Close Up

2 - 24 November 2023: Close-Up on Terence Davies


One month on from his passing, we pay tribute to the late Terence Davies with a selection of four of his films. “[Davies] career, filled with some of the greatest movies of the past forty years, has always seemed just to be getting started, and, to the end, he kept the exuberant bearing of youth. He was past forty when he made his first feature, Distant Voices, Still Lives one of the most original of all début features – and he only made eight more, not because he worked slowly but because the money was slow in coming. Although Davies was among the most accomplished of filmmakers, he remained a perpetual beginner, always on the verge of breaking out but never quite getting there. He reached old age with too few films made – a grievous loss to the history of cinema – but with the ardour, the urgency, and the curiosity of youth unabated. He never made a “late” film; no work of his suggests a detached philosophical overview or a foot in the beyond. The paradoxes and complexities of his character run through his output and his life – and they were also very much on the surface, on public display.” – Richard Brody


The Terence Davies Trilogy
Terence Davies, 1984, 94 min

“Davies’ first films were a series of three narrative shorts that collectively construct a portrait of fictional alter ego Robert Tucker, who like Davies is the product of an impoverished Liverpool Catholic family. The semi-autobiographical first two films, Children and Madonna and Child, introduce the concerns that will also inform Davies’ first two features: a childhood shadowed by bullying and an abusive father, the father’s death, and the struggle to accept and assume one’s homosexuality.  The remarkable third short, Death and Transfiguration imagines Tucker’s waning days in a geriatric ward, where the night nurse’s flashlight becomes heaven-sent illumination.” – Harvard Film Archive


Distant Voices, Still Lives
Terence Davies, 1988, 85 min

Distant Voices, Still Lives unfolds as a series of tableaux based on moments from Davies’ family life growing up, creating a searingly intimate portrait of working-class Liverpool in the late 1940s and 1950s. Focusing on the real-life experiences of his mother, sisters and brother, Davies presents a household torn apart by a violent father and reunited in their fear and hatred of him. It was this film that announced the importance of music in Davies’ work – whether encountered over the radio, in pub sing-alongs or blasting directly from the film’s soundtrack – and above all confirmed his ability to tell stories visually.” – Harvard Film Archive


The Long Day Closes
Terence Davies, 1992, 85 min

The Long Day Closes is the most gloriously cinematic expression of the unique sensibility of Terence Davies. Suffused with both enchantment and melancholy, this autobiographical film takes on the perspective of a quiet, lonely boy growing up in Liverpool in the 1950s. But rather than employ a straightforward narrative, Davies jumps in and out of time, swoops into fantasies and fears, summons memories and dreams. A singular filmic tapestry, The Long Day Closes is an evocative, movie-and music-besotted portrait of the artist as a young man.” – Janus Films


Of Time and the City
Terence Davies, 2008, 72 min

Of Time and the City is an illuminating and heartfelt work, powerfully evoking life in post-war Britain while exploring the nature of love, memory, and the toll that the passing years takes on the cities and communities that we cherish. This is no simple documentary; it is an entrancing piece of autobiographical cinema that reaches far beyond the city in which it is set, weaving a rich tapestry from archive and contemporary footage, music, voice, literary quotation, personal reminiscence and wickedly funny observation.