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Of Time and the City

January 25, 2011

Of Time and the City (2008)
Director: Terence Davies

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Synopsis: A voyage through footage of Liverpool from the post-war period to the present day.

Review: Terence Davies’ searing and beautiful docu-portrait of his hometown of Liverpool in Of Time and the City is nothing less than an act of cinematic alchemy. With the rawest of sources (still photographs and various documentary films of Liverpool spanning the post-war period to the present-day) Davies has crafted a genuinely distinctive piece of work that manages to act as logical foil to his previous fiction films.

The closest term I could use to describe Davies’ method here is ‘Joycean’, as he embarks on a stream of consciousness through Liverpool’s changing social and architectural landscape utilising his own reminiscences, a range of poetic and philosophic references, and a barrage of musical numbers (from the classical and choral, to popular songs of the era). A key component of the documentary is Davies providing the accompanying narration himself – and his unmistakable delivery has the twin effect of adding extra acid to the laments against his Catholic upbringing and his withering put-downs of The Beatles and the royal family (’the Betty Windsor show’), versus the evident poignancy and melancholy he feels at being party to these images that reflect a whole raft of memories and sensations now consigned to the grieved-for past. (January 2011)

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