John Schlesinger‘s Sunday Bloody Sunday (Criterion Bluray, 10.23) is one of the saddest, most natural-seeming, most satisfyingly worked-through adult relationship movies ever made. It arrived in 1971, at the beginning of that great ’70s streak that everyone looks back upon now with such fondness and lament.
The chances of such a film being made today in this country or the UK even — first-rate actors, sublime screenplay, unsentimental, strewn with subtle human truths — are almost nil. The culture has changed, the business models aren’t there…it’s shattering when you think about it. Okay, a film like this could be made, but where are the recent adult-level dramas that work as well?
Sunday is “an almost perfect realization of Penelope Gilliatt‘s original screenplay, which is, I think, just about the best original screenplay since Eric Rohmer‘s Claire’s Knee,” wrote N.Y. Times critic Vincent Canby. “Gilliatt…has the extraordinary ability to create intelligent characters who don’t sound like mouthpieces, to capture those looks and sounds of the surface of things that suggest the universes just beneath, and to write dialogue that is simultaneously rueful and funny, and as spontaneous as love itself.”
I love the moment at the very end when Peter Finch, playing a gay Jewish doctor who’s in love with young male sculptor (Murray Head) who is also openly seeing Glenda Jackson‘s 30ish divorcee, breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the camera.
“When you’re at school and you want to quit, people say ‘You’re going to hate it out in the world.’ Well, I didn’t believe them and I was right. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to be grown up, and they said ‘Childhood is the best time of your life.’ Well, it wasn’t. And now, I want his company and they say, ‘What’s half a loaf? You’re well shot of him’; and I say ‘I know that…but I miss him, that’s all’ and they say ‘He never made you happy’ and I say ‘But I am happy, apart from missing him.
“All my life, I’ve been looking for somebody courageous, resourceful. He’s not it…but something. We were something.”
The Sunday Bloody Sunday Bluray (presented in a 1.66 to 1 aspect ratio, which is no doubt making 1.85 aspect ratio fascists seethe with rage the world over) has been reviewed by DVD Beaver and Bluray.com. Those sites always get first looksees. I’ve been told I’ll eventually receive a review copy. I certainly hope so. I really love this film. I consider its re-emergence to be one of the major cinematic events of 2012. Truly.