Of Time and the City

"Essential"

Of Time and the City Review


"We love the place we hate/We hate the place we love/We leave the place we hate/Then spend a lifetime trying to regain it." Director Terence Davies recites these words as his camera moves across a church edifice like an incantation in his moving and emotional paean to the lost Liverpool of his youth, the impassioned documentary Of Time and the City.

Davies' films (Distant Voices, Still Lives; The Long Day Closes) have always looked to the past as both memory and memory's sometimes distorted recollections. Much like last year's My Winnipeg of Guy Maddin, Davies looks at both the past of a city and his own past there, twisting both into a funhouse mirror. Maddin, of course, barely gets out of his childhood alive, but for Davies, his Liverpool is a state of lost innocence killed when modernity and puberty set in. He quotes Shelley in the opening shot, an image of a slowly opening curtain in a movie house, "The happy highways where I went and cannot come again." Davies is already placing Liverpool as a mythic town of his childhood and boldly states, "If Liverpool did not exist, it would have to be invented."

Davies covers his formative years 1945 to 1969, liberally quoting not only Shelley, but also a collection of quotables from Joyce to Chekhov to Jung as he interweaves archival clips and newsreel footage of Liverpool and post-WWII England around it. Davies' narrative voice is mildly sarcastic and heavily melancholy as he recalls his golden youth, peppering the film with Mahler, Sibelius, and Bruckner, along with The Hollies, The Spinners, and Peggy Lee.

The film is divided into two sections, the first section outlining the wonderful childhood days in his city and the second section showing the inevitable destruction of his youthful wonders. Linking the sections are film clips of children in strollers pushed around the Liverpool sidewalks as the backgrounds change from one era to the next.

Davies introduces his childhood recollections by saying, "Here was my whole world -- home school and the movies." Of Time and the City offering a wonderful collection of footage from the 1950s as Davies recalls his trips to the cinema with an evocative series of theater marquees and television footage of movie premieres ("At seven, I saw Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain and loved the movies and swallowed them whole."), Liverpudlians on the beaches and partaking of the amusement piers, clips of British football games (Davies remembering his mother in the kitchen listening to the games on the radio and shouting out the scores), his love of wrestling with clips of games from Liverpool Stadium and his burgeoning homosexuality (his interest in wrestling making him aware of "dark desires which thrilled and compelled"), and the oppressive church, which tipped him to a lifestyle decision ("Caught between canon and carnal law, I said goodbye to my girlhood").

Of Time and the City is a longing tone poem of Liverpool, not bracing like the original, impressionistic city documentaries like Berlin: Symphony of a City or A propos de Nice, but infused with a smoldering undercurrent of time lost and a churning, haunted passion for that lost time. It's a time not only for Davies, but for us all: "Come close now and see your dream. Come close now and see mine."

I think I see a Beatle.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 74 mins

In Theaters: Friday 31st October 2008

Distributed by: Strand Releasing

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 51 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Solon Papadopoulos, Roy Boulter

Starring: as Narrator (voice) (uncredited)

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