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Perhaps my favourite film
on 1 August 2008
With the release of Terence Davies's "The Long Day Closes", the BFI are continuing to ensure that the work of Britain's greatest living film-maker is finally made available on DVD.
The undoubted highpoint of this particular DVD is its beautiful transfer, which was overseen by the film's cinematographer Michael Coulter, and by Davies himself. And I do not think this visually ravishing film has ever looked better than it does on this DVD, which also contains a superb commentary by Davies and Coulter, some illuminating footage of Davies directing, and an interesting interview with the film's production designer Christopher Hobbs (who also designed the director's follow-up film "The Neon Bible"). These last two items are both taken from a South Bank Show about Davies that was shown in the early 1990s, and I hope it is not asking too much to say that it would be really great if the BFI could release this on DVD at some point; on the forthcoming DVD of Davies's new film "Of Time and the City", perhaps?
As for the film itself, it remains - in my very humble opinion - one of the best films ever made. It is surely one of the greatest films about childhood, up there with Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter" in its evocation of the joy, terror, and plain confusion of being young. It is very similar to "Distant Voices, Still Lives" in a number of ways. It is about life in Davies's family in 1950s Liverpool after his father had died. It has a structure that is more circular than linear. It is full of lovely music, classical and popular. And it is filmed in the director's trademark style: careful compositions, luminous dissolves, and elliptical, geography-defying tracking shots, which take us from a cinema to a funfair, and from Christmas to New Year and back to Christmas, seemingly in one single take. The result is breathtaking.
But unlike "Distant Voices, Still Lives", the focus of this film is the younger Davies himself, here christened with the resonant name "Bud". The film concentrates on a single period in his life, a period when, even though he was very happy, his childhood innocence was suffering small but significant erosions - from school, from the church, and from his own developing sexuality. Never before has a film portrayed this process of erosion with such subtlety and power.
I could go on, but you get the general idea. This film is a total cracker, and I would like to thank the BFI most heartily for giving it this excellent DVD release!