Davies. Terence Davies delivers the harsh realities of life in a swooningingly lyrical style. His resume includes a top 500 film, 3 films in the top 100 of their respective decade (and The Long Day Closes and The House of Mirth aren’t far off from making it 5). Davies makes clear and consistent aesthetic choices as well. He makes period films that feel like they’re evoked reminiscences rather than reality (even though they are often dismal and dark). There is a vintage crisp photography and immaculate mise-en-scene staging with each film.
Best film: Distant Voices, Still Lives. Still his most boldly visionary and greatest work.
total archiveable films: 5
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Distant Voices, Still Lives)
top 100 films of the decade: 3 (Distant Voices, Still Lives, Sunset Song, The Deep Blue Sea)
most overrated: I hesitate to say it as I really need two viewings of any Davies’ film (the second viewing of Sunset Song solidified it for me) but I wasn’t blown away by for first viewing of A Quiet Passion and that is #16 of 2016 on the TSPDT consensus list of the best films of the 21st century. Perhaps coming off of 2015’s Sunset Song just the previous year I was bringing that baggage/expectations in and was too hard on it. Davies has two films in the TSPDT top 1000 overall list and I’m good with those- Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes.
most underrated: Sunset Song easily! I have it as #52 of the 2010’s decade and, unbelievably, it cannot even find a slot on the TSPDT top 1000 of the 21st century- damn. It is shot in 65mm and look at the results— spectacularly luminescent.
gem I want to spotlight: The Long Day Closes. It confirms the brilliance of Davies’ and proves that Distant Voices, Still Lives wasn’t going to be his last word. Davies’ adds these superb overhead shots to his formal repertoire of shot choices.
stylistic innovations/traits: Davies’ seems to be inspired by memory and antique photography. There’s almost a texture to them. The décor of his films is painstakingly curated and it pays off—some of the richest mise-en-scenes in recently cinematic history. He often goes to the tableau shots (Greenaway did this around the same time, Wes Anderson after, Dreyer at times before). The content of his films (you have to mention the brilliant formal choice of the singing in Distant Voices, Still Lives) are often about the hardships of reality (poverty, abuse) while his photography is on par with the greatest of auteurs. It was extremely easy to find these images on the page—what was harder was to limit it down to less than 20 standouts.
- Distant Voices, Still Lives
- Sunset Song
- The Deep Blue Sea
- The Long Day Closes
- The House of Mirth
By year and grades
|1988- Distant Voices, Still Lives||MS|
|1992- The Long Day Closes||HR|
|2000- The House of Mirth||HR|
|2011- The Deep Blue Sea||HR|
|2015- Sunset Song||HR/MS|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
directors you should think about coming up are michael bay, tobe hooper, john hughes, and cameron crowe.
i know bay isn’t a critical gem but he makes great satires and understands action better than most. the rock is probably bay’s best but i also love armageddon and transformers 4. as for tobe hooper, more is for my love for texas chainsaw massacre, a horror masterpiece which is probably the best slasher ever. john hughes isn’t visual but ferris is one of my all time favorites, and planes trains plus breakfast club and uncle buck are all great (great screenwriter). i know you don’t agree but to me vanilla sky is a masterpiece and other films like say anything are good as well (authorship/consistency).
@m— Strong suggestions! Man do I love John Hughes films in particular. I rewatch them all the time. I do think that The Rock is Bay’s best, too.
I’ve been on a Terence Davies kick recently and was totally blown away by Distant Voices, Still Lives. Not only gorgeously shot, but just so formally rigorous in its narrative structure and motifs.
I also recently discovered he has another film coming out later this year called Benediction, based on the life of a First World War poet. Peter Capaldi is playing the lead role and I couldn’t be more excited for that. I was a big fan of his work in Doctor Who, he can really bring gravity to monologues which I suspect we may get a few of if he’s let loose with reading poetry.
I’ve just wrapped up my mini study by watching Deep Blue Sea and Sunset Songs today (definitely a bleak day)
1. Distant Voices, Still Lives – MP
2. The Long Day Closes – MP
3. The Deep Blue Sea – HR
4. Sunset Song – HR
5. Benediction – R
Davies is certainly one of Britain’s strongest living forces behind the camera.
@Drake – did you wind up giving any other films a MS or higher grade that you think I should rush to see?
@Harry- Very nice- haha- bleak indeed. I think A Quiet Passion is much stronger than I thought after my first viewing- but no, no other film MS or higher
@Drake – who do you think has a stronger case for being a top 100 director: Davies or Leigh?
@Harry- I think they both have a strong case. I would really have to set aside the time right now to make a stronger case for one or the other. I think they should be close to the top 100 and close to each other.
Did you upgrade The House of Mirth on your recent revisit? Is it a HR/MS Or MS. Since The Deep Blue Sea is upgraded now to a MS grade.
@M*A*S*H- Not here- HR is right. It is a great film- but it is less elliptical and pictorial (probably because Davies felt indebted to the source material- which is understandable) than his best work.