Of Time and the City (2008)

Another library loan, this, one which I took a fairly random punt on. Terence Davies is another filmmaker I’ve been previously unacquainted with except by repute; much loved gay Liverpudlian who doesn’t make many films because he insists upon being an auteur with complete control (and amusingly little compunction about complaining about the fact that hardly anyone will fund his films), I think I would’ve first heard of him via Sight & Sound back when I still read that… Happily this first actual encounter with one of his films rather than just his reputation was happier than my first encounter with Hou the other day. Now, I have absolutely no acquaintance with Sukhdev Sandhu but can reasonably infer he hates Davies’ films; I profess myself baffled by his characterisation of this film as a “piece of regional PR”, cos if he thought this was some sort of glossy tourist brochure for Liddypool then I query his evaluative skills. I’d have thought even an unsympathetic viewer might have noticed the film is essentially a personal essay rather than any sort of balanced history or something like that, and equally I’d have thought the frankly ghastly footage Davies offers of post-war municipal housing and 1970s urban rot hardly constituted a glowing recommendation for the town. Basically, it’s a nostalgia piece, and if anything I’d argue that nostalgia is kind of ambivalent; there is, to be sure, a sense of looking back at the past with affection, but the affection is not unmixed. If you really want to attack the film, Davies’ narration is the way to do so; he obviously means it to be weighty and delivers it in that sort of tone, but there seemed to be a self-consciousness to it, particularly in its use of poetry and some of the specific choices thereof, which results at time in merely a sense of ponderousness. Still, I didn’t think that was enough to seriously damage the film, which I otherwise rather liked, and Davies’ choice of music served as a nice reminder to dig out my old CD of Tavener’s Protecting Veil which I’m playing as I finish off this review…

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One thought on “Of Time and the City (2008)

  1. James February 5, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    The voiceover made me cringe, Davies sounded like he was having a hot flush everytime he broke into a new sentence. I agree that this is a nostalgia piece and not the great reverie on time past that some critics made it out to be. The criticisms of Liverpool from the 70s onwards seemed like the moanings of an old man, whilst some of the footage of contemporary Liverpool where straight out of the tourist brochure.

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