A documentary on Jacques Vergès, the controversial lawyer and former Free French Forces guerrilla who has defending unpopular figures such as Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.
Terence Davies (1945- ), filmmaker and writer, takes us, sometimes obliquely, to his childhood and youth in Liverpool. He's born Catholic and poor; later he rejects religion. He discovers homo-eroticism, and it's tinged with Catholic guilt. Enjoying pop music gives way to a teenage love of Mahler and Wagner. Using archival footage, we take a ferry to a day on the beach. Postwar prosperity brings some positive change, but its concrete architecture is dispiriting. Contemporary colors and sights of children playing may balance out the presence of unemployment and persistent poverty. Davies' narration is a mix of his own reflections and the poems and prose of others. Written by
I saw this, a few days ago, at the Sydney Film Festival - it's very good indeed. What a pleasure to find a documentary director who believes in movement! No "talking heads" doco this. The whole picture positively seethes, and the beauty and ugliness of Liverpool are contrasted in a way that keeps the viewer in a state of constant expectation.
It's equally good to find a director who has strong views and is not worried about expressing them. The commentary on such things as the Pope and the British royal family are quite blunt but are saved from any suggestion of offensiveness by the humour that accompanies them.
The use of music is generally very fine; eg Handel's "Royal fireworks music" for a loving examination of St George's Hall and Peggy Lee's "Folks who live on the hill" for a view of the grim isolation of high-rise living. I must add, however, that the use of Mahler's 2nd symphony for the section on urban renewal is a bit obvious.
Older viewers will be taken by the fact that some of the best jokes are in Latin but young-uns need not be put-off by this. If ever there was a documentary on a specific topic (in this case Liverpool and Mersyside) that was also universal in the impression it makes, this is it.
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