'Distant Voices, Still Lives: Special Edition'
(Pete Postlethwaite, Freda Dowie, Angela Walsh, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / (1988) 2018 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: Loosely based on the director's own family and upbringing, 'Distant Voices, Still Lives' presents an evocative account of working-class life in Liverpool, England during the 1940s and '50s.
Births, marriages and deaths and an expressive use of music provide the underpinning for a film that is beautiful, heartbreaking, resonant but never sentimental.
Blu-ray Verdict: Winner of the International Critics Prize at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, Terence Davies' feature debut heralded one of Britain's finest filmmaking talents.
Now regarded as a masterpiece of British cinema, and boasting a startling performance from Pete Postlethwaite (Romeo + Juliet, Inception) as the head of the family, Distant Voices, Still Lives has been treated to a glorious 4K restoration by the British Film Institute.
Among powerful films of the past quarter-century, none surpass this one for elegant and innovative design. Unfortunately, it will remain, it appears, a singular achievement, even among the works of Davies, for nothing he has since done approaches its power.
The inability to comprehend how and why a film works, although now an all-too-common failing among filmmakers, is in Davies's case uniquely sad, for the promise of this film was unprecedented.
Regardless, distinctly and brilliantly directed by British filmmaker Terence Davies, this heartrending, impressionistic and biographical period drama draws a profoundly moving portrayal of a Catholic family living in Kensington, Liverpool during and after the Second World War in the mid-20th century.
While notable for it's colorful milieu depictions, stellar production design by production designer Miki Van Zwanenberg and production designer and art director Jocelyn James, cinematography by cinematographer and film editor William Diver and cinematographer Patrick Duval, costume design by costume designer Monica Howe, editing by William Diver and use of music, this rarely effective and atmospheric coming-of-age story draws an intimate depiction of three siblings afflicting relationship with their patriarchal father and how his and his wife's separate ways of upbringing has shaped their lives, literary steams of love and compassion for it's locations and characters.
This rhythmic, lyrical and insightful journey through a filmmakers remembrance which is narrated from multiple viewpoints, is impelled and reinforced by it's fragmented narrative structure and the emphatic and heartfelt acting performances by English actor Pete Postlethwaite (1946-2011), actor Dean Williams, English actress Freda Dowie, actress Angela Walsh in her debut feature film role and English actress Lorraine Ashbourne in her debut feature film role.
Ergo, and in closing, 'Distant Voices, Still Lives' is an evocative, elegiac and poignant independent film which gained, among other awards, the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988. And deservedly so, as anyone who knows anything about film will tell you. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new 4K restoration, carried out by the British Film Institute
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Original stereo audio (uncompressed LPCM)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Commentary by writer-director Terence Davies
Interview with Davies
Interview with art director Miki van Zwanenberg
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Christina Newland plus archive essays