The Long Day Closes (1992)
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Memory sometimes reduces things into metonymy, and this could be used to explain the beautiful simplicity of the visuals- usually emphasising a certain aspect of living- time passing, light hitting a surface etc... bringing it out of obscurity and making the viewer focus singularly on that aspect... which is why this film could be labelled transcendental. Things that pass, or are taken for granted in everyday life transcend themselves in this film.
If you have enjoyed this film I would strongly recommend that you see 'Distant Voices, Still Lives' as well as the great works of directors such as Robert Bresson and Andrei Tarkovsky- examples of other directors whose gaze turns life into poetry.
One thing further to be said is that it documents a mid-century English childhood, which is necessarily limited in its universality. I was personally appalled at what a young British boy had to live through, in that time and place. Having grown up in America just a decade earlier, I can authoritatively say that the contrast is immense. I cannot help wondering if this contrast has had some effect on those reviewing the film so favorably. In other words, could there be a tendency to judge the film entirely on its 'filmic magic' (which I acknowledge is there) and completely ignore its lack of relevance to the nature of one's actual recalled experience?
"The Long Day Closes" depicts in a particularly effective and evocative way, the cinema as a place of worship and a source of inspiration.
Watching the film, in one sitting, I thought the "Tammy" part was a highlight -- it had me guessing about where "Bud" was: church, school It also moved the setting up to 1957 (I looked up the Debbie Reynolds movie); earlier, I thought the film might take place in the 1940s. Marjorie Yates and the supporting cast were wonderful. The "crucifixion" scene was most startling; it suggests Christianity may have inflicted more harm than good, on this family. Still, nothing really happened to get me interested what was going on, in the story, I am only a child, myself. I will, absolutely watch for the name Terence Davies, and look for his other work; he is a phenomenal filmmaker, obviously.
******* The Long Day Closes (5/22/92) Terence Davies ~ Leigh McCormack, Marjorie Yates, Anthony Watson
I felt somewhat the same way at first until I realized what Terence Davies was doing: He was filming childhood memories and fantasies exactly as he recalled them, with an emphasis on the differences between 1990s Britain and the Britain of his childhood: his sisters washing their hair in the sink and then going out on bicycles on a Saturday evening, homemade musical entertainments, and so on. Some memories were fragmentary, while others were more extensive.
Once I realized what he was doing, I just sat back and let the beautifully shot images and evocative music flow over me. It was like peeking into someone else's mind and living bits of his everyday life. The movie stayed with me for a long time, and I began delving into my own childhood memories, wondering what they would look like on film.
Most of the brilliance regarding those scenes lie in just how much is revealed and when. The boy at the centre of the film is Bud (McCormack), an eleven year old in 1950s Liverpool as living at home, school, trips to the cinema and general loneliness lie within and around him. Some scenes are longer and more drawn out than others, echoing that some memories within us are longer or clearer than others. Most glimpses of past times within our sub-conscious are brief affairs: something someone said; a particular emotion when something happened; an expression on someone's face. Here, Davies fleshes out some but shies away from others and whilst this isn't a robbing of the audience, what it is, is evidence to support this is as true-a depiction as possible based on the makers own recollections.
Some scenes in particular I'm reminded of is the sequence during which a school teacher stands at a blackboard and outlines different types of erosion. The take is much longer than most others and particular details are fed to us, much in the same manner with a conversation between two people in the kitchen about half way through when one of them begins to do impressions of famous people particular emphasis is drawn to fine details, something the film does not feed us an awful lot of so when it does, it stands out.
A scene that works in favour of Davies' approach that points out some occasions are more memorable to this boy than others is a scene in which an immigrant from the Caribbean accidentally enters the family's property and is ushered out in a hostile manner. The film pauses for the recollection of this memory but does not linger for the aftermath when tensions have been risen and degrees of aggression and urgency have come about during which certain family members must've interacted with one another about the event. Maybe they did, but Bud (or Davies) does not remember and we don't get to see them, even if they probably did occur.
So rather than robbing the audience of what might've been quite an interesting scene, Davies uses his artistic license to skip over such scenes and move on. When it comes to the British film industry and our 'period' films or 'heritage' films that recount years gone by, the usual first port of call is the Merchant Ivory department or something like Elizabeth or Pride and Prejudice. While these are all fine and everything, it is period films like The Long Day Closes that will always be better; as a recounting of events by someone who was actually there and is documenting what it was like to grow up and, ultimately, live at a specific time. While Pride and Prejudice is all fine and good, it does veer more towards escapism than anything because no one that is around either now or was in 2005, will ever know first hand what it was like living at the time these period dramas were set. Davies' film is the more honest, the more realistic, the more enjoyable and, ultimately, the more memorable film.
The film's key scenes that permit familiarity lie in the iconography of doors and windows, enabling Bud to 'look' out of them or enter through them as Davies 'looks' back and documents. The rain blows in and the snow rages by, maybe there was an occasion it was heavier one day than the last. Doors we make our way through the dining room doors and we see the family readying to eat a Christmas dinner; such an image is no doubt part of the narrator's memory, as it may be with everyone's. Perhaps we all remember a particular storm from our childhood that was more vicious than any other, or a snowfall that was the deepest we'd ever seen. Davies does, it seems, and he brings it to a cinema screen using the approach that he does.
One of the more sly occasions that Davies includes is the scene in which I'm sure someone refers to Bud's mother as 'Mrs. Davies'. Such a citation surely emphasises further than most of this piece was based around Davies' childhood if the mother of the boy we're seeing it from was named as such. The Long Day Closes is very much worth the time, a recounting of 1950s Liverpudlian life as told by someone who was there, not a ho-hum escapist fable about romance between girls hundreds of years ago it is real and stylish and extremely rewarding.
On a budget, Davies employs so many creative tricks to recreate the 50s, sewn together by memories, through fading light and vignettes, choral music and period songs, and snatches of movie dialogue from the past.
The film is a paean to cinema and makes you feel nostalgic for a time and place you weren't even in.
The Long Day Closes is a genuine British masterpiece, a film in love with films and the sense of release and escape they can bring to mundane lives. Director Terence Davies re-creates in painterly detail the daily life of his 11 year old hero, and the specific time, when Britain was moving gradually away from post-war austerity and ration books, and daring to look forward to a more hopeful future. Bud's love affair with Hollywood, and the evocative, romantic pop songs that flood his house, function as more than mere nostalgia; they are formative sights and sounds in a young life. This understated but deeply emotional film captures its era with a melancholy affection. It was entered into the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.