In London, the anonymous, unseen narrator (Paul Scofield) accompanied the art lecturer Robinson on a series of eccentric, quizzical journeys in and around the capital. Here, he's again invited by his friend, now an impoverished teacher, to help with a project initiated by an ad agency and designed to investigate 'the problem of England'. As the pair embark on their seven voyages, ranging from the Thames to the Channel ports, the Midlands to the far North, Robinson meditates in his inimitable way on geography, history, architecture, economy, politics and culture. Like its predecessor this is an offbeat, verbose, witty mix of documentary, fiction and essay: are we really a poor, terribly provincial nation plagued by industrial decline, or are our hardships and low morale the outcome of choices made by self-serving politicians? As before, references abound: Defoe, Wilde, Austen; the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Engels, Michael Portillo, Greenpeace; the Stones; the Cerne Abbas Giant, architect Buckminster Fuller, Dracula. All this erudition is balanced by the writer/director/cameraman's admirably dry, deeply ironic sense of humour, and by his immaculately framed images, which manage to make the familiar look strangely strange yet oddly normal. And if the satirical political asides don't have quite the bite of those in the earlier movie, this is still provocative, determinedly left-field film-making: bright, adventurous, engrossing and... well, very English.
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