Review - Distant Voices, Still Lives


Freda Dowie in Distant Voices, Still Lives

Freda Dowie in Distant Voices, Still Lives

 

 

A re-release from one of the most distinctive cineastes in British film. Terence Davies’s 1988 maundering autobiographical film (“It all happened… I had to tone down the violence of my dad”, Davies told The Guardian) is set in the Liverpool of his youth and is more an impressionistic montage of vibrant tableaux vivants than a drama with a traditional structure. It’s a two part affair, the first half concentrating on the brutish, violent dad (Pete Postlethwaite), long suffering, sad-eyed mum (Freda Dowie) and their three kids – as wartime austerity starts to crack and the good times of the late 1950s start to make their presence felt, which is the theme of the second half. It was photographed in a distinctive “bleach bypass” process, which reduces colour saturation and increases contrast, one of Davies’s perennial concerns being the distorting effect of memory. Like its companion piece, The Long Day Closes, the film is shot through with music, from plaintive choirboys to pub singalongs, and works best as an evocation of the era when you could buy single cigarettes in the corner shop and rum and peppermint was a popular tipple down the boozer.

© Steve Morrissey 2007

 

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