Of Time and the City (12A)

Film

Documentaries

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Mon May 19 2008

Terence Davies returned to Liverpool to make this docu-essay, a poetic, sometimes caustic, always enthralling cocktail of Mahler and Peggy Lee, TS Eliot and James Joyce, archive film and witty narration, all about the city where he grew up in the 1940s and ’50s. Davies left Merseyside in the early ’70s, moving south to pursue acting (briefly) and filmmaking (more enduringly, although with an unhappy hiatus of seven years from 2000) with such features as ‘Distant Voices, Still Lives’ and ‘The Long Day Closes’.

The shadows of these autobiographical explorations of Davies’s respectable, working-class childhood of fearing God and discovering homosexuality are cast long over this wonderful, moving and amusing work. It mixes the most personal of recollections with Davies’s more universal commentary on change in the city, the country and his life – all delivered by the director in easy reach of his record collection, bookshelf and a wealth of stately footage from the vaults.

Anyone expecting clips from ‘Brookside’, adoration of The Beatles or reminiscences about time on Anfield’s terraces should look elsewhere. Davies may devote a little time to football but only when he’s wistfully remembering the manners of past players and Saturday afternoons spent listening to the match results on the Bakelite. And he positively loathes The Beatles, preferring to drown out a scene of The Cavern Club in full flow with the sound of Mahler while declaring (in that catty, actorly, gently wicked voice that makes listening to this film such a joy) that John, Paul, George and Ringo sound like ‘a firm of provincial solicitors’.

But the most excoriating sequences are reserved for the opposing pillars of the royal family and the Catholic Church: the first he damns as a ‘fossil monarchy’ and ‘the Betty Windsor show’; the second he describes as the repressive starting-blocks on his difficult journey to becoming a ‘born-again atheist’.

Towards the close, Davies asks, ‘Where are you, the Liverpool I have loved?’ We see ample (a little too ample) imagery of Victorian streets giving way to demolition and housing estates. Is this nostalgia? Maybe – but that matters little: Davies’s film is a memoir, not an objective portrait of a city. And, by being so personal in a way that’s so honest and so incisive, Davies indirectly offers national commentary that’s relevant far, far beyond his old Merseyside doorstep
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Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Fri Oct 31, 2008

Duration:

74 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Terence Davies

Screenwriter:

Terence Davies

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

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Technoguy

Taking his cue from Jennings'"This is Britain" documentary,Davies composes a moving visual soundscape of post-war Liverpool.He uses well chosen pieces of music,either popular or classical,like an artist does colours on a palette.He also interlopates his own commentary whether through snippets of his own verse or acerbic criticism of Royalty and Catholic Church or pieces of Eliot's Four Quartets or from part2 of The Wasteland;he quotes from Joyce,Chekov,Engels and AE Houseman.He has made it clear that the consolations and belief he sought from religion have been replaced by his love of art.In the film he eulogises the life of the working class: women carrying bundles,washing large loads of laundry,scrubbing door-steps,chatting to their neighbours.We see moving film of children playing in the slums,singing songs,playing street games overlaid by classical music.We get a feel of large crowds at the open air lido and the sea side or masses pouring through large factory gates.Davies artfully uses snippets of vox populi or people sincerely speaking about their lives of arduous labour ,misery and anguish yet somehow saying their life is good,thanks to God.He contrasts the joys of memory of past Christmases and nostalgia for a world now swept away by the brutal destruction of the old tenements with a world of faceless high rise and corporation estates where the word 'community' no longer exists.His slant on popular culture is to play Ewan McColl,The Hollies The Swinging Blue Jeans and even Peggy Lee and swipe at the Beatles(like a firm of solicitors) for removing all the witty lyrics and songs of his heart of the pre-Beatle era.No his true love is in classical music: Liszt,Taverner,Perotin,Handel,Brahms and Mahler which are positioned appropriately in the midst of the archival films.The epic grandeur of the past-precommercial football crowds and smartly dressed crowds waving hats and industriousness-is contrasted with the bleak emptiness of the post- industrial city.We are deracinated in the modern landscape with gentrified docks or winebars that were once factories or churches.Memory is the only place where our individual and collective memory thrives."We are being gathered in at gloaming"Davies intones at the end.Bernard Fallon's photographs are remarkably used with Davies' nostalgic commentary. This documentary works as a subjective vision and meditation in search of lost time.

Technoguy

Taking his cue from Jennings'"This is Britain" documentary,Davies composes a moving visual soundscape of post-war Liverpool.He uses well chosen pieces of music,either popular or classical,like an artist does colours on a palette.He also interlopates his own commentary whether through snippets of his own verse or acerbic criticism of Royalty and Catholic Church or pieces of Eliot's Four Quartets or from part2 of The Wasteland;he quotes from Joyce,Chekov,Engels and AE Houseman.He has made it clear that the consolations and belief he sought from religion have been replaced by his love of art.In the film he eulogises the life of the working class: women carrying bundles,washing large loads of laundry,scrubbing door-steps,chatting to their neighbours.We see moving film of children playing in the slums,singing songs,playing street games overlaid by classical music.We get a feel of large crowds at the open air lido and the sea side or masses pouring through large factory gates.Davies artfully uses snippets of vox populi or people sincerely speaking about their lives of arduous labour ,misery and anguish yet somehow saying their life is good,thanks to God.He contrasts the joys of memory of past Christmases and nostalgia for a world now swept away by the brutal destruction of the old tenements with a world of faceless high rise and corporation estates where the word 'community' no longer exists.His slant on popular culture is to play Ewan McColl,The Hollies The Swinging Blue Jeans and even Peggy Lee and swipe at the Beatles(like a firm of solicitors) for removing all the witty lyrics and songs of his heart of the pre-Beatle era.No his true love is in classical music: Liszt,Taverner,Perotin,Handel,Brahms and Mahler which are positioned appropriately in the midst of the archival films.The epic grandeur of the past-precommercial football crowds and smartly dressed crowds waving hats and industriousness-is contrasted with the bleak emptiness of the post- industrial city.We are deracinated in the modern landscape with gentrified docks or winebars that were once factories or churches.Memory is the only place where our individual and collective memory thrives."We are being gathered in at gloaming"Davies intones at the end.Bernard Fallon's photographs are remarkably used with Davies' nostalgic commentary. This documentary works as a subjective vision and meditation in search of lost time.

