Love Letters and Live Wires

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Call it nostalgia, a new interest in documentary or just plain old geekery, but the BFI’s recent spurt of DVDs of old British Transport films about the railways was a success. Now the BFI is hoping to relive the magic by restoring and releasing the archive of the GPO Film Unit.

This selection of eight films from the 1930s about such novel matters as postcodes, airmail and telephone cables is intended as a taster of what’s to come on DVD and on screens at the BFI Southbank. Best known is 1936’s ‘Nightmail’, with verse by WH Auden and music from Benjamin Britten. There’s also the loopy animation ‘Trade Tattoo’, meant to encourage early posting but really a pre-psychedelic, invigorating head-scratcher. And the ten-minute musical, ‘The Fairy of the Phone’, about how to use this new-fangled beast is wonderfully camp.

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