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Sunday Bloody Sunday

Often when directors come off their most successful picture (be it critical or commercial) they find themselves making the movies they "really want to make" — which often end up stalling their career by doing little business and being a bit too obscure for vox populi. Later, it's often these films that become their most treasured output by fans and the critical community. And after winning a Best Director Oscar for 1969's Midnight Cowboy, one can see John Schlesinger's decision to make the 1971 character study Sunday Bloody Sunday as an abuse of that power. As written by then-critic Penelope Gilliat, the film is about the internal conflicts in the members of a lover's triangle. Glenda Jackson plays Alex Greville, a thirtysomething woman who helps people find jobs, and who's in love with artist Bob Elkin (Murray Head). She cares about him deeply but has to accept as part of their relationship that he's to be shared with his other lover, the doctor Daniel Hirsch (Peter Finch). Both Daniel and Alex are hurt they can't have Bob all to themselves, but Bob's an artist and doesn't want to be tied down, and he constantly talks of going to America. And that's pretty much the film. If you like watching movies that are more about people than plotting, then Sunday Bloody Sunday sort of works, but the characters don't really go anywhere or change particularly much. One can imagine the idea of filming "real life" over something more cinematically compromised would be appealing to Schlesinger, though the film is a bit boring — the two main characters whine and moan about not wanting to be without Alex, or being with him and frustrated they can't have all of him. What does make Sunday Bloody Sunday more than just an actor-ly exercise is Peter Finch's character: a homosexual who never behaves like a stereotypical homosexual, something complemented by Head's performance, which also avoids stereotypical behavior. Finch's character is a real human being who also just happens to be gay, and it's an awfully bold move for the time period and neat to watch; in fact it took over 15 years for American cinema to try something as daring. Schlesinger, who later outed himself, must have been pleased. Also of note is that Daniel Day Lewis has a bit part as a hooligan (though this writer didn't spot him). MGM presents Sunday Bloody Sunday in widescreen (1.66:1) in 2.0 mono. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.
—DSH



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