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The Long Day Closes  [DVD]
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THE LONG DAY CLOSES
A film by Terence Davies
Terence Davies lyrical hymn to childhood revisits the same territory as his prize winning debut feature Distant Voices, Still Lives, this time focusing on his own memories of growing up in a working-class, Catholic family in Liverpool.
Eleven-year-old Bud (a heartbreaking performance from Leigh McCormack) finds escape from the greyness of 50s Britain through trips to the cinema and in the warmth of family life. But as he gets older, the agonies of the adult world the casual cruelty of bullying, the tyranny of school and the dread of religion begin to invade his life .
Time and memory blend and blur through Davies fluid camerawork; slow tracking shots, pan and dreamlike dissolves combine to create the world of Bud's imagination and the lost paradise of childhood.
- Full feature commentary with Terence Davies and DoP Mick Coulter
- On-set interview with production designer Christopher Hobbs
- Behind the scenes footage of Terence Davies directing
- Fully illustrated booklet
- Fully uncompressed PCM stereo audio
UK | 1992 | colour | English language with optional hard-of-hearing subtitles | 85 minutes | DVD-9 | Ratio 1.85:1 | Region 2 DVD
An informal sequel to his breakthrough feature Distant Voices, Still Lives, Terence Davies' film revisits the same vivid autobiographical sources as its predecessor. Set in working-class Liverpool in the mid-50s, it's less a linear story than an impressionistic tapestry of sights, sounds, colours and above all music woven together in the head of the 11-year-old protagonist (called Bud, but very clearly meant for Davies himself). Brought up in a mainly female household--widowed mother and four older sisters--Bud undergoes ordeals of bullying and stern punishment at his new Catholic school. But he spends most of his time lapped by the warm fringes of the adult world, of which he's a fascinated observer, often delighted, sometimes obscurely troubled. A nostalgic mix of film clips and popular songs--on the radio or in family sing-songs--contribute to Bud's rich inner life, but sentimentality is held at bay by the poignancy for the boy's situation, alienated from children of his own age and nervously aware of his emergent gay sexuality. Davies' stylised lighting heightens the sense of captured memory, while his stately, elegant camera traces patterns and connections, eliding the borders between reality and fantasy. --Philip KempSee all Product description
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In a way this film describes how the limited view of the child, confined by the street, school, his friend, makes a whole universe in itself that is larger than the world of the adults around him, despite their mystique, their perceived freedom. At the end of the film the boy and his friend see themselves as part of the mysteries of the universe. They can make the natural leap from the small tragedies of their childhood world and the warm confines of a bustling working class household to the stars and planets that an inspired teacher has introduced them to. They can make that link. A masterpiece.
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!
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