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Madonna and Child (1980)

| Short, Drama | 1980 (UK)
Robert Tucker, a sorrowful, solitary man, given to bouts of weeping, tries to balance his life caring for his aging mother, his Catholicism, his homosexuality, and his dull job. One night, ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview:
Terry O'Sullivan ...
Sheila Raynor ...
Robert's Mother
John Meynell
Brian Ward
Gypsy Dave Cooper ...
Man with Tattoo (as Dave Cooper)
Mark Walton
Mal Jefferson
Lovette Edwards
Rita Thatchery
Eddie Ross
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Storyline

Robert Tucker, a sorrowful, solitary man, given to bouts of weeping, tries to balance his life caring for his aging mother, his Catholicism, his homosexuality, and his dull job. One night, after his mother has gone to bed, he dons leather and heads for a private club. He telephones a tattoo artist with a special request. He goes to confession, accusing himself of despairing. He cries out during a nightmare, waking his mother. "You're a good boy," she's told him. He prays the Stations of the Cross, and he lives out his own sorrowful mysteries. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Short | Drama

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1980 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

I panagia kai to vrefos  »

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Edited into The Terence Davies Trilogy (1983) See more »

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In the beginning there was Davies' chancel screen
19 March 2010 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

This short film draws on the old, typical, if not cliché, depiction, from the Christian iconography, of the Weeping Madonna. In the first year of the 80's, however, more than just the typical roles of the iconography must be reversed: it is not only that the child must be weeping, and Madonna, largely, in its lap, but, in the first taste of the thatcherite years, there is a dead-end feeling where the personal and the political meet.

We see the man, the child of the title, give in to frequent fits of weeping. Some of it is explained in a way, depicted as if we peer in his mind's imaginings; a sorrowful man; repressed, if not regressed. He takes care, a scene suggests, of his aged mother with the perennial cocoa. But later, we get a scene when, descending squeaky stairs, clad in leather for nightly pleasures, mother wakes up, confirming the oppressive sense of the title's savage mockery: for we do not get so much a sense of love between mother and son, as much a guilt-laced sense is imposed upon the child by the Church.

We get a wonderful shot by Davies' liquid camera, of his signature legato traveling early in the short when we hear a choir a capella singing, while the child does paperwork, along with his other bureaucratic colleagues. That reminded me of Kafka's universe, where we are never closer to divinity than when we are immersed in bureaucracy's impersonal machine.

But actually what of distinction the film has to offer are the glimpses of submissive, almost masochistic were it not for the legato, almost painstakingly slow staging of the two erotic, if this is the word, mock choreographies: clownishly opening, stretching his mouth for fellatio, then going on to grab the buttocks like kneading dough; licking the divinely poised index of the tattooed fantasy-man like Christendom's dictum. This comes off almost ferociously (note the sound distortion Davies will use later in "The Long Day Closes", again comically distorting a scream), but I think it is more self-castigating than sarcastic.

We are almost literally a far cry from the later films' sublimity; it is also an almost literal rendering of a chancel screen: between chance (the chance meeting of the gaze and the tattoo shop, that triggers a confrontation with taboos, but in that dragging pace of improbable dialogue between the child and the tattoo man, as if the words come by chance, the chance imaginings and nightly strolls) and cancel (the meeting, the imaginings, the end of the stroll all canceled by that same dragging, unless it is the staccato list of the sins during the confession), the screen never redeems, but enlists us into praying, as the children's choir does (an assembly of children far from their Madonnas, with their before the Fall voices pleading for redemption?), at the end and in the beginning.


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