For a long time, the ending was about all I did know of the film. I didn't realise it was a secret. I'm sort of with domino - I think it's unnecessary and simplistic - but it doesn't destroy the rest of the film for me, since part of the problem with the ending is that the film's strengths are irrelevant to the ending, and vice versa.
I don't agree with this. For me, much of the point of the methodology of the rest of the picture lies in the ending. In other words, I think it's a mistake to reduce it to only its effect as "surprise" or "secret". It is, in fact, a culmination point and a rupture point, as though the reveal of the truth of Jeanne's activities inevitably functions disruptively despite Jeanne's own attempts to make these activities manageable by normatizing them and softening their psychic impact through a subsumption into the organic fabric of banal everyday action. A kind of quiescence reasserts itself on the other side of her act (in that great final image), but the reveal of her "secret life" prior to her decisive action (which is what leads to the decisive action) has permanently disrupted our ability to be complicit with her own psychic efforts at diminishment.
I agree that ending is misfires, in fact it is even worse than that - it's dated. However, the conception off all that proceeds it makes it exceptional.
I'm not sure what you mean here. Once again, I'm not convinced that "all that proceeds it" on its own as a separate depiction would necessarily give us much insight into anything other than a depiction of what we may perceive as numbing routine. But is that on its own terms all that insightful no matter how masterfully it's done?
Also, I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "dated". I suppose you're saying that Jeanne's predicament, her circumstance, is perhaps a product of a time in which women had fewer choices and less education. But that's a reductive reading too. An alternative interpretation could emphasize its function as a heightened metaphor; the fact of Jeanne's circumstance acting as an exaggeration or exacerbation of continually existing realities for many women everywhere. I think of that comment made in Kiarostami's Ten
regarding "wholesalers" and "retailers".
I suppose the argument would be that we don't need the reveal at all because the effect of her routine damnable existence should be enough, or perhaps something more subtle would be a more effective disruption. That may be true but I view the disruptive element itself, and its presence depicted as sheer violence and rupture, as totally relevant and crucial; it's the same unacknowledgeable sense of horrific recognition that animates the unstable ground of Blue Velvet
and Revolutionary Road