It’s a standing reproach to the British film industry that Terence Davies, our supreme living film poet, has for years struggled to get any projects off the ground. Let’s hope the triumph at Cannes of his latest, Of Time And The City, signals a change. Meanwhile, the BFI have released a timely brace of DVDs: the three linked shorts comprising his Trilogy and the lyrical The Long Day Closes. They’re backed by substantial extras – including footage of Davies directing, with infinite gentleness and patience.
Both are strongly autobiographical, but in mood and look are utterly different. The Trilogy traces the life of tormented loner Robert Tucker from childhood to death. Like Davies, Tucker is gay and brought up Catholic. In Children (1976) he’s bullied at school and by his abusive dad; Madonna And Child (1980) sees him middle-aged, living with his widowed mum, creeping out at night for guilt-ridden gay sex; and in Death And Transfiguration (1983), the aged Tucker (Wilfrid Brambell) is dying in hospital.
Shot partly while Davies was at film school, the Trilogy is sometimes rough round the edges. The Long Day Closes, meanwhile, feels utterly assured. There’s no plot as such – just a series of vignettes from the life of another Davies-surrogate, 11-year-old Bud, in ’50s Liverpool. The rigours of school and church are mitigated by Bud’s all-embracing home life, shot through with a delight in popular culture. Filmmaking lit with the shimmer of memory.