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4.6 out of 5 stars
Sunday Bloody Sunday
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65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2003
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
While I concur with many of the reviews posted here, there is not enough praise bestowed on the sublime Glenda Jackson, who remains the great lost actress of her generation. Though the recipient of two Oscars ("Women In Love", "A Touch of Class") and two other nominations ("Sunday.." and "Hedda"), as well as a criminal snub for the landmark "Stevie", Ms. Jackson seems to be little remembered today. It seems inconceivable now, since in the early Seventies, only Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave could be considered her equals. For me, her Alex in "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" is my favorite of her rich performances. She is conflicted with her obviously unsatisfying affair with her bisexual (and, more importantly, shallow) lover, unfulfilled at her job, and basically adrift, just marking time in her life. The simple, yet powerfully suggestive emotions Jackson offers do much to help us identify strongly with her character. Who hasn't felt that, at times, their life is merely counting days, waiting for weekends which ironically do little to feed our spiritual or emotional needs? And the pattern continues, which to me is what the somewhat cryptic title implies. So much pressure is put on "the weekends" to make us happy that we can easily just wish our lives away, as Alex seems to. Its hard to find the final straw which Alex finds to salvage her life and begin again without this crippling relationship, but Jackson's brilliantly layered performance is a wonder throughout. Mr. Finch received many plaudits and is very respectable, but seems to be playing it safe here. His Dr. Hirsch is supposed to be the emotional, reasonable center of the movie, but Finch is a bit too reserved; the events don't seem to really happen to him at all. He stands curiously to the side, which may have been the author/director/actor's intent, but we don't have enough of the character's back-life for this to register. Murray Head is simply a cipher, which is all that is required, but a pleasant one. And any chance to see the divine Peggy Ashcroft and Bessie Love again is welcome.
When this movie first came out, it had that wonderful aura that many of the pictures of that era did: the essence of the forbidden--the promise that new and undiscovered worlds and situations would be examined that had never been dealt with in film before. I remember the same feeling accompanying "Cries and Whispers", "McCabe and Mrs. Miller", and "Women in Love", movies which have stood the test of time. "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", though not without its flaws, has also held up. Its a perfect time capsule of a certain period of time and change for working-class Londoners still woozy from the Sixties and not anywhere near ready for what would be the Eighties. Its also a remarkable document of a brilliant actress at the height of her estimable powers. Highly recommended.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
For over thirty years SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY has remained one of my favorite movies. John Schlesinger may be my favorite director. I believe I own all his movies save one. So I probably cannot be objective about either this movie or Mr. Schlesinger's greatness.
I understood how my black students felt when they saw SOUNDER for the first time when I saw this movie on its release in 197l. "At last here is a decent movie about us." Not only was the movie about bisexual and gay relationships, but the characters were richly and complexly developed. In a word, believable. The plot is rather straight-forward-- the screen play is by Penelope Gilliatt--Alex played by Glenda Jackson is having an affair with Bob who is played by Murray Head who is having an affair also with Dr. Daniel Hirsch played by Peter Finch. Rod Steiger may have preempted Peter Finch and Murray Head with a kiss on the lips between males in THE SERGEANT, but the kiss between Finch and Head here was certainly well ahead of its time.
The movie is visually very beautiful and well put together. The film opens with a closeup of the hands of Dr. Finch who is examining an older male patient. We see similar scenes throughout the movie of closeups of both Jackson's hands as she makes love to Head and Finch's hands as well. Much is made of answering services and phone messages since Alex and Dr. Hirsch have to share Bob and often have to be satisfied with phone messages rather than him in the flesh. (We can all be thankful this movie was made years before the advent of mobile phones.)
I had never heard before the otherwordly trio from Mozart's COSI FAN TUTTE, this beautiful aria that soars throughout the movie in the way much of Mozart does: just below the surface of joy there is the pain of human suffering, so appropriate for these two individuals who have to share someone they love with someone else.
In 197l Schlesinger was so brave to make this movie, which holds up well after 30 years. His honesty and courage to speak the truth have meant so much to so many. At the end of SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY as Peter Finch muses over his less than satisfactory relationship with his friend and discusses whether half a loaf is better than nothing, he says something to the effect that "I miss him." Those of us who loved Schlesinger who just died on this day can say in all sincerity, we will miss this great artist.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
This tale of an unconventional love triangle looks better and better three decades after its release. John Schlesinger's filming of Penelope Gilliatt's screenplay preserves the brilliant performances of Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson, as a man and a woman reluctantly sharing the affections of a another, younger man, Murray Head (whatever happened to him?). What continues to surprise and delight is, most of all, the quiet acknowledgment that different kinds of love can co-exist, each having its own validity, without angst, guilt or retribution. If anything, general cinema has moved backwards since this film in terms of portraying homosexuality and bisexuality in a mature, non-exploitive manner. Ultimately, it's the acting of Finch and Jackson that makes this film, making one regret more than ever their respective death and retirement--in particular, Finch's moving closing speech, made directly to the camera, remains a masterpiece of understated delivery.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
John Schlesinger's film, from an original screenplay by Penelope Gilliatt (the brilliiant film critic for the New Yorker, novelist, short story writer, playwright, opera librettist, and profilist), is the director's finest work. (FYI: there is no comma in the title "Sunday Bloody Sunday.") Schlesinger asked Gilliatt to write the script because he thought she was the "right" writer; also, the screeenplay is also largely inspired by Gilliatt's novel "A State of Change."
The 1971 film remains today the finest work ever to deal with gay or bisexual characters. The milieu is educated and upper-crust London and Londoners, in the period after the sixties. The landmark quality of the film is that it assumes viewers are intelligent as the characters on display. There's no big deal at all made of the characters' sexual orientations -- they simply are. Gilliatt wanted to write a film about the "possibility" of people who love each other finding the courage to move on in their lives once a relationship has ended -- for whatever reason -- with compassion and charity toward each other. The film is about different kinds of breakdown in communication, about surviving on less and less, about clinging to the possibility of hope in extremity. The film ends on a positive note -- it sees courage in the everday, in moving ahead with one's life. The credit must go to Gilliatt. Schlesinger directed, but the soul of the film is Gilliatt's much-honored screenplay.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2005
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This is an excellent film about realistic adult relationships and the compromises we have to make to make relationships work. When the film was released in 1971 however the homosexuality certainly could overshadow the underlying complex but brutally honest story.

