DIRECTOR'S CUT / Emotional after all: Paul Schrader on Jack Clayton's bittersweet film Room at the Top

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The Independent Culture
I thought that, in deference to my host country, I would pick a British film. One of my favourite movies, and probably my favourite last line in a movie, is from Jack Clayton's Room at the Top (1959). Joe Lampton, who was played by Larry Harvey, has married the boss's daughter in order to move up the class ladder. And in so doing he has had to turn his back on his lover, Simone Signoret.

Just before the wedding he finds out that she has died. He goes through with the wedding, of course, to this bright, empty-headed young girl. They're in the car after the service, in their bride and groom clothes, and a tear starts to form on his eye. And she says, 'Oh Joe, I do believe you are emotional after all.'

I'm not sure if that's the exact line, but I love that ending. It epitomises the bittersweet thing movies can do - at the very last second leave you with a sting which is still in your head after the lights go up and you're on the sidewalk. And Room at the Top, to me, is one of the best examples.

Paul Schrader's films include 'American Gigolo', 'Cat People', 'Mishima' and 'Light Sleeper'. He was speaking during a recent visit to the National Film Theatre.

(Photograph omitted)

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