OF TIME AND THE CITY, a film by TERENCE DAVIES (Madman DVD)

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OF TIME AND THE CITY, a film by TERENCE DAVIES (Madman DVD)

This poetic meditation on his home city of Liverpool by the great British film-maker neatly blurs fact and faction into a seamless dreamscape of reflection on what once was and what has been lost . . . not just in that dark and dank city of his childhood, but also for the director himself.

Using archival footage in grim black'n'white and with lines drawn from TS Eliot, AE Houseman, his own writings and others, Davies takes the viewer back to a half-remembered and often bleak, repressive but oddly magical Liverpool with its bombed out streets, massive cathedral, iconic Three Graces along the River Mersey, and to those massive crowds waving handkerchiefs at football matches or crowding into the popular public pools in Birkenhead before the war.

At times you can feel Davies ache with nostalgia in his voice-over -- but then growing up gay and Catholic, the mood changes abruptly into the pains of this place which formed him.

The music chosen -- from Taverner's The Protecting Veil to Peggy Lee's The Folks Who Live on the Hil (no Beat-era bands) -- also acts as supporting the emotion or providing dark counterpoint.

The newer towerblocks of the Fifties look even more emotionally debilitating than the squalor of the terrace housing of old.

Yet there is ineffable beauty in this 70 minute feaqture which moves at a slow and stately pace, drawing the eye and ear in to the fragmented, suggested narrative that Davies' soft but raw voice describes.time2

The new Liverpool receives scant acknowldgement, but this was always going to be about that painful but sometimes rewarding process of going back to childhood streets and memories -- and it is mostly driven by the idea of memory more than grounded in the concrete. It is what it felt like more than what it might have been.

Winner of best documentary awards from the Australian Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle in 2009, and receiving lavish praise for its visual style and lyrical elegance, Of Time and The City  -- with an excellent interview with Davies in the additional DVD features -- is subtitled "a love song and a eulogy" -- and it is indeed both.

Raw but beautiful.

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