DVD review: Of Time and the City (2008)

7 Jul

“It’s grim up north” could so easily have been the tagline for acclaimed British director Terence Davies’ documentary ode to Liverpool, the city of his birth. His multi award-winning film, now available on DVD, is a return to his roots, and the superb archive footage of a post WW2 city, ravaged by bombs, grime and poverty shows us the conditions, influences and lifestyles which shaped a generation.

This highly personal trip was a cathartic experience for the director of DISTANT VOICES, STILL LIVES and THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, and we get to know Davies, and the city, through some amazing footage of backstreet slums, alongside the opulence of the Catholic churches which were a strong feature of his youth. His droll, and sometimes very waspish, commentary charts both the city’s rebirth and regeneration in those baby boomer years of the fifties and sixties, as he discovers classical music, and grapples with his sexuality.

If I’ve got a (minor) gripe over this very thought-provoking film, it’s Davies’ blithe dismissal of the effect his hometown contemporaries The Beatles had on the people of Liverpool, and that city’s image in the eyes of the whole world in the decade now known as the Swinging Sixties.

Quibbles aside, this is a very rewarding film, and the DVD also contains a revealing interview with Davies by David Stratton, and an extremely informative 14 page essay and illustrated booklet written by Brian McFarlane, an Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University.

Mike Childs

–> NY Times review

–> Available through Madman


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