Terence Davies on the Cruelty of Gay Life and Why ‘Benediction’ Is His Best Film

Terence Davies on the Cruelty of Gay Life and Why ‘Benediction’ Is His Best Film
English filmmaker Terence Davies, from painting working-class portraits to sketching urbane artistic figures like Emily Dickinson, has long been public about his discomfort with being gay and his feelings of banality toward life in general. He’s not an especially hopeful storyteller, from the closeted anguish of a Liverpool boy in “The Long Day Closes” to the suicidal Hester Collyer’s unquenchable thirst for passion in “The Deep Blue Sea.”

His pessimistic but searching sensibilities, always hungering for a redemption or answer that can’t be found and then resigning to that lack, find their purest expression in “Benediction.” The riotously well-penned but deeply despairing film is a portrait of World War I-era English poet Siegfried Sassoon, who lived a comfortably gay shadow life on the fringes of the Bright Young Things, settled into marriage in middle age, and died a late-minted Catholic, bereft, in 1967. He outlived many of his peers,
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