Sunday Bloody Sunday (The Criterion Collection)
Director - John Schlesinger
Cast - Murray Head, Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson
Country of Origin - U.K.
Discs - 1
Distributor - Criterion
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 10/29/12
The Film (5/5)
With his 1969 film Midnight Cowboy director John Schlesinger not only blew the minds of modern filmgoers and critics, but also garnered enough of a box office response to offer him carte blanche to make any project he saw fit. He decided to go the more personal route with his 2nd film Sunday Bloody Sunday which told the tale of a unique love triangle centered around sculpter Bob Elkin (Murray Head) who is dating (for lack of a better term) Jewish Physician Dr. Daniel Hirsh (Peter Finch) and a woman named Alex Greville (Glenda Jackson).
The film feels less about a story and more about an overarching mood, and the emotional development of the characters. All 3 characters understand their place in this relationship, both Dr. Hirsh and Alex are aware of, and actually know each other socially. Bob on the other hand is in the midst of a great artistic innovation, and may soon find his way to New York to sell it leaving both of them behind. Both Dr. Hirsh and Alex understand that this relationship is potentially fleeting, but are so enthralled by Bob that they are all to accepting of this fact, and allow themselves to stay in his company regardless of the potential outcome. Which in fact does occur at the films denouement leaving the pair (Dr. Hirsh and Alex) to face each other for the first time in the films running time, and conclude that they both indeed must move on.
Truffaut's Jules and Jim created quite a stir in the early 60's going so far as to creating waves with the Catholic Church for it's frank depiction of a menage a trois relationship. In the case of Truffaut's film it was 2 male friends sharing one woman over a period of 25 years. Only 8 years later Schlesinger would come out with Sunday Bloody Sunday a much more modern love triangle, that appears to have courted a similar controversy at the time of release.
The film could have been considered shocking at the time for it's frank depiction of a bisexual love triangle, and the frank depiction of the gay relationship between the 2 male leads. However, rather than feel shocking one is left by the maturity of the material from all sides. The overwhelming desire of both Alex and Dr. Hirsh to share their time with Bob that they are willing to allow a relationship outside of there own without so much as cringing as Bob steps out to leave for a separate engagement. This maturity is, of course, sold with complete conviction by the films 3 leads. Who complete create living breathing characters out of what they were given.
Midnight Cowboy, Schlesinger's first film was a directorial tour de force in the late 60's film community. It was a fast and exciting piece of dramatic film that cemented the director as one of his generations great filmmakers. Sunday Bloody Sunday aside from an extremely well written screenplay by the director sees him step up his game, for a much more mature and beautiful looking film that may be the director's finest work overall. Sunday Bloody Sunday outside of it's social themes is an absolutely splendid piece of dramatic cinema, and although frequently overshadowed by the director's first work is worthy of every bit of attention it receives.
Criterion does what can only be described as a magnificent job bringing Sunday Bloody Sunday to the Blu-ray format. This transfer successfully captures the mood of the film, and brings to the format excellent detail throughout, but especially in the films many close-ups. The use of color throughout is fantastic, and truly pops from the screen, black levels are solid, flesh tones are accurate, and a healthy level of grain permeates the screen. There is also a nice warm tone to the whole film that was not noticeable on prior versions of the film.
Criterion has presented Sunday Bloody Sunday with a English LPCM 1.0 audio track that truly does the job. The dialogue is clean, crisp, and clear throughout as is the music. There is no audio issues such as pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Criterion have put together quite a nice extras package for their release of Sunday Bloody Sunday. The disc has a series of cast and crew interviews from the primary participants including an AFI interview with John Schlesinger recorded in 1975, and running about 14 minutes in length. A 8 minute exclusive interview with Murray Head recorded for Criterion in 2012, we then get another exclusive interview with cinematographer Billy Williams that runs 14 minutes. The final exclusive in the Cast and Crew segment is with Luciani Arrighi the Production Designer of the film. We then have an interview with Michael Childers longtime partner of John Schlesinger who discusses the genesis of films like Midnight Cowboy and Sunday Bloody Sunday. We then get a 25 interview with the author William J. Mann who discusses the history and controversy surrounding Sunday Bloody Sunday. The disc is rounded off by the films trailer, and the set includes an excellent set of liner notes.
Sunday Bloody Sunday is an excellent second feature from director John Schlesinger. Criterion has presented the film in a glorious Blu-ray restoration, with a nice slate of extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.