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SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Glenda Jackson, Peter Finch, Murray Head, Peggy Ashcroft, Tony Britton, Maurice Denham, Bessie Love, Vivian Pickles
Director: John Schlesinger
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1
Studio: Criterion
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: October 23, 2012

I always expect Saturday to be the best day of the week.”

Film ***

Following the critical and awards success of Midnight Cowboy, director John Schlesinger decided to follow up with his most personal film to date. Intended to be every bit a boundary pushing as his 1969 predecessor, Sunday Bloody Sunday was indeed just such a film when released in 1971. And it is considered by many to be Schlesinger’s finest accomplishment to date.

The film, as written by Penelope Gilliatt, tells of a most intense love triangle set against London. Alex (Glenda Jackson) is a divorced thirty-something who is pretty much rejecting the entire idea of marriage at this point in her life. Daniel (Peter Finch) is a forty-something, openly gay Jewish doctor. These two don’t know each other, but they happen to share one thing in common: both are sleeping with the same man.

The man in question, Bob (Murray Head), is a man completely free of hang-ups. He goes from lover to lover without a single care, unaware of the effect it has on the feelings of either lover. The story takes place over the course of a week, thus constructing a neat narrative arc.

The story is not so much focused on Bob as it is Alex and Daniel, and understandably so since their emotions are being effected by the actions of the man they share. And as a result, Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch deliver two amazing, bold, emotionally felt performances. Murray Head (better known to the masses as the singer of the early 80s gem, “One Night in Bangkok”), on the other hand, isn’t as effective even with the minor role he has.

Having not been alive at the time it came out, it was a little hard for me to grasp on what made this film so groundbreaking and heavily acclaimed at the time. A lot of that may have to do with the misfortune of me having seen many similarly themed films made much later down the road. But I did take away from the film a great sense of realism thanks to the marvelous work from Jackson and Finch, and very much admired the personal touch from director John Schlesinger enough to admire a lot of what I saw.

Video ****

Criterion establishes yet another terrific HD release of 1970s film. The restoration is impeccably done, with everything from the color tone to overall picture clarity scoring high marks all across the board. London in this film is photographed quite intimately and the 1080p enhances this quality with true beauty. Billy Williams’ cinematography is nothing short of awe-inspiring when seen in the HD format. Once again, Criterion makes its mark as the first and foremost HD releasing studio preserving 1970s filmmaking.

Audio ***

This is a film simply devoted to its dialogue, so therefore the PCM mono mix delivers on what it can. But there are many sequences where multiple characters are talking at once, and the balancing is handled extremely well, resulting in extra points for the presentation. All in all a most rich sounding release, even in mono form.

Features ***

With this release, Criterion goes for the quality over quantity strategy of extras, and all are most fascinating, especially if you’re a devoted fan of Schlesinger. Included are new interviews with cinematographer Billy Williams, actor Murray Head, production designer Luciana Arrighi, John Schlesinger biographer William J. Mann, and Schlesinger's longtime partner, photographer Michael Childers. There’s also an illustrated 1975 audio interview with Schlesinger and the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer.

Lastly, like all great Criterion releases, there’s a booklet featuring an essay by cultural historian Ian Buruma and Penelope Gilliantt's 1971 introduction to her published screenplay.

Summary:

The late John Schlesinger is indeed one of the more provocative filmmakers we were graced with, especially in the late 60s/early 70s. Sunday Bloody Sunday is without question true evidence of that. And Criterion has made yet another tremendous Blu-ray release that serves as a terrific opportunity to discover or re-discover this personal story reflected on film.

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