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Of Time and the City

  • Film
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars
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
Written by Dave Calhoun

Release Details

  • Rated:12A
  • Release date:Friday 31 October 2008
  • Duration:74 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Terence Davies
  • Screenwriter:Terence Davies
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