15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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One of the greatest movie musicals ever made. One of the greatest movies about the experience of childhood ever made. One of the greatest autobiographical movies ever made. One of the greatest memory movies ever made. One of the greatest movies ever made by a director who happens to be gay. One of the greatest movie documents about growing up gay ever made. And when all of these come together in one movie, it is, for me, simply one of the greatest movies ever made. On my list of 6, the least important are the last two. The points made are of interest to those who care about such things, but one’s appreciation of the worth of the film does not depend on them.
Performances throughout are superb, down to the smallest role. Leigh McCormack gives one of the greatest performance I have ever seen by a young actor, rivaled perhaps only by Christian Bale in Empire of the Son and Hunter McCracken in The Tree of Life. According to IMDB, he has never been in another film. According to director Terence Davies, McCormack wanted to grow up and become a fireman. As Bud in this film, he is the central character and stand-in for the director as a young boy. Marjorie Yates plays his mother in the other central performance. Although she has made few movies, she seems to have been in lots of British television series over the years. (Only in this last viewing did I note that someone in passing and barely audibly addresses her as Mrs. Davies.)
Yesterday I watched the new Criterion Blu-ray edition of the film. It looks absolutely gorgeous. I had suspected that it was, even from the washed-out tapes and imperfect DVD I had seen over the years. The colors of the film are blues, grays, blacks, and browns along with dull yellows. Oddly beautiful. Occasionally there is a startling splash of color: a vivid green door, a bar of red soap. Red brick walls covered with black soot, with only a bit of the red showing through.
Davies and others in the interviews and commentaries stress that this is a “true” story. It is his family, the house where he lived, the street outside, the school, the church (which is the exact same one attended by Davies as a child). The house and street having been destroyed some years ago with no photographs of it, the recreation was based on detailed discussions Davies had with his production designer. It all looks totally “real.” It is not. There are conscious slight exaggerations, and both Davies and his production designer comment on to what and why. However, among other things (see above), the movie is a brilliant depiction of what daily life was like in a poor household in Liverpool in the 1960s.
I could carry on at great length about the use of extant music in the film, but part of the great pleasure is encountering songs and being surprised by them and how they are used. Sometimes they are used in their original form. Sometimes the mother may be singing a popular song of the time while she is going about her daily affairs (many of the songs used were favorites of the director’s mother). Sometimes groups are singing songs at neighborhood parties. Sometimes it is just the music in young Bud’s head. This may suggest to you both the British television and the Hollywood musical versions of Pennies from Heaven as well as other of Dennis Potter’s works. Yes. But I think the use of songs here surpasses even what Potter did. Sit back and relax and let them wash over you. Let the whole experience of this film wash over you.
The plot? Well, what plot? I guess what plot there is depends on whether you are viewing the work as the story of a boy over several years or as the story of one day in his life in which he remembers. If it is the former, it is about a boy moving into a new school and being bullied and made generally unhappy. If the latter, it is about a boy wanting money to go to the movies, getting it, and discovering that the friend he wanted to go with has gone off with another boy, making Bud most unhappy. I think it is both timeframes welded into one. I’ll always remember Dr. Egbert Sydnor Ownbey (yep, that’s his real name) who taught me Shakespeare in college talking about the two time sequences in Othello. One major aspect of the story makes sense only if the action of the play takes place in a brief span of time. Another main thread makes sense only if it is spread out over several weeks or even months. He thought the great genius of Shakespeare was to balance these different time frames so admirably that it matters not to the viewer or reader. I think Davies does something like that with this film. Ray Bradbury once wrote a short story called “All Summer in a Day.” I think he would have liked this movie.
Certainly the film is about erosion of the human spirit. When you see the film, you will understand this clearly because of the way the writer/director underscores it with a classroom lecture. And pay attention to the voiceover in the last sequence in the coal cellar. You see it throughout, the bullying.by peers and authority figures, and the little unkindnesses barely noticeable to those doing them. On this viewing I begin to understand that at least some part of that erosion is perhaps natural. Like wind. Water. And, of course, the mere (!) passage of time on our souls. But I will stick to my guns that the movie is about reclamation as well. Reclaiming the past by dealing with it. And in this case, the reclamation has resulted in the creation of a great work of art. Thank you, Terence Davies.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
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Before he turned his eyes to several high-brow literary adaptations, Terence Davies's early career as a filmmaker was focused primarily on himself. With a trio of shorts (now collected as The Terence Davies Trilogy), 1988's full-length Distant Voices, Still Lives, and The Long Day Closes, Davies explored all the formative moments in his young life: his childhood in Liverpool with an abusive father and kind mother, his burgeoning homosexuality, and the joy that film gave to him as he struggled toward adulthood. The Long Day Closes is the most narrowly focused of the films he made during this period, a film that lingers on the few happy memories of childhood while acknowledging that growing pains and melancholy were waiting in the wings.
