For Reel

The Long Day Closes (1992)
March 26, 2012, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Terence Davies

What has been called Terence Davies’ second autobiographical trilogy – preceded by Distant Voices and Still Lives, two short films which were released together as his first feature in 1988 – concludes with his masterpiece, The Long Day Closes. Like Distant Voices, Still Lives, he sets his focus on Liverpool, here about a decade after the end of the war. Whereas the previous film had no surrogate for Davies – in fact, that film doesn’t have a particularly strong sense of character outside of the memorably vicious father – the young boy at the center of The Long Day Closes is clearly a substitute for the filmmaker. An early shot shows the boy longingly glancing at a shirtless bricklayer. With beautiful economy, Davies articulates his burgeoning identity as a homosexual, and the subsequent guilt that he feels because of it (later, the same bricklayer is seen in the boy’s daydreams as Christ on the cross). The film’s most memorable sequence occurs near the end of the picture. “Tammy”, the song sung by Debbie Reynolds in 1957’s Tammy and the Bachelor, plays on the soundtrack as the audience of a cinema is presented in an overhead shot that slowly pans from right to left. This dissolves into a similar shot of church-goers from above, and finally dissolves again into students in a classroom. Davies is a master at finding poetry in the ordinary, exemplified no better than in such a montage – as Jonathan Rosenbaum points out, his achronological style favors “emotional continuity over narrative continuity.” This could be called one of the finest coming-of-age pictures, although categorizing it as such does a tremendous disservice to its incomparable sense of invention and discovery.