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Sunday, February 9, 2014

THE LONG DAY CLOSES Criterion Review

Courtesy of The Criterion Collection
Criterion DVD Review
1992, 85 minutes
Not rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Terence Davies' The Long Day Closes is reality filtered through memory and the magic of the camera lens.  A magnificent, symphonic piece of filmmaking if there ever was one, The Long Day Closes, is a virtually plotless look through Davies' memories of his adolescence in Liverpool, England.  Through sound clips of classic films, music of the 1950s, and Michael Coulter's hazy cinematography, the Liverpool of Davies' childhood comes to life.

This film looks like the result of someone's childhood memories being projected directly from brain to screen.  The Long Day Closes is a truly magnificent vision of a bygone era featuring strong performances and rich production design by Christopher Hobbs.  What astounds me about Davies' films is the meticulous, yet natural way in which they are constructed.  Each fade, cut, and sequence fits beautifully into the next one, creating a movie that is pure cinema.

Davies explores what could be called the honeymoon period of his life in The Long Day Closes.  In an insightful interview with Davies on the disc, he talks about his abusive father and the weight that lifted on his family after his death.  Following the death was a period of happiness, depicted in this film.

Davies shows an obvious reverence towards this period of his life in this film, yet he also shows the dark side.  He was bullied and was beginning to discover his homosexuality.  This caused anguish in Davies' life, but in the movie, he doesn't let those aspects overshadow the more wondrous aspects of his childhood.  In one of the most magical sequences of the film, the young Davies character, Bud (Leigh McCormack), goes to the movies.  He sits in the seat in the very front of the balcony, head on his hands with a look of bliss on his face.  The camera moves down and just before it goes below the balcony, the image fades into an out-of-focus shot of what looks like a ferris wheel as the exuberant music swells  before breaking into a song of merriment and fun as a carnival is introduced to us.  Lovely, vivid sequences like these are littered throughout the movie, making it a complete pleasure to watch.

Included on the disc is a 1992 episode of The South Bank Show, a British TV show that featured an interview with Terence Davies along with behind-the-scenes footage of filming The Long Day Closes and interviews with actor Leigh McCormack and production designer Christopher Hobbs.  In a very open interview, the surprisingly funny Davies gives deeper insight into his childhood.  I don't want to give a point-by-point account of the episode because there would be no point in you watching if I detailed the entire thing here.  Additionally, there is a new 20-minute interview with Christopher Hobbs.  Many of us rarely think about the importance of the production designer, but they are invaluable to a film like The Long Day Closes.  Listening to Hobbs talk about the enormous amount of craft that went into designing the production gave me a new appreciation for production designers' work.  Also included is an interesting interview with former head of the BFI Production Board and executive producer of The Long Day Closes, Colin MacCabe.  The BFI Production Board funded Davies' first films.  Finally, there is an audio commentary by Davies and Coulter that I did not get a chance to listen to, however, given what a personal project this film was, I have no doubt that it is nothing less than riveting.

Overall, The Long Day Closes is a unique piece of filmmaking from one of the most distinctive voices in cinema today.  With The Long Day Closes and subsequent films like The Deep Blue Sea, Davies has established himself as a filmmaker who has an unmatched ability to connect with and recreate his past.  The Long Day Closes is a loving film and one that should be seen by all.  This Criterion edition looks beautiful and, while the film won't be for everyone, it should be seen by fans of more meditative cinema and those looking for something a bit different.

Film: 3.5/4
Special Features: 3.5/4
Overall: Not worth a blind-buy, but if you're a fan, this is a must-have

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