Instead of relying on traditional storytelling, Davies fills The Long Day Closes with music and images that lack any narrative sinew. This isn't to say the movie is chaotic, by any means—Davies is a graceful director, and the film is meticulously paced. Scenes flow into each other without really telling a story: Bud, Davies's on-screen surrogate, skips along the rain-coated street; the camera captures light dancing across a rug in the family's home; Bud spies a shirtless laborer outside and averts his eyes in shame. The movie skips between the four places Bud's life revolves around: school, church, home, and the local cinema. Davies hints at some of the pains Bud will soon experience from the latter two, especially in light of the boy's sexuality, but most scenes play out with equal amounts of joy and sadness. Bud is lonely and withdrawn most of the time, yearning to be a part of the world around him while also realizing he'll forever be an outsider. The Long Day Closes fills these memory snapshots with the music that filled Davies's boyhood memories: popular songs and snippets of dialogue from films, hymns, half-remembered verses from parlor songs. The music blurs together as seamlessly as the visuals do, and it all amounts to a sort of visual and aural painting of Davies's childhood. The Long Day Closes is really unlike any film I've seen, and it might be the best movie about memory. The way Davies captures the fleeting moments—he stretches and folds time, weaves in daydreams and nightmares—reminds me of how I recall little moments from the past. So while it's a deeply personal film (I felt like a voyeur in a few spots), it's also incredibly universal and moving.
The Criterion Collection's dual format release of The Long Day Closes is altogether excellent. Davies and DP Michael Coulter supervised the newly remastered Blu-ray transfer. As a result, the 1.85:1/1080p widescreen presentation is lovely. The movie is filled with sharp contrasts and gently desaturated hues, and this new transfer looks incredible (especially in comparison to stills from some of the older UK DVD releases). Visually, it's a wholly unique film and worth seeing in this format. The LPCM 2.0 stereo track is just as good as the image—the movie is packed with music, and it (and the scant dialogue) is consistently vivid. Criterion packs some excellent extras in as well: a 1992 episode of British arts program The South Bank Show that features Davies (47:24); 2013 interviews with executive producer Colin MacCabe (13:54) and production designer Christopher Hobbs (20:28); a trailer for the film (2:47); a commentary track with Davies and Coulter; and an essay from film critic Michael Koresky. The release also includes a DVD version of the film with all of the above extras.
Jason Panella, DVD VERDICT
Read the full review at dvdverdict.com
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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Many British cultural critics consider Terence Davies likely their greatest living director, and much of that estimation rests on this, his loveliest film. An excursion into memory, THE LONG DAY CLOSES may evoke Fellini (in its visions of the past rendered larger than life, as in the famous ship sequence in AMARCORD) and Dennis Potter (in its use of popular music not just to romanticize the past but to show its inevitable dissonances with its realities) while all the time seeming very much its own special and distinct creation. The tableaux Davies evokes--from its opening shot of a poor Liverpool residential street drenched in a downpour, to its great closing shot of a mottled evening sky--almost stop the heart with their beauty. The story is a patchwork of memories of the childhood of Davies himself, here called "Bud": the youngest by far of four children, the film documents a year of his life (at age eleven) that roughly covers 1955 to 1956. No great dramatic incidents occur in the story: no one take seriously ill, or runs away, or gets married, or even fights. The film is in an assemblage of "spots of memory" wherein Bud usually stays at the margins (he is usually seen poised on a staircase or in a window), watching or listening to his family and the people around him. Although adored by his mother and elder siblings he is always an outsider; newly aware of his budding attraction to men, he can't join in in his brothers' attractions to the opposite sex (their fiancees are in the house nearly as much as the children themselves), and stays forever aloof. Family socializing is a wondrous time for Bud, although he is almost always the only youngster included. The only time he sees his age peers are at school, which is presented as a noisy painful place governed by adults who despise children. His great sources of solace are in the Catholic church, where he is a devout practitioner of his mother's Catholic faith, in the local movie palaces (of which he is an equally devout follower), and the radio: Davies uses the popular music of the time--Nat King Cole and Doris Day--not simply to enhance the beauty of Bud's surroundings but also to create a thread of mass culture to unite the ages and genders of Bud's community.
The film could be a little much, especially in its treatment of Bud's loneliness: there are times when he veers dangerously close to Matt Lucas's "the only gay boy in the village" in his constant self-pity and sorrow. But the highly personal and subjective nature of the film renders all this allowable. Davies is so sure in his decisions and his tone that his romanticization of the past is ultimately proudly affirmed; what is more, he also even deftly deconstructs it as the film proceeds. Criterion's reissue of this film (with great sound and image restoration, and lovely extras) could not be more welcome.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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There are movies so profoundly important and inventive that they draw a kind of BC/AD line in your life. Terence Davies' "The Long Day Closes" opened a whole new chapter of cinema-watching experience for me. This doesn't happen too often. Movies like "Breathless" and "Jules and Jim" come to mind as earlier game-changers. This movie is non-linear, non-narrative and yet moves with compelling clarity and connectivity through the 1950s Liverpool childhood of its maker. This is a Liverpool with no Strawberry Fields and Penny Lanes. This is a working-class Liverpool with oppressive Catholicism where being 'other' is a burden, if not a curse. And yet the film exudes compassion and tenderness. Everything Davies does--from camera angles to music selection--resonates with perfection. When I think of supremely well-crafted films, I think of directors like Orson Welles and, now, Terence Davies. If you have a DVD library, this masterpiece belongs in it. Criterion has done its usual flawless job with transfer and packaging.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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This very personal work of art from Filmmaker Terence Davies is one of the greatest "memory films" ever. Those with no attention span or patience should avoid at all costs. The Blu Ray transfer is a perfect representation of the original film. Finally, a title that was never available on DVD gets its due.