Capital Celluloid - Day 115: Tuesday April 26

Distant Voices, Still Lives (Davies, 1988) & The Long Day Closes (Davies, 1992)
Cineworld Haymarket, 6.30pm

There's only one place you can be tonight. A fabulous double-bill as part of Time Out's celebration of British film, occasioned by the publication of their poll of the 100 best movies this country has produced. This promises to be a highlight of the magazine's season with Terence Davies making a guest appearance to introduce the films.

Here is an extract from The Long Day Closes.

Here are Dave Calhoun and Geoff Andrews' reviews in Time Out of these landmark British films. 

Distant Voices, Still Lives:

Superlatives are in short supply to describe the emotional power of Terence Davies’ fractured chronicle of the life of a working-class family in 1940s and ’50s Liverpool. Drawing on his own childhood, Davies turns his film on the pivot of a brutal patriarch’s death and his daughter’s subsequent marriage, so splitting his film into two episodes (which he filmed a year apart). The first, ‘Distant Voices’, is a set of difficult memories of childhood fear and wartime suffering that drift in and out of the wedding day, while its companion, ‘Still Lives’, portrays the life of a happier widow, her two daughters, a son and their friends who gather in pubs, sing and are beginning to suffer their own marriages. Pete Postlethwaite is Tommy Davies, the violent, damaged and taciturn father; Freda Dowie is Mrs Davies, his stoic wife and the suffering lynchpin of the family; and Angela Walsh is Eileen, the daughter whose marriage blows a gust of fresh air into the stale misery of her family but also threatens to follow the same tragic pattern as her parents.

Davies’ storytelling is a unique joy. Images evoke family photos and the struggle of recollection. Voices drift in and out, suggestive of family ghosts and inner demons. Chronology is poetic, and memories are filtered after the event like the film’s washed-out colour palette. The writer-director offers a terrifying tension between the public solidarity of pub sing-a-longs, marriage celebrations and mourning and the private horror of domestic abuse, depression and personal dreams sought and destroyed. The men are the most flawed, but the women, though the heroines of the piece, are compromised too: ‘Why did you marry him, mam?’ asks a daughter. ‘He was nice. He was a good dancer…’ It’s a heartbreaking work. Its cast are phenomenal; its songs flow through the film like blood; and Davies is unflinching in his hunt for truth and full of nothing but love and understanding for his characters. A masterpiece.


The Long Day Closes:

Like Distant Voices, Still Lives, Davies' final autobiographical film rings wholly true, due to the richness and the rightness of the allusions he makes through sets, costumes, dialogue, music, radio and cinema itself. Such is Davies' artistry that he shapes his material (an impressionistic series of brief, plotless scenes recalled from 1955-6, when he was about to leave junior school) into a poignant vision of a paradise lost. While economic constraints, school bullies, religious terror and barely-felt sexual longing are present, the accent is on the warmth 11-year-old 'Bud' receives from his family and neighbours. Indeed, it's primarily about the small, innocent but very real joys of being alive, recreated with great skill and never smothered by sentimentality. The stately camera movements; the tableaux-like compositions; the evocative use of music and movie dialogue; the dreamy dissolves and lighting - all make this a movie which takes place in its young protagonist's mind. Beautifully poetic, never contrived or precious, the film dazzles with its stylistic confidence, emotional honesty, terrific wit and all-round audacity.

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