Of Time And The City Movie Review

Like a long, bickering marriage or a favorite pair of well worn out shoes, UK combo filmmaker and nostalgia buff Terence Davies can’t seem to resolve his unsettling but addictive love/hate relationship with the city of origin that informed his imagination for better or worse, in his latest ode to Liverpool, Of Time And The City.

The third Davies intimate excursion down memory lane after The Long Day Closes and Distant Voices, Still Lives, this whimsical autobiographical documentary is also graced with the eloquent, at times cranky bordering on bitter narrative commentary by the writer/director, situated somewhere between travelogue and ambivalent urban reverie.

A grain barge
A grain barge at the docks in Liverpool, England, in 1969, a scene from the documentary Of Time and the City, directed by Terence Davies. Bernard Fallon/Strand Releasing

Favoring a literary subjectivity that tends to soar above an often dismal post WW II inner city terrain, Davies, quoting a gamut of wisdom from Proust to Engels, saturates his industrial mindscapes with contemplations steeped in alternate resentment and regret. And when he bemoans, in quoting from Chekhov that ‘The golden moments pass and leave no trace,’ we are led on the contrary to understand that this visual history resolves to actually rage against the dying of that particular light. And one in which that trying but noble mass resistance to the paradox of individual extinction and passing time, is distilled in that seemingly meaningless but ever courageous determination as ‘humanity gets through another day.’

Of Time And The City, like life, often stumbles along in raw, jarring fashion but with always surprising luminescent moments to share, as the soundtrack incongruously clashes with the snapshot images, then suddenly captivates when settling on a crafted frame that perfectly fuses perception with meaning. And not without the occasional subversive wit that lightens the sobering mood, as when Davies playfully observes of the teeming, exhausted masses of the Liverpool ghettos, ‘The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all your time, and the trouble with being rich is that it takes up everyone else’s.’

Strand Releasing


3 stars