1991-2000DocumentaryPatrick KeillerUnited Kingdom

Patrick Keiller – London (1994)

An inspiring tale through London by pictures narrated by Paul Scofield.

NY Times wrote:
The city of London is not a hospitable-looking place in Patrick Keiller’s exceedingly arch cinematic meditation on England’s largest city. Filmed during Prime Minister John Major’s 1992 re-election campaign, “London” examines a metropolis whose stately old architecture is increasingly dwarfed by hideous post-modern skyscrapers and mocked by garish billboards.

A gray pall of air pollution hangs over the Thames. Members of the English royal family, shown discharging their ceremonial duties, look like wind-up dolls surrounded by toy soldiers. And terrorist bombings by the I.R.A. inflict staggering property losses in the heart of the city. Because the film has no live soundtrack apart from the narration and some faraway sound effects, it has the feel of an examination conducted through thick one-way glass.

Although “London,” which opened today at the Film Forum, has the appearance of a documentary, this eccentric movie is really a sly combination of fact and fantasy. Paul Scofield, who narrates, plays a man who has returned to London after a seven-year absence and tours the city with his former lover, an unseen, unheard character named Robinson. His narration is largely an account of Robinson’s observations on the decline of the city, as the two of them visit historical sites associated with famous authors and painters.

The tours they undertake are part of a vague research project whose purpose is never stated. The first of three trips takes them from Strawberry Hill to Twickenham (where Horace Walpole wrote “The Castle of Otranto”) to Vauxhall (the area associated with Sherlock Holmes). The second expedition begins at a house once occupied by a woman who rejected Guillaume Apollinaire’s offer of marriage and ends at a school where Edgar Allan Poe was once a pupil. The final jaunt, in the city’s outer suburbs, follows the River Brent.

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Along the way there is a lot of prattle about the French poets Baudelaire, Verlaine and Rimbaud’s impressions of London. The narration is heavily seasoned with lofty quotations on the character of the city and on urban life in general. One of the most resonant comes from the 19th-century Russian socialist Aleksandr Herzen, who observed: “There is no town in the world which is more adapted for training one away from people and training one into solitude than London.”

Although the film makes a token attempt to celebrate the vitality of neighorhoods where immigration has created a multi-ethnic swirl, it is at heart an extended cranky complaint against modernism and the decline of civility. The unrelieved hauteur of Mr. Scofield’s character eventually becomes tedious, and “London” takes on the tone of a dry, circuitously worded editorial.

“Can’t Go Wrong Without You,” the three-minute music video by the Brothers Quay that opens the program, is a typically eerie visual nightmare by the experimental film makers. In this black and white film for the underground rock band His Name Is Alive, a stuffed rabbit battles devilish forces for the possession of an elusive Easter egg.

1.82GB | 1 h 25 min | 810×576 | mkv



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