Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Long Day Closes (Terrence Davies, 1992)

***
UK



Through a thinly-veiled pubescent alter ego, Terrence Davies presents his memories of growing up poor and introverted in 1950s Liverpool. Essentially the film is a nostalgic selection of pop hits from the period stitched together with impressionistic vignettes of working-class life in post-war England the way it may have transpired in Davies' severely aestheticised brain. Interspersed throughout are hints of Davies Jr.'s conflicting feelings of affinity and isolation from his environment, defined as they are by his tight-knit family, the abuse he suffers at school and his encroaching desire for boys. There are also a couple of sequences meant to celebrate the escape and rapture that cinema can offer.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Davies' intentions - it's an interesting and imaginative enough conceit in stylistic terms. The trouble is in the execution. The prissy, self-conscious formalism very quickly grows suffocating. Every composition has the oxygen studied out of it, every scrap of dialogue is cutesy and simplistic, and every scene revolves around Leigh McCormack's vacant face that stares back at you the way a deer does at headlights. It's evocative of the film's overarching feel of crude, mannered preciousness. That said, some feeling does slip through the formalism and even at his most stunted, Davies can dazzle you enough to have his film stay with you for longer than other - perhaps even better - titles tend to.

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