Distant Voices, Still Lives Review

Terence Davies’ wonderful debut Distant Voices, Still Lives is 30 years old and was recently re-released in cinemas following a 4K remaster. You can read the full review here. This scrubbed-up version is now available on Blu-ray too, from The BFI, who have always enthusiastically championed Davies’ work throughout his career such that he won’t be forgotten as a distant voice himself. It’s a sad fact that the support is needed, but at least it’s there and we can be thankful that his unique and singular style is once again at the fore of British cinema. Distant Voices, Still Lives might be getting on a bit and the story is set in the 1950s, yet it is relevant still. More important than ever, perhaps.



The Blu-ray features a new introduction to the film by Mark Kermode and Davies’ own commentary from the 2007 DVD release. From the same year is an archive interview by Geoff Andrew and a Q&A with Davies from this year’s re-release, also hosted by Andrew. The art director, Miki van Zwanenberg is interviewed too, discussing the visual legacy of the film and how it has influenced British cinema since.

It doesn’t sound like a remarkable bundle of extras features, but there is probably no other filmmaker who invests himself so much within his own work and is a charming, brutally honest raconteur too. The Q&A from a recent screening is particularly entertaining.



For those familiar with the film, the new transfer is a treat. The source is pushed to the limit, but the grain is never a distraction and the payoff is a hitherto unappreciated level of detail, colour and contrast. And for a film that will evoke such nostalgia in viewers that will recognise their own history in the story or that of their families, the smallest details stick in the mind. Audio too is simple, but effective. Your surround setup will be rarely stretched, yet a story with such a quiet focus in character dialogue and full of sing-a-longs nevertheless has a subtle quality.

Here’s hoping The Long Day Closes gets similar treatment in a couple of years when it too reaches a 30 year anniversary. Terence Davies is the heart of British cinema and his legacy is in very fine hands with The BFI.



EXTRA FEATURES

  • Q&A from 2018 with Geoff Andrew (32m)
  • Interview from 2007 (20m) also with Geoff Andrew. 
  • Interview with Miki van Zwanenberg (7m)
  • Images of Liverpool in Archive film (62m approximately)
  • Trailers/image gallery
  • Commentary by Terence Davies from 2007
  • New introduction to the film by Mark Kermode

Film
9 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
7 out of 10
Extras
7 out of 10
Overall

Affecting, rewarding and a gem of this and any other era. Invest in the Blu-ray, you won't be disappointed.

8

out of 10

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