In his first film since 2000’s The House of Mirth, Terence Davies blends found footage and ruminating sonnets in Of Time and the City, an alternately tender and caustic meditation on his native Liverpool. Commissioned to honor the city’s designation as the European Capital of Culture 2008, Davies quickly shifts the film from celebratory pamphlet to first-person reverie in one of his first lines of narration: “Come closer now and see your dreams. Come closer and see mine.” Modern-day Liverpool, filmed in lustrous digital video, is sleek but distinctly underpopulated; instead, it’s the city from the director’s childhood, invoked in a layered collage of archive images, which truly commands his attention, affection, and vitriol. Details that would find their way into Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes can be glimpsed in the montage of grim industrial sprawls, beaches, working-class tenements, movie premieres, and wrestling TV shows that inflamed the mind of a certain queer Catholic boy. Davies’s deep regard for the city’s prole camaraderie is matched by his disdain for the strictures of the Church and the pomp of the monarchy, a disdain oddly extended to the Beatles or, at least, to the notion of the band as Liverpool’s most celebrated voice. (One could understandably take issue with the oracular crankiness of Davies’s voiceover, which often makes him sound like Monty Woolley in The Man Who Came to Dinner.) Mahler, Liszt, and the Hollies are more to his liking, yet even the film’s most melodic passages are tinged with the feeling of a world vanishing as it is remembered: When Peggy Lee sings “The Folks Who Live on the Hill,” it is to accompany images of buildings being pulled down into dust. If its mix of rue, anger, and elation only occasionally achieves the rhapsodic, Of Time and the City never less than throbs with emotion, a reminder of what a loss Davies’s absence from the screen has been.
- Strand Releasing
- 72 min
- Terence Davies
- Terence Davies
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