Distant Voices, Still Lives

Liverpool has an unusual gravity. Witness Davies's richly detailed portrait of working-class life and you'll feel the extreme pull of the Liverpudlian past. It's an homage to (and a forgiveness of) the daily trepidations of growing up in a brute household, ruled over by a stern father (the grand Pete Postlethwaite) and a doting mum (Freda Dowie). But Davies also finds strange comfort in this “distant” and fading abode of the forties and fifties. The sibling bonds, the familiarity of shared diversions, the gathering experience of class and culture, all these things accumulate a weight that is a burden and an embrace. Davies, who won the Critics' Prize at Cannes for this extraordinary film, regains the past through remembered moments seamlessly entwined in a web of fervent associations. The resonance is bolstered by popular songs, often issued in the lively voices of the film's characters. Swinging between joyful weddings and melancholic funerals like the end points of a pendulum, Distant Voices, Still Lives recalls a very human time.

Distant Voices, Still Lives is repeated on Saturday, February 23, for a shot-by-shot discussion.

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