

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#69 Post by Jonathan S » Wed Oct 06, 2010 5:41 am

I always thought McKee (like most critics) was best when talking about the films he admired. I remember his stimulating introduction to The Terminator - probably in the same series - when most people just dismissed it as mindless junk. I did not think much of his (award-winning) demolition job on Citizen Kane - not that I think it's a perfect film, but it seemed an attention-grabbing stunt and there are surely so many worthier targets.

The BBC's Film Club - in the mid/late 80s, I think - also had brief introductions by critics and, occasionally, people who had actually worked on the films. I especially treasure Peter Ustinov's filmed comments on Lola Montes.

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Re: 36 The Wages of Fear

#70 Post by hearthesilence » Mon May 15, 2017 8:04 pm

A new restoration is screening at Cannes:

Presented by TF1 Studio in collaboration with la Cinémathèque française and the support of the CNC, of the Archives audiovisuelles de Monaco, of Kodak and the CGR cinémas. 4K Restoration from nitrate image negative and a sound duplicate made by Hiventy. Please note that this presentation is the preview of a major Clouzot event scheduled in France in the fall of 2017.

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The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953)

#71 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon May 29, 2017 6:46 am

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, June 12th

Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Collection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.

This thread is not spoiler free. This is a discussion thread; you should expect plot points of the individual films under discussion to be discussed openly. See: spoiler rules.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.

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Re: The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953)

#72 Post by teddyleevin » Tue May 30, 2017 1:21 am

I just watched this for the first time and I think I need a couple of days to unpack it, but I was surprised to see the main thread for this title only have one major comment on the film's ending. I want to spend some time going through critical commentary and the features (as well as hearing your thoughts) and thinking about the film from a more vertical, thematic perspective.

I will admit that the multiple languages of the first portion of the film were a bit disorienting, but helped contrast it with the mostly French "road-trip," narrowing its perspective and increasing the tension (ultimately, I think the multi-lingual nature of the film really spoke to me: leveling all of these peoples before the beast of this industry, yet seeming lower still in posture vs. the non-plussed natives on the outskirts of the flames). When we hear English pop up again near the end, I was taken aback (landing somewhere behind where I started) and couldn't understand a word of it (especially not the surprisingly chipper Montand over the roaring engine of his now-empty truck).

The film's natural endpoint surely should be Mario's ambiguous collapse at the foot of the towering flame, right? Jo's death (mainly the dialogue that precedes it) feels a little on the nose, but a stark and ambiguous ending like that would have thrown any of the on-the-nosedness into stark relief. What actually follows struck me as bitter and unpleasant (not that I don't expect that from Clouzot, who I have always enjoyed, even at his most acidic) and I'm really not sure the intended irony (and frustration) did anything but come off as mean-spirited towards audience and characters.

One thing that surprised me was the amount of time we would spend with these characters before the journey began: a check of character development that I was hoping the film would cash. By the last 30 minutes (up until the last 2), I felt like all of that time was well-earned, and it took until the final trial of their journey for the two halves of the film to complement each other in my mind: an ideal structure for a taut slow-burner like this.

The film is legendary for its tension, which implies that the audience should care for the safety of its characters (at least empathetically), which I certainly did (my jaw couldn't close after the completely sudden departure of our secondary protagonists). To watch them put so much painstaking effort into making this journey only to see the lone survivor tossed off as a ragdoll is a really aggressive gesture towards those who cared about him; I will need some time to see whether or not I can appreciate it. At face-value, it's hard not to find cornball antics in the Blue Danube (as ubiquitous as it ever was back then, it is certainly more ubiquitous in film, specifically, in the years since its appearance here), but I will say that the rapid cutting, disorienting camera, dancing collapsing love interest, etc. in the ending totaled (no pun intended) one collectively impressive cinematic coup. I'm just not sure it was the ending I ever wanted for this film.

