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‘The Sacred and the Sublime’ -Terence Davies’ overlooked masterpiece The Long Day Closes at KFF2011

Posted by Daniel on March 7th, 2011 with 0 Comments

“Britain’s greatest living filmmaker” -The Evening Standard

Above, a beautiful sequence from Terence Davies‘ irresistable, autobiographical portrait The Long Day Closes screening at the Killruddery Film Festival this Saturday, the 12th of March.

“The Long Day Closes is a truly memorable film about the very peculiar spell the cinema holds on us. It was my own first choice for this year’s programme, a personal favourite that ties together many of the festival’s central themes” -Daniel Fitzpatrick, Festival Director

Boccherini’s minuet in G which accompanies the opening credits of Terence Davies’ 1992 film memoir, The Long Day Closes, exemplifies the style of music typically played to mark the commencement of some formal reception or ceremony. The image which acts as a backdrop throughout this introduction, a static shot of a vase of red and white roses, the petals of which have already begun to shed, deftly suggests the romantic and lyrical perspective on childhood revealed through the rest of the film. This extended shot serves both as pronouncement and reminder that film, like any stately or official occasion, is an elaborately constructed illusion, and however rooted it is in reality, its stories are subject to rigorous planning and consideration before they are ultimately unveiled before an audience.
From the outset, through snippets of dialogue taken from 1950s Hollywood films such as The Happiest Days of Your Life and an almost constant soundtrack of songs like Nat King Cole’s Stardust and Auld Lang’s Syne, we are granted access to a film-world perspective of a rainy post-war Liverpool. Davies introduces us a world coated in cinematic sparkle in which Bud, our 11 year old protagonist, becomes our eyes and our ears. Detached, isolated and perhaps traumatized by unspoken past events, Bud’s day-dreams carry this film from musical to memoir, regularly dipping into hallucinatory and dreamlike territory through vivid evocations of chocolate-box re-figurations of childhood landmarks, such as Christmas’, birthdays and most notably for Bud, trips to the cinema.
Long Day Closes explores Bud’s intimate and loving relationship with his mother, whose simultaneous strength and vulnerability quickly endear her to us. Theirs is a closeness which forms the central and most heartfelt aspect of this extremely moving film, and recalls in similarly subjective ways Andrei Tarkovsky’s exploration of themes relating to time, memory and childhood in his 1974 film Mirror. Both autobiographical works of film abandon the use of conventional linear narratives in favour of a kind of mirage of temporalities, which rather than presenting a realist view of childhood and the past, evoke the attempt to reach back to it through memory and reconstruction.
With suggestions of Bud’s confusion over his sexual as well as religious identity, which collide in imagined scenes of the crucifixion, this film expands upon the conventional territory explored in autobiographical fiction by highlighting Bud’s isolation through the indulgence of his fantasised view of reality. While both his peers and elder siblings seem to glide with ease out of the home and into more social settings, Bud remains within the confines of his bedroom, or within the walls of institutions like school or church, simultaneously trapped and liberated by his imagination. Moments of anxiety and loneliness are counterbalanced by the relief and solace which Bud draws not only from his mother but, just as importantly, from his regular trips to the cinema. The powerful effect movie-going has on the young boy’s development is captured through Davies’s highly expressive work here, his is a directorial style which deftly defies classification and positions him as one of the most imaginative, powerful and yet under-valued filmmakers alive today.
-Alice Butler

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