Of Time and the City

The last few weeks and months have been strewn with thoughts of getting the next film made. “This is the big one, the one you’ve waited 6 years to make” is not an uncommon thought to pop into my saturated head of late. And it’s kind of true. The script is completed for what will probably be my final film at the Edinburgh College of Art film school, the culmination of 3 years work to get into this fine film school followed by 3 years of intense craft tuition. Pre production is about to kick into full flow and if other projects are anything to go by, the flick will be in the can before I get my next full night’s sleep.

And then it’s over……… The academic method of filmmaking I mean, the learning, and progression of the work, has only just begun. Or at least that is the hope.

There’s been a process of absorption of late. The desire to write about the films I’ve been catching just hasn’t been in me. Looking at the film, getting what it’s about and digesting it without any output whatsoever has seemed like the best way to go and the process now seems to be paying dividends. Visual activity is sparking to life behind the eyes, the thirst to tell a good story and be aesthetically daring within the requirements of that story is beginning to tug at the old belly muscles.

I did see an amazing piece of work this evening that will probably get my old foe Matt Etheridge’s eyes rolling for two reasons. The first is that it is a contemplative documentary made up largely of stock footage and beautifully pronounced poetry. The second is that it features the city of Liverpool, a place not particularly close to my Goth adversary’s heart.

The film is Terrence Davies Of Time and the City

As the poster informs, the film is a love story and a eulogy, a snapshot of the Liverpool that exists within the mind and heart of Terrence Davies but one that no longer exists. Davies himself has not lived in the city since 1973. The film is incredibly grim in parts, the depictions of this post war, pre regenerated Liverpool are uncomfortable to watch but remind us, or those of us old enough, just how “protected” from EVERYTHING we are in this modern world. Kids play in the street amongst the filth but seem absolutely safe and carefree, there is a social bonding beyond the controller of an XBox that manifests itself in older generations sitting on the street talking to each other, communicating, being involved in each others lives with the air of solidarity that lends enough support to transcend the seemingly desperate situation.

It’s a world I remember as a child but one which was quickly on its way out.

Of course, it would be foolish to suggest that things were better back then. Britain had just come out of a war and was a fairly smashed up and desolate place. The tower blocks that replaced the demolished rows of brick houses were not the bright future many envisioned them to be. Huge obelisks of concrete isolation forcing the working class to be pigeon holed in every sense of the word. You do get the strong presence of a different heart in this era however, there was an energy and resolve that makes looking at these people from a modern perspective thoroughly riveting.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this film is a boring old set of film clips roped together with recitings of T.S. Eliot (amongst others) and classical music, the flick pulsates with life. Show it to an elderly relative, they’ll love you for it.


6 responses to “Of Time and the City

  1. chiaroscurocoalition

    I enjoyed Of Time and the City, but it suffered from watching it a week after seeing My Winnipeg. You’d never think a director’s exploration of his hometown and his youth would ever run into the problem of unfavourably comparing it to a similar work, but there you go.

  2. I’ve not seen My Winnipeg but it is on my Lovefilm list and has been for a while. Both are extremely personal films which makes the comparison you mention difficult. Do you think Of Time and the City is an inferior work?

  3. chiaroscurocoalition

    It doesn’t seem fair to call Of Time and the City inferior, but I did enjoy My Winnipeg a lot more. Part of that would come from just the town itself (I’m from a mid-size town in southern Alabama, which is closer to Winnipeg than Liverpool). Part of that is from the way the material is handled, as I think Davies’ work is very, very personal to him and he’s more intent on being rather straightforward, where Maddin utilizes a wide variety of techniques to explore and invent the history of both the city and his own life. I do think that My Winnipeg nails the universality of specificity, which makes that film for me relatable. I don’t think relatability was Davies intention, however, so again it is unfair to compare. I know I was deeply moved by My Winnipeg while I only really admired and appreciated Of Time and the City.

  4. chiaroscurocoalition

    (This is Matt, by the way, not Sue)

  5. For the record I have nothing against Liverpool! Well aside from the residents of Anfield and Goodison.

    It gave us one of the finest Bands is the history of music after all.

    No not the mop-topped popsters…Rosetta Stone!

    As to the movie my eyes roll not. Partly as I haven’t seen it yet and partly because it sounds like one of my favourite films “Wisconsin Death Trip”.

  6. Matt: (The first Matt) I completely agree with what you’re saying there but OTATC is an analysis of a memory of place in juxtaposition to its modern manifestation. It’s in parts clinical, in parts cynical but always honest and paradoxically heartfelt. Davies also uses invention to recreate his own personal history as none of the footage he uses is actually from his own life, the recollection is vicarious which gives it the universality you speak of in My winnipeg, albeit by other means. I had a look at the trailer for My Winnipeg and it looks like essential viewing.

    Matt: (You know who you are) I’ll bring a copy of the film in shortly and you’re spot on in regards to music. The list is endless…. Cast, The La’s, Space, The Coral, The Zutons …. To name but a few. Look forward to your take on the Davies film.

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