Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Sunday Bloody Sunday

(UK, 1971)

It’s frequently the case that a movie that was ground-breaking and even a little shocking seems fairly ordinary after the passage of a few years. This one is more than forty years old now, and not nearly as revolutionary as it once seemed. It is a love triangle, two men (Peter Finch as a middle-aged doctor and Murray Head as a young sculptor) and a woman (Glenda Jackson), the twist being that both the woman and the doctor are in love with the bisexual young man. Remember, this was only a few years after the word “homosexual” was uttered aloud for the first time in a movie. To show two men in bed, embracing and kissing, was some pretty unusual stuff in 1971.

Not nearly so much today. Though the movie is still quite good, well-written by Penelope Gilliatt, who also was a film critic for the New Yorker for many years, directed with a lot of flair by John Schlesinger, and terrifically acted by Finch and Jackson, all four of whom were nominated for the Oscar. It’s just that it no longer has the power to shock. Still, I recommend it.

I found myself wondering whatever happened to Glenda Jackson. She was a total powerhouse in the ‘70s, with four Oscar nominations and two wins. Then she faded out from the movie scene, doing mostly small roles with here and there a larger part. What happened is that I had forgotten she went into politics as a Labour MP from the pretty far left wing. (She was no fan of Tony Blair, and refused to say anything nice about Margaret Thatcher when she died.) She has been in Parliament ever since, though she has recently announced her retirement at the end of her current term. Good for you, Glenda. I love movies, and I feel they are important, but trying to make a difference in politics is much harder, and more worthwhile.

An interesting bit of trivia: There’s a scene where three young assholes are going down a line of cars, using a broken bottle to scratch the paint. The tallest of them, on screen for all of five seconds … is Daniel Day-Lewis, age fourteen! He would not appear in another movie for nine years, and the rest is motion picture history. Five Oscar nominations and three wins!