Of time and the city

Let There Be Light: Terence Davies" film illuminates a city"s hidden history. Strand Releasing hide caption


Of Time & the City

Director: Terence DaviesGenre: DocumentaryRunning Time: 74 minutes

Not Rated: Inoffensive images, barbed narration


Floating World: A Liverpool grain barge drifts through a bygone era.

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Bernard Fallon/Strand Releasing

In recent decades, many cities have built visitors" centers where they screen bubbly orientation films. Of Time & the City, Terence Davies" rumination on his Liverpool childhood, is exactly the sort of movie those places don"t show.

As he matches archival footage to lớn first-person narration, Davies reveals a fondness for such lost attractions as the city"s elevated railroad & its housing estates.

But the writer-director doesn"t prize much else about his hometown, rejecting The Beatles — "Yeah, yeah, yeah," he grumbles — and recoiling from high-rise public housing. The latter he cites as an example of "the British genius for the dismal."

Born in Liverpool just months after the kết thúc of World War II, Davies grew up working-class và Roman Catholic. As an adult, he fled the city và nearly everything it represented, yet returned to lớn it repeatedly in such semi-autobiographical movies as Distant Voices, Still Lives.

Not everything that made Davies" childhood dismal was exclusive lớn Liverpool. He hated the Catholic Church, although he doesn"t seem pleased that the city"s former cathedral is now a glitzy nightspot.

And he loathed Queen Elizabeth — he calls her "Betty Windsor" — both on general principles and because she staged an extravagant wedding và an opulent coronation while everyday Britons were still subject lớn rationing.

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It was in Liverpool that Davies realized he was gay, but it was also in the 1950s, which wouldn"t have made life any less difficult in London, new york or elsewhere. Yet he doesn"t have a lot lớn say on the subject, which is reduced lớn brief accounts of a crush on a schoolmate, the erotic appeal of professional wrestling, và Dirk Bogarde as a blackmailed gay man in Victim. Davies spends almost as much time on the "happiness unlimited" of childhood beach vacations.

Of Time & the City is narrated in a deep-voiced purr that couldn"t be less evocative of boyhood, và it can be surprisingly impersonal. Meanwhile, Davies garnishes his commentary with lines from Shelley, Jung, Engels, Joyce, Chekhov, Eliot & more; some are pertinent khổng lồ the filmmaker"s quest to recapture the past, but others seem like random forays into Bartlett"s.

Davies" first film since his 2000 adaptation of Edith Wharton"s The House of Mirth, Of Time and the City will appeal to lớn viewers with an interest in mid-20th century trains, buildings & mores. It may also strike a chord with those who prefer Mahler và Peggy Lee to lớn The Beatles (although the director finds occasions to lớn use both The Hollies và The Swinging blue Jeans).

Emotionally, however, the movie frustrates. Some moments are intimate and moving, but the film is often distant from its subject, & the sum total is only intermittently compelling. Of Time và the City doesn"t make it entirely clear that Davies wanted to lớn take this anti-nostalgia trip.