A filmmaker looks at the history and transformation of his birthplace, Liverpool, England.A filmmaker looks at the history and transformation of his birthplace, Liverpool, England.A filmmaker looks at the history and transformation of his birthplace, Liverpool, England.
Anyone familiar with Davies' earlier work, particularly "Distant Voices, Still Lives" and "The Long Day Closes", will recognize this as a Davies film from the opening moments, the only difference being that the images on screen are 'real' and not fabricated in a studio. But then, of course, they are only 'real' in so much as Davies chooses to make them real. Like the greatest of documentary film-makers Davies has 'fabricated' reality to suit his own ends. (He is very particular in what he gives us; he has little time for The Beatles or for the Catholic Church while childhood is very much to the fore). And, of course, because the film has more to do with Davies himself than it does with Liverpool, his relationship with the city comes across as somewhat ambivalent. 'We love the things we hate and we hate the things we love' he quotes quite early on and while he presents us with a much idealized vision of Liverpool for much of the time, he never shies away from showing us the poverty and the darker face of the city. One popular song he doesn't use on the soundtrack, (left out, I have no doubt, as being too 'cheesy'), is 'The Way We Were', not the Barbra Striesand version but Gladys Knight's, the one that begins with 'Try to Remember'; "Everybody's talking' about the good old days ... we look back and we think the winters were warmer, the grass was greener, the skies were bluer and smiles were bright").
On the other hand, if the 'autobiographical' trilogy and "Distant Voices, Still Lives" are anything to go by, we know that Davies' own childhood was far from rose-tinted. (The later, "The Long Day Closes", may be seen as being much more about Davies himself and was certainly 'softer' and more homoeroticized that "Distant Voices ..."). Where "Of Time and the City" scores over the 'fiction' films is in Davies' ability to move beyond the family circle to tackle wider issues, taking swipes at both the monarchy and the Catholic Church. I kept thinking, here is a man who will never get a knighthood nor will he ever get to heaven, although I doubt if any loving God would deny entry to so creative a subject as Davies despite his professed disbelief.
"Of Time and the City" is a thing of beauty as much as a painting, icon or piece of classical music and I can think of no director in the history of the cinema who can marry music to imagery as beautifully or as profoundly as Davies, (and when are the CD soundtracks to his films going to be released). "Of Time and the City" is a work of art worthy of its creator and in a year when Liverpool has been designated European Capital of Culture, I can think of no more fitting a tribute.
- Nov 25, 2008