Armond White: The Long Day Closes Is The Greatest Gay Film Ever Made

Filmmaker Terence Davies’ longing and sublime look back at his youth, now on Criterion.

BY Armond White

July 23 2014 5:00 AM ET

More than a pop song recital, the “Tammy” sequence portrays that special need and succor that lonely kids take from popular music. It is profoundly moving due to that extraordinary — gay — spiritual confession. Although it is also the farthest thing from camp insouciance, where pop pleasure is used to deny sincerity, it works without condemning the defensiveness of camp, that powerful transformation of the banal into the odd, weird, secret and subversive. Davies’s life story personalizes the deep love of pop culture as a life buoy that makes one laugh, cry and saves one’s life.

It is Bud’s wondering connection to the free, adult world that empowers the film’s childhood perspective. He appreciates his family for its sense of togetherness and sensitive acceptance of his individuality. The moments of Bud’s closeness to his mother, a loving widow with regrets (she sings “If I had my life to live over”), the sister for whom he buys “Evening in Paris” perfume and then sings a song (“A Couple of Swells”), and the brothers whose dating rituals he watches enviously or scrubs their muscular backs, take gay consciousness close to the edge of pathology yet dissolves all complication in unconditional love.

Seen today, The Long Day Closes is a paradigm of how gay artists and audiences can see and understand themselves — and of their connection to the larger world. It is an “art” film, meaning that Davies uses such storytelling conventions as slow-motion duration and an elliptical narrative structure that contradicts familiar, simplistic television and exploitation movies. Several times in the film Bud looks into the camera, connecting with a viewer’s remembered moments of oppression, shame and satisfaction. It is a serious viewing experience, but it is the best viewing experience of gay life. It is beautiful and profound enough to set a high-water level for subsequent films about gay life. All other gay movies can be judged by The Long Day Closes.

The Long Day Closes is remastered on Blu-Ray DVD by Criterion.

Photos courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

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