Friday, January 14, 2011

A Great GLBT Film

This movie rarely turns up on GLBT lists, and I have no idea why. Sunday, Bloody Sunday is a superb 1971 British film directed by John Schlesinger, one of my all-time favorite directors, who won an Oscar for Midnight Cowboy, one of my all-time favorite films. (Schlesinger, by the way, was an openly gay man* who lived with his beloved partner for over 30 years.)

With a stellar cast headed by fellow Oscar-winners Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson (an extraordinary actor-turned-Labour Party MP), Dame Peggy Ashcroft, and Murray Head (who sang the role of Judas in the original Jesus Christ, Superstar album), Sunday, Bloody Sunday subtly examines the dynamics, and demise, of a triangle involving a straight woman, young bisexual man, and older gay man. I can't call it a "love triangle," because the bisexual man is far too self-involved to have significant feelings for either of his occasional partners. But therein lies the movie's emotional impact.

Following is a synopsis I ganked from Wikipedia and edited.

A Jewish doctor, Daniel Hirsh (Finch) and a professional woman, Alex Greville (Jackson) are both romantically involved with aspiring artist Bob Elkin (Head). Not only are Hirsh and Greville aware that Elkin is seeing them both, they know of each other through mutual friends. Despite this, they are willing to put up with the situation rather than risk losing Elkin, who switches freely and quite inconsiderately between them. The rivals' grace, courage, and vulnerability, as well as their genuine love for Elkin, stand in striking contrast to the young man's shallow opportunism.

For Greville, the relationship is bound up with a growing disillusionment about her life, and lingering issues related to her failed marriage and uneasy childhood. For Hirsh, it is, in part, an escape from the repressed nature of his Jewish upbringing. Only when Elkin decides to leave the country do his lovers come face to face -- a meeting all the more touching because it's devoid of melodrama.

The sex scenes in this movie are lovely, as wistful as they are sensual, and the leitmotif provided by the trio "Soave sia il vento" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte isn't just beautiful, it's heartwrenchingly appropriate.

God, I love this film. The acting is pitch-perfect, and the angst is underplayed yet keenly felt -- just the way I like it. You can pick up Sunday, Bloody Sunday dirt cheap, in either DVD or VHS format, at

* Here's a delightful anecdote about the rather portly director, also ganked from Wikipedia: "Sometime in the 1970s [Schlesinger] was in a New York bath house where the practice was for someone wanting a partner to leave the cubicle door open. This Schlesinger accordingly did, and lay monumentally on the table under his towel waiting for someone to pass by. A youth duly . . . ventured in, but seeing this mound of flesh laid out on the slab, recoiled, saying 'Oh, please. I couldn't. You've got to be kidding.' Schlesinger closed his eyes and said primly, 'A simple "No" will suffice'." Heh.


Lily said...

Sounds like an interesting movie.

And poor man. What a hurtful thing to say. "A simple "No" will suffice." I loved his reply though.

K. Z. Snow said...

It is, Lily, and not at all heavy-handed.

Yup, that was a pretty classy answer. :)

Tam said...

Hmm. I've heard of the title but I had no clue what it was about. I'm not much of a movie watcher but I'll keep an eye out for it.

K. Z. Snow said...

I love good movies as much as I love good books, Tam, but I'm not crazy about seeing them in theaters (too many distractions). In fact, I have a whole Rubbermaid bin full of VHS tapes that I can no way afford to replace with DVDs, so I'll just keep watching them until they fall apart. This is one.

Chris said...

Obviously the movie is not related to the song by U-2, since it predates the song... Oh, interesting - there's also a John Lennon & Oko Yono song of that name, which came out a year after the film. And the Bloody Sunday, that U-2 sang about didn't occur until the year after the film came out.

Tangent? What?

Veri word: redgin... like redrum, but less ominous in a mirror.

K. Z. Snow said...

I believe the title of the film was originally Bloody Sunday, but it was changed for a reason I can't remember.

Now go back to the caterpillar sitting on the mushroom and take another hit off that hookah before you go into buzz-fade.

Chris said...

Heh, no, this would be me in sinus hell mode... no drugs required.

K. Z. Snow said...

Ouch! Then go find the critter that dispenses legitimate meds. And pray for spring.

Chris said...

I don't really pray for any seasons for sinus relief, just for weather relief!

Val said...

Schlesinger closed his eyes and said primly, 'A simple "No" will suffice'."

Wow, good for him! I haven't heard this movie, but I was very impressed with Midnight Cowboy. I mean, Dustin Hoffman had a part to die for! Did he win an Academy Award for that? I know the film won Best Picture.

K. Z. Snow said...

Val, Hoffman didn't win the Oscar for his role as Ratso Rizzo -- as far as I'm concerned, one of the biggest miscarriages of Academy Awards justice there ever was. He lost to John effing Wayne (who, needless to say, pretty much just played himself again) in True Grit. I'm sure the award was more a nod to his longevity than his acting ability. Hoffman, however, turned in what I consider one of the best performance of his career.

I do urge everybody to snap up a copy of Sunday, Bloody Sunday. As I said earlier, they're a steal at