Terence Davies’ masterpiece (and the best British film ever made) excels on numerous levels: as an intimate investigation into the persistence of memory; as a comprehensive depiction of working-class life; as a dynamic tribute to cinema itself. The following clips highlight one of the strongest weapons in Davies’ directorial arsenal – his use of music. Whether emancipating incarcerated sentiments or exposing bitter ironies, Davies’ musical choices elevates his emotional panorama to a grandiose realm in which his feature soars as a powerful proletarian ballad; its transformative power far exceeding those of the Tinseltown fantasies that inspired his vision.
“Takin’ a Chance on Love”
Davies’ justly-renowned treatments of working-class life are imbued with affection and nostalgia, sculpted as they are upon narratives of remembrance. But the director isn’t one to shy away from the raw brutality of the everyday. This sequence displays his mastery of irony, juxtaposition and audience manipulation at its most profound – and in doing so, offers an insight into the illusive manner in which our minds first process and then memorialise their suppressed ghosts.
“Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing”
Davies’ devotion to the cinema is wonderfully infectious, and in this elegiac sequence he draws from the Hollywood escapism of his youth to compose a heartfelt tribute to the audience experience – exalting the transformative power of his beloved medium and marvelling at its ability to shape the way in which we view the world around us, whilst recognising that the Technicolor euphoria of Hollywood will remain forever unavailable to his blue-collar Liverpudlians.
“I Wanna Be Around”
The collective voice enables the individual one in this stirring scene. Terence Davies coerces his characters – particularly his abused and heartbroken heroines – into situations where solidarity can drive them towards personal expression. The director’s gentle, camp sensibilities favour the use of song as a means to that end – and such is the case with this rendition of “I Wanna Be Around”, in which the entire filmic world seems to temporarily pause as a lifetime of suppressed sentiments come to the fore on behalf of mistreated women everywhere. However, the cathartic elation induced by this performance promises a reprieve that it cannot deliver; the misogynistic males that provoke this emotive outpouring will continue to exist long after the defiance ends. The look of sombre resignation upon the songstress’ face after her impassioned stand reaches its closure says all that we need to know about the long-term viability of her escapism.