I think the best way to review the film is to concentrate on the 3 main characters, all played so very well by a super cast.

Alex, played by Glenda Jackson, is a business woman in her 40's having an affair with a bisexual artist, Bob, who is in his late 20's or early 30's. Bob leaves her at the first hint of conflict or trouble or confrontation to join his Jewish physician lover, Daniel, played by Peter Finch. Daniel asks for relatively little and offers an oasis of thought and tenderness for Bob.

This seems to torture Alex so much that she can't stop from allowing her feelings of rejection and fear of abandonment from driving Bob off the next time they meet. Most telling is her conversation with her mother where she challenges her mother and father's relationship. The father is a cold multi-millionaire that long ago ceased to be involved in a passionate relationship with his wife. Alex's mother confronts her back that she expects to have "it all' in a relationship and defends her marriage with 'you don't think it is anything but you are wrong." Alex is extremely bright and verbal but in many ways a spoiled woman. Yet to be fair, how many people can share a lover? It is possibly one of the most difficult tasks in the world for most and can be so traumatic that the constant worry destroys the relationship.

Bob, the bi-sexual artists, does not have to commit to either Alex or Daniel or to anyone. He is handsome, young, talented, intelligent, and articulate. He is ambitious and sees clearly what he gets from both relationships. He doesn't have to commit so he doesn't. Both lovers, Alex and Daniel, indulge him and adore him. From his perspective he realizes he does not have to choose between them and he enjoys various aspect of both of the relationships. Why should he make a choice? Does he stop seeing Daniel so that Alex will stop obsessing and fretting? I sympathized with Bob. He was indulged and pampered and knew it.

