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As well as looking at how literature is a way of recording history (particularly in Herman Melville’s Redburn and, soon, the writings of Liverpool working class author, George Garrett), we have been watching film representations of the city. Last week we saw a collection of British Pathe newspeels documenting the early years of the twentieth century. These were fascinating, and what we noticed most of all was their emphasis on royalty, famous personages, patriotism and a sense of togetherness as if everybody took the view ‘we are all in this together’. We then looked at the moving sequence of Boys from the Blackstuff where Chrissie wheels George towards the Baltic Fleet for a pint with the lads, through the decay and destruction of the South Docks, so celebrated as part of Liverpool’s greatness in the Pathe films.

Watching the films gave us the chance to see how representing the city has changed for several reasons, importantly the massive opening to working class ‘bottom up’ representations since the 1950s, and also, importantly, the opportunities that new technologies in production have afforded.

Finally, we watched the opening sequences of Terence Davies’s Of Time and the City and discussed the ways in which music, poetry, autobiography, archive footage could all be blended together to present new and exciting ways of representation.

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Of Time and the City

Terence Davies’ award winning film looks at Liverpool very much through a personal prism. Davies has not set out to make a documentary ‘about’ his city, although it does contain some wonderful archive material. Nor does he want to spend time eulogising football or the Beatles (in fact he has no interest in any pop music).

Instead, he weaves together his own narrative, poetry, music and a wonderful range of film footage to reflect more upon the nature of memory itself.

There are very many celebrations of Liverpool around, historical documentaries, ‘issue-based’ dramas and reportage, many of them excellent in their own terms, and a lot of them representing the dynamic field of production not considered mainstream. But Davies’ film, while inevitably evoking some of the many layers of time’s passing in this city, is more ‘about’ an individual’s very deep and unique response to the passage of time.

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