John Jay

Anscombe - "The Fil;m looks terrific. I can't wait to see it." - only a true Scousa could come up with that...! And I can't wait either - I'm p***in' myself...!!!

John Jay

Anscombe - "The Fil;m looks terrific. I can't wait to see it." - only a true Scousa could come up with that...! And I can't wait either - I'm p***in' myself...!!!

Marek

This was a film that is well worth seeing - if for nothing else but the narration of Davies, together with the haunting music. Some reviewers, particularly above, have mistaken some of the things that Terence Davies says. They say that this is an 'anti-Liverpudlian' film. It is not. It is a hugely personal, but very watchable, recollection of Liverpool as it was when Davies was bought up there. His film is a joy to watch - coming from a man who the word 'distinctive' was made for. Enjoy the film!

Marek

This was a film that is well worth seeing - if for nothing else but the narration of Davies, together with the haunting music. Some reviewers, particularly above, have mistaken some of the things that Terence Davies says. They say that this is an 'anti-Liverpudlian' film. It is not. It is a hugely personal, but very watchable, recollection of Liverpool as it was when Davies was bought up there. His film is a joy to watch - coming from a man who the word 'distinctive' was made for. Enjoy the film!

Jane

I am confused by the commentary this film has evoked; the film I saw was mediocre montage of some occasionally charming but prosaic footage of Liverpool. The very worst parts, - which reminded me of scenic interludes used to bluc out low budget day time TV - were the most recent footage, over saturated, slow without being thoughtful and sentimental. It's no doubt honourable intentions to be honest and personal tipped it over into the unselfconscious, childish and indulgent. Some unarguably beautiful pieces of footage were ruined by the self-important rubblings of the voice over. The poetry and dramatic verse was chosen -if we are being generous - naively. With calivier disreguard for the weight and resonance of the works he patched inexpertly together, Davies created some remarkably inappropriate effects. The most notably ridiculous was ending. As the visuals show a magnificent, brightly coloured firework exploding over Liverpool's historic water front sky line, the aged male actor intones the fraught lines delivered by the deranged Ophilea (Hamlet IV, V) shortly before her watery suicide: "Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night." Where did this man come from? And how did he get any money?

Jonathan Hale

Watching this film was a very disappointing and dispiriting experience. Basically a pompous and bitter attack on the people and culture of the city. And plenty of cheap shots at some very soft targets - church, state, royalty, yawn, yawn..

Anscombe

I think one of the previous reviewers is mistaking deliberate recapitulation of what has gone before for repetition. I had been looking forward to this film for ages, and I was not disappointed. It quite exceeded my expectations, for it was not only beautiful and moving but a really creative and interesting example of a non-linear narrative structure. Another masterpiece from Britain's greatest living film-maker, and my film of the year.

Anscombe

I think one of the previous reviewers is mistaking deliberate recapitulation of what has gone before for repetition. I had been looking forward to this film for ages, and I was not disappointed. It quite exceeded my expectations, for it was not only beautiful and moving but a really creative and interesting example of a non-linear narrative structure. Another masterpiece from Britain's greatest living film-maker, and my film of the year.

Terry

I loved the film which I saw at the world premiere last night. It brought back evocative memories of my own childhood and of the dignity with which many poor oppressed families lived their daily lives. I am thankful for the social changes which have improved many aspects of life in the city, but I too look back with love (and perhaps, rose tinted glasses).

Terry

I loved the film which I saw at the world premiere last night. It brought back evocative memories of my own childhood and of the dignity with which many poor oppressed families lived their daily lives. I am thankful for the social changes which have improved many aspects of life in the city, but I too look back with love (and perhaps, rose tinted glasses).

JOHN

I WANTED TO LOVE THIS FILM BUT SORRY I DIDN,T THINK THAT IT DID JUSTICE TO THE CITY. THE BEST PARTS OF THE FILM WERE THE EXTRACTS FROM MORNING IN THE STREETS.IT WAS A BRAVE TRY,BUT I WONDERED HOW MANY OF THE OLDER PEOPLE WHO WERE SHOWN WOULD ENDORSE TERENCE,S COMMENTS ON THE POPE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH?

Janet

I saw the film at the Melbourne International Film Festival last month and I was besotted. It could have been so self-indulgent but it was beautiful and very funny. One in the eye for those who think that Terence Davies lacks a sense of humour. His crack at the royal family is perfect. But it also reminded me so much of the Ashton-under-Lyne I left in 1969 when I was eleven. The one that no longer exists except in my memory. That's in black and white also. Thanks Mr Davies.

Janet

I saw the film at the Melbourne International Film Festival last month and I was besotted. It could have been so self-indulgent but it was beautiful and very funny. One in the eye for those who think that Terence Davies lacks a sense of humour. His crack at the royal family is perfect. But it also reminded me so much of the Ashton-under-Lyne I left in 1969 when I was eleven. The one that no longer exists except in my memory. That's in black and white also. Thanks Mr Davies.