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Re: The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953)

#73 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Jun 02, 2017 3:54 pm

The Wages of Fear is one of my all-time favorite films, and beyond that it's one of the maybe three examples I cite when trying to articulate how a single work of art can be utterly transporting in its representation of an otherwise inaccessible place and time, thematically rich, politically sharp in both universal and specific ways, emotionally moving, and thoroughly entertaining all at the same time.

I've only ever seen the uncut international version, and I'm curious if those who've seen both it and the censored U.S. version can speak to how substantial the improvement is; based on the Criterion disc's feature on the differences, I feel like a lot of the location-based flavor, sense of danger, and political subtext would be notable compromised, but I wonder if I'd feel differently having known the American version first.
teddyleevin wrote:The film is legendary for its tension, which implies that the audience should care for the safety of its characters (at least empathetically), which I certainly did (my jaw couldn't close after the completely sudden departure of our secondary protagonists). To watch them put so much painstaking effort into making this journey only to see the lone survivor tossed off as a ragdoll is a really aggressive gesture towards those who cared about him; I will need some time to see whether or not I can appreciate it. At face-value, it's hard not to find cornball antics in the Blue Danube (as ubiquitous as it ever was back then, it is certainly more ubiquitous in film, specifically, in the years since its appearance here), but I will say that the rapid cutting, disorienting camera, dancing collapsing love interest, etc. in the ending totaled (no pun intended) one collectively impressive cinematic coup. I'm just not sure it was the ending I ever wanted for this film.
I didn't find the film's treatment of its characters inconsistent with the pessimistic and cynical world-view that is established from the opening frames. Wages is a film about exploitation, and particularly the exploitation of people viewed as worthless by others, and it would have been a betrayal of the film had shown us about these characters and the dynamics of the world they live in to let Mario ride off happily into the sunset.

Have you seen Sorcerer? I love Friedkin's play on this material as well, and that version even more thoroughly and explicitly establishes that its main characters are "bad" people, and somehow manages to makes them even more sympathetic and their eventual fates even more affecting, for me at least.

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Re: The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953)

#74 Post by teddyleevin » Fri Jun 09, 2017 1:39 pm

I haven't seen Sorcerer! I'd love to and it's been on the list, but I knew I wanted to see this first. I should read the book, too, maybe? Truly, the worldview is his through-and-through. I think it must be in the offhandedness of the editing, music choice, and tone. There's something clowny about the whole endeavor; the shots from Montand's POV as he is swerving out of control gives the impression of a spinning tunnel illusion at a carnival. I did find one other review online that seemed to agree that his collapse at the feet of the unforgiving and unappreciative flames would have made a successful and stark ending (and one other, other review that just said they hated the ending; I won't go so far as to say that). I'll also content that a second watch of this one with the ending in mind might improve things. Dispatching of the second pair of leads in such an offhanded way works so well because it's so dry, empty, sudden, and pointless. At the end it's so incredibly overstylized and telegraphed (I spent the last 2 minutes think, "oh, please, not this ending"; it almost seems meant to irritate somehow, to be incendiary.

I can submit that the characters are not necessarily upstanding members of society but they're products of the hands they've been dealt. There's a nobility to the desire for money and it elevates them beyond mere roaches being toyed with by the power of the S.O.C. When Joe turns out to be a coward, the other three remain likeable. My shock at the deaths of the second leads came from the fact that I was growing to know them (especially through their work blowing up the large boulder) and even like them and want them to succeed. Same for Montand. They're not as likeable in the first half of the film, but, through this trial, the audience can develop a sympathetic want for their success.

My main questions I'd like to pose to all are (primarily reflecting your thoughts on first viewing):
1) Do you find any/all of the four leads sympathetic/do you desire their success?
2) This film is known for its impressively tense second half. Does the success of this tension rise or fail based on your sympathies towards the leads as examined in the previous question?
3) What was your emotional takeaway re: the ending?

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