Daniel, the Jewish physician, was superbly played by Peter Finch. This portrayal of a man living multiple identities was extra special. Daniel is the talented and dedicated physican who takes calls from patients night and day. He is wise and learned and compassionate. He listens to opera in a sophisticated garden home - serene and reflective. Yet he is fully engaged in the Jewish community in which he was reared. The scenes of his nephew's Bra Mitzvah convey his strong heritage and roots to the Jewish community. Daniel, more so that with Alex or Bob, conveys the concept of living different identities. Daniel recognizes he is part of the Jewish community, part of the medical community and the patients they see, and part of a same-gender loving community which exists more behind doors that in the open in 1971. Whereas Alex remains tortured most of the film, Daniel ends the film with a speech directly to the camera about the limitations of all relationships,the compromises we have to make in all relationships, and the responsibility to extract from each human experience as much joy and meaning as is possible.

We have a choice in life, we can accept or reject compromise. Both paths have rewards and hardships. This is really the theme of the film.

After 34 years, this film has retained its power, since its power resides in depiction of honest lives and honest situations.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Despite John Schlesinger's often ham-fisted and glitzy direction, Sunday Bloody Sunday remains a humane and triumphant celebration. The late film critic Penelope Gilliatt penned the screenplay about a straight/gay love triangle spanning three different generations in the twilight of "swinging" London. Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch are both magnificent and invest the edgy, hyperliterate dialogue with well-seasoned vitality; every minor character fits the milieu and the conception like a shadow fits a corner. This is a haunting, resonant movie, a hallmark 1971 film that was one of the first to treat "other"ways of loving -- or coping -- with respect, insight and a thoroughly adult point of view.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
AH YES! All of the above is in this one - and what a cast!
PETER FINCH [possibly at his greatest - pre-'Network'] and GLENDA JACKSON. It's all very elegant, and quite upper-class.
The story? Written by PENELOPE GILLIATT [The New Yorker film critic] , it's about Alex [Jackson] as the vibrant divorcee, Daniel [Finch] the handsome, middle-aged professional bachelor with one common iterest - 'Bob' the young man who moves into their respective lives, all connected by a somewhat erratic telephone service. As the tag line states: "It's about three decenet people - they will break your heart". The dialogue is witty and wry - look for the party sequence with Peter Finch and a somewhat tipsy friend's wife - HIS comment as 'wife' disrobes ....... priceless.
FINCH is very moving in the closing monologue - as he concludes towards the end "we were something" all of this augmented with music by Mozart. Alonely life ......
It's actually post 'swinging London' but still quite contemporary - even in today's climate.
Companions? "Jules & Jim" and "Small Circle of Friends".
[Trivia? Danie Day-Lewis makes his debut in this film as one of the children. Finch and Jackson were previously teamed in the period "BEQUEST TO A NATION" with Margaret Leighton - another rare menage!]
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2012
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Alex (Glenda Jackson) loves Bob (Murray Head). Daniel (Peter Finch) loves Bob, too. Bob loves both of them...sort of. This is the delicate situation for three people in London at the end of the "swingin' sixties." John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy,The Day of the Locust) and screenwriter Penelope Gilliatt explored new territory with this 1971 film, and the result is very powerful. This quiet, clear-eyed portrait of two lonely, middle-aged Londoners reaching out for companionship--with the same beautiful but callous young man--is one of the most moving films I've ever seen.

Academy Award winners Jackson (Women in Love) and Finch (Network) have never been better than they are here. Both of them simply command the screen, especially in their difficult monologues and in the brutal close-ups of their sad, stricken faces. The film's sense of time and place is vivid--the bleak residential streets of London, where solitude is an ordeal to be endured and unrequited love makes every day seem like "bloody" Sunday, the loneliest day of the week. The supporting cast is excellent, including Oscar winner Peggy Ashcroft (A Passage To India) as Jackson's concerned mother and Jon Finch (Macbeth,Frenzy) in a brief appearance as a street hustler.

