I’d like to watch more double-features by filmmakers with whom I’m not familiar… gives a better immediate sense of who they are than watching one movie, then a couple years later managing to catch another, and so on. I’ve already watched Terence Davies’s 2000 The House of Mirth but I completely don’t remember it. Must’ve been late at night on DVD or cable… the only evidence that I’ve seen it at all is my 8 rating on the IMDB, which I may have just clicked by accident one day while looking up Eleanor Bron movies. Anyway, since Of Time And The City isn’t out here, I grabbed his other two most acclaimed features Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) and The Long Day Closes (1992).
Both movies consist of beautifully shot sketches of memories. Distant Voices (the first half) was actually made as its own movie – about three siblings growing up under their father Pete Postlethwaite’s wrath. It was deemed too short to release, so the second part, Still Lives, was written and shot after – now father is dead from cancer and the kids are grown, moving out on their own and getting married. Episodes are shown in random-associative order, all superbly shot. Lots and lots of singing – movie is basically a musical… “takes a worried man to sing a worried song”… “in the bleak midwinter”… “there’s a man coming round taking names”… “when irish eyes are smiling”… tons more, all sung by the cast in bars, on the street or at home.
It was Pete Postlethwait’s breakout year – he was in two other reasonably big films. Davies in the DVD commentary: “It’s hard to believe that one man could’ve caused so much suffering and that all these years later I would make a film about it.”
Mom, Tony, (dad), Eileen and Maisie
Eileen (center) was in Aki Kaurismaki’s I Hired a Contract Killer. On left is a friend – loud, outspoken Mickey (good singer, too).
Married life doesn’t always work out… old friend Jingles looks upset.
Davies is annoyed that viewers thought the Christmas scenes gave sympathy to the father. He says his father deserves no sympathy. Seems from the commentary like everything actually happened in his life as we see it. Creative liberties are taken, of course… fewer siblings keeps things easier to follow, events and timelines are shuffled, but the movie is a mining of his real life. Reactions from family members to the film were mixed.
Davies also has a wonderful voice on the commentary. I could listen to him all day. If he did EVERY dvd commentary, people might actually listen to the things. After watching the movie I assumed influence by Alain Resnais, but he says the structure is influenced mainly by T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.
Won a whole pile of awards, including at Cannes and Toronto, but lost the European Film Awards to Kieslowski and Wenders, oh well.
The Long Day Closes is the same kind of thing, but in a shorter timespan and focusing on one kid (young Terence Davies, or “Bud”), his relationship with mother, home life, church and school. Still plenty of singing, though not as much as the other film, and now punctuated by audio clips from classic movies (the kid is happiest at the cinema). Subjective shots through his eyes, memory adding a dreamlike quality to certain scenes, rain and snow are so constant that sometimes they occur indoors.
Exquisite between-scene transitions… this is halfway through one of ‘em.
I’d say there’s less story here than in the other movie, more impressionistic. I don’t usually love nostalgic childhood reminiscence movies, but that’s because most aren’t as gorgeous as this one.
By the time I got to the DVD commentary I’d already heard the one from DV,SL so I took it for granted that everything in Long Day Closes refers to a specific, sharply remembered incident in Davies’ real childhood. Liberties are taken, of course, like how the Christmas dinner table here seems to be out on the street.
If there’s any film that should be watched on 35mm in theaters, it’s this one, and unbelievably, I got a chance. It was playing in Seattle, so Katy grudgingly agreed that we could go. Looked amazing. Nobody else in the theater but us. Katy mostly didn’t like it, dozed through the last 20 minutes, but responded to the audio clip from Tammy and the Bachelor.