Todd Haynes on John Schlesinger’s 1971 film ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’

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“[‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’] is such a beautiful use of direct address — very different from how we do it in ‘May December.’ But yeah, it's a gorgeous character study that just comes from that really specific time and place.” Photo credit: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Over the past two decades, Todd Haynes has repeatedly stopped by KCRW to discuss his projects including Poison, Safe, Carol, Velvet Goldmine, Wonderstruck, and Far From Heaven. His latest visit was for his work on Netflix’s May December. The 2023 film — which stars Julianne Moore, Natalie Portman, and Charles Melton — presents a scandalous affair and its ongoing (and increasingly complicated) impact on the people around the unconventional couple. 

More: Todd Haynes and Christine Vachon on Carol (The Business, 2016)

For his Treat, Haynes picks John Schlesinger’s 1971 movie Sunday Bloody Sunday. He sees it as a lesson in character study and direct address in filmmaking. Haynes praises its cinematography, intricate sound design, and the layered depth of its characters — all of which contribute to the film’s understated  sophistication.

More: Todd Haynes parses the gray areas of May December (The Treatment, 2023)

This segment has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

This is a film called Sunday Bloody Sunday by John Schlesinger from 1971. It's a film that I looked at, among others, for May December. It was a film that I realized a lot of people don't know as well as, of course, Midnight Cowboy or some of Schlesinger's other films, or other amazing performances by Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch. They're the two leads in this film, and they play opposite Murray Head, who was a singer and did a bit of acting, but not a lot. 

It's a film that is about an older-younger relationship. Murray Head being the younger, but it's a relationship between three people where Murray Head is having an affair with both Peter Finch, who's a doctor, and Glenda Jackson, who is in between jobs and sort of figuring out what her next step is going to be in life. 

And they're two older characters and they don't meet until the very end of the film — Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch. It's a product of that era that evokes films by Nicolas Roeg. Its beautiful cinematography, layered sound design, and editorial language that's very rich and evocative, but it has the sophistication and an incredible cast of British characters. 

[There’s] this great scene [where] Murray Head and Glenda Jackson decide to house sit for an intellectual couple who are out of town and leave them with their household of kids who are given all these creative, liberal freedoms of the time. And there's a little tragedy that occurs with a pet at the end of the weekend. It's just a special piece of filmmaking from a special time in filmmaking with extraordinary performances. 

It ends with a direct address after Murray Head is going to go off to America [to pursue] his ambition as a sculptor. And it's such a beautiful use of direct address, very different from how we do it in May December. It's a gorgeous character study that comes from that really specific time and place.




Rebecca Mooney