Sunday Bloody Sunday - Sunday Bloody Sunday( Blu Ray) [BFI - 2020]
From the BFI here’s Sunday Bloody Sunday- a well made, well-acted, at times artily edged & proactive 1970’s suburban drama- that focuses in on a love triangle between a young male artist, a well respected yet lonely male doctor, and a divorced female office worker. This recent Blu Ray release of the film takes in a new scan, a commentary track, and a good selection of extras.
Released in 1971, and shot in & around London- Sunday Bloody Sunday was the 6th film from highly respected Oscar-winning director & actor John Schlesinger- whose film before this had been Midnight Cowboy, and he’d go on to helm the likes of Marathon Man, Yanks, & Pacific Heights. The film’s wonderful lensed with a good mixture of well scoped dramatic interactions, moody shots of London parkland & middle-class suburban homes, and slightly more arty tech-focused imagery- there’s a big emphasis on phone exchange footage.
The film focuses in on young handsome, yet self-obsessed artist Bob Elkin (Murray Head)- he’s in a bed-hopping relationship with middle age Jewish Harley Street doctor Daniel Hirsh (Peter Finch), and Divorced workingwoman Alex (Glenda Jackson). The film follows ten days in the trio’s world, slowing their everyday life, their hopes & needs- and by the last weekend there's great change for all of them.
Through-out the acting and characterization of each the leads is perfect realized- Head is well picked as the charming, yet arrogant kingpin to the triangle. Finch is very convincing as the well thought of, but lonely & cloistered doctor, and Jackson plays well the strong-yet-emotionally lost office worker. The films suburban setting
moves from the doctors well-kept offices & flat, Jacksons muddled and quirky house, and Head's well lite flat- each is captured very well, with off course the expected 70’s brown pallet. We also get some nice shots of Londons more central parkland, and the already mentioned Telephone exchange- as the characters have answering services here, and of course their calls go through it.
The film rolls in at the hour & fifty-minute mark, and largely you are kept locked in & involved in the film's story. The use of the day-by-day structure works well for the film's flow, as well as making nice visual full stops for the trios liaison & shifting tensions. I’d say if you enjoy well-acted drama with a fairly provocative edge, and of course, a very 1970’s setting/ feel- you’ll enjoy Sunday Bloody Sunday- through I do think the film's title is somewhat misleading- as from it you'd expect maybe a film about the Irish troubles in the ’70s, or a proto-slasher- and the finished product is, of course, no way near either of those.
Moving onto this new Blu Ray presentation of the film- and first off the new scan looks marvelous, with a real depth & clarity about it. On the extras side, we get a commentary track from author & critic Amy Simmons- here she starts off discussing John Schlesinger's directing career, & how the films plot was semi-autobiographical as he was in a similar love triangle. She goes onto talk about the film's importance in homosexual cinema- as it was one of the first to portray a gay character in a balanced non-sensational manner. As the track goes on she discusses actors chosen & those who nearly had roles, before going onto discuss key scenes and a potted history of Populus homosexual cinema. It’s a very well researched & informative track- though at times it comes across a little dry & humorless.
Next, we get two around half-an-hour on-camera interviews- the first is with actor Murray Head, and the second is with cameraman Billy Williams- these two, and the commentary are the only new extras here.
Of the previously released/archive extras- we have two early films by John Schlesinger, and both are in black & white. First & the longest is The Starfish- it's from 1950, and runs just over forty-five minutes. This is a family fantasy film based in Cornwall- which sees a middle-class family going to visit a small cornish fishing village, where there's a legend of a Sea witch. The film comes over like a mix of Famous Five meets low-budget creature feature, as a group of children try & uncover the truth behind the witch & how it captures/ attacks anyone that damages starfish. The sea witch does appear a few times, and when we first see it’s rather unsettling- it gets caught up in a fisherman's net- and it’s crone faced with big teeth & talon-like hands, but it is a little overused. On the whole, the films an interesting enough curio.
The second film is 1956 Sunday In The Park- this runs at fifteen minutes, and is a snapshot of Londoners at rest & play on a Sunday.
We get a 105-minute audio interview with the director from 1977, and few other shorts- the finished release comes with a booklet featuring new writing from Simon McCallum and Kieron McCormack.
All in all, if you enjoy well written & realistic British dramas, or want to get a good snapshot of middle-class London life in the 1970’s I think you’ll enjoy Sunday Bloody Sunday- and you get a good selection of interesting extras too, which is always nice- so all told another worthy release from the BFI.Roger Batty