Schlesinger carefully kept the tone realistic and unsensational, yet the film caused a bit of a sensation, anyway. I saw it in a theater when it was first released, and I can still recall the gasps and nervous fidgeting of my fellow moviegoers, particularly during the more intimate scenes between the two men. Quite a few people got up and walked out, too. It may be difficult for young people of today to understand, but such things simply weren't discussed in public in those days, not in a major film with major stars. This was a groundbreaking event, and it was rewarded for its daring with 4 Oscar nominations and a slew of international awards.

I'm glad the Criterion Collection has decided to give SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY the deluxe treatment. The 2003 MGM DVD release was okay, but the new Criterion package has a remastered print; interviews with Schlesinger, Murray Head, and others; and a booklet with essays by Ms. Gilliatt and cultural historian Ian Buruma. It's a suitable tribute to one of the finest films of the 1970s. Highly recommended.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2004
Format: DVD
This civilized movie, of autumnal sadness, is such an actors' film.
Especially when those actors are Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson.
It is a pleasure to watch them at their craft. John Schlesinger has
directed Penelope Gilliatt's script with an eye for rich detail, and
such seemingly minimal emotions of the leads that comes through
the performances so perfectly, as delicately formed and precise as
snowflakes. They feel deeply, do Daniel (Finch) and Alex
(Jackson). Though they must not let on. It would be bad form to.
That they both love Bob (Murray Head) seems a conundrum. But
Daniel and Alex are of an age when there might be no one else,
save Bob, who is one of those curious, mercurial people who can
go from person to person, without caring one bit, beginning,
during, after. He literally feels nothing, save the rudimentary ( the
word is full of them) but he is perhaps seen by Daniel and Alex as
what they want him to be. Such is love. They recreate him from his
vagueness. And of course they must not be jealous of Bob's other
lovers. Such as Bob always require that, and consider otherwise to
be so bloody selfish.
He doesn't intentionally hurt anyone. He uses people as things, so,
to him, they are replaceable. When he is the replaceable one, if only
they could see it. He is not worth their integrity, and intelligence
and complexity of heart. Yet, when one loves, one cannot think of
him or her without making them, perhaps, mythic. To someone
else, they would be just another person, for others see them as
ordinary. This, the film explores with such finesse and grace.
Daniel has a monologue, told to us personally, the words of which
are beautiful and touching, that just about rips your heart out. Finch
adds to the words, so seemingly somewhat matter of factly saying
them, ( a person has to comport themselves properly after all)
though from deep inside, with such thought and honesty, and
searching still in these later years, and with no apology. You see the
worth and goodness of the man most especially then. You want to
put your arms around Daniel and Alex and hug them, for their love
is doomed, as they know too well. They are having to deal with the
loss, the void, to reconcile themselves to it, even during Bob, and
learning how to get through the day, routinely, like everyone else
pretends to.
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" is a film that one feels honored to see. Its
ad line-- "This is a story about three decent people. They will break
your heart." Indeed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2007
Format: DVD
I've always loved this film. It's an incredibly intelligent, realistic depiction of relationships. It is directedly sensitively and beautifully by John Schlesinger, one of the finest British directors. This is his follow up film to his incredible Midnight Cowboy, and he doesn't disappoint. Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson are both in love (or so they think) with Murray Head. This film depicts this love triangle not in a sleazy, comical way (like it would today), but as a deep, thoughtful, painful, and NORMAL thing, just like all relationships. The film, as other reviewers have noted, depicted homosexuality as normal and not a big deal, which it is. The relationships are sensitively handled, and Finch and Jackson give great performances. Head gives a good performance, but some have questioned why his character inspires such passion in Jackson and Finch. He's a rather bland character, but who knows the ways of love and/or desire. I shudder on how this film might be made today, but luckily, I don't think they're going to remake this film anytime soon. This is a wonderful film, and it still holds up today.
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