Friday, May 29, 2009

DVD VIews: Of Time and the City

Of Time and the City ** ½
Written & Directed By:
Terence Davies

Terence Davies’s Of Time and the City is a interesting little documentary about the filmmakers hometown of Liverpool, England. Best know as the home of the Beatles, Davies’ film sheds light on the city as a whole, concentrating on the directors formative years after WWII in through the 1960s. Made up of archival footage, the film offers a fascinating insight into the city, the country and the filmmaker.

The movie has garnered much critical attention since it’s debut at last year’s Cannes film festival. I understand the critical acclaim the film has received, even if I cannot fully embrace it. Films like Of Time and the City are rare nowadays. In an industry dominated by what’s new and exciting, Of Time and the City takes a bold look backwards – to examine the past, to help understand the present. The images found by Davies are fascinating and beautiful in their everyday quality. His voiceover narration offers an interesting view of the past. Sometimes romantic and nostalgic, sometimes full of anger and rage, Davies does not shy away from exposing his soul as an artist.

Had this been a short film, I probably would have loved it. But stretched over feature length, the film became tiresome and repetitive to me. The images are all beautiful, but after a while they simply start to blend together, and lose the power that they have in isolation. Davies voiceover narration is similar. Once hearing about his struggles with his sexuality, or his problems with the monoarchy and the history of the city is fascinating – but soon it’s all just too much.

Movies like this get critical attention because they are so different from everything else out there. It’s true that you are unlikely to see another film quite like Of Time and the City this year, so for that reason alone it may be worth renting. Yet, I cannot help but to compare the film to last year’s film My Winnipeg, by Canadian maverick Guy Maddin. That film, part documentary, part fantasy, was a fascinating look at the director’s love/hate relationship with his home town. Even when Maddin goes over the top into fantasy, he is exposing some buried truth about his city. For me, it reaches a level that Davies film simply does not. I certainly did not dislike the film, nor would I discourage someone who thinks its sounds fascinating from seeing the film. Yet for me, there just wasn’t enough here for me to truly fall in love with the film. Perhaps had I had a more personal relationship with the city in question - or was more familar with Davies other work as a director - I would have responded differently. But I did not, so I have to be honest.

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