“Some lovely moments grow and sorrows not known until tomorrow cloudy the happy hours in the sun.” The nostalgic visual poem Of Time and the City depicts happy moments of writer/director Terence Davies’s life in Liverpool during his childhood and into his 20s, with his acerbic commentary on changes, modernity, the rich, and the Beatles.
|of time and the city, a movie directed by terence davies. playing january 23-24 at the walker art center, 1750 hennepin ave., minneapolis. for tickets ($8) and information, see walkerart.org.|
Davies narrates the film a hushed, theatrical voice. Epic in emotion, personal growth, and discovery, as well as in its addressing of sociopolitical change, Of Time and the City is as much autobiographical as it is about the city and culture, about poverty, and about the search for happiness, time and aging, and inevitable change. Davies beautifully balances his voiceover narration with long periods of silence while we view images worth thousands of words, and with music that often contrasts with what we’re seeing—soaring, angelic choir music as people walk through graffiti-scarred, trash-filled slums; intense opera while they do house chores; classical music as teens thrash to the Beatles (who Davies never liked).
With excellent photography, and with quotes from the likes of T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Willem de Kooning, and Anton Chekhov, Davies created a profoundly poetic, personal portrait of his life. He shares his views on homosexuality and the Catholic Church: “Caught between the Canon and the criminal law, I said goodbye to my girlhood.” Davies becomes more curmudgeonly (and wittier) as he talks about the passing of time and the loss of youth (“we think youth is never-ending, and happiness unlimited”). Change comes, and the Liverpool of his memories dies. “Where are you, the Liverpool I knew and loved? Where have you gone without me?” his voice asks craggily.
This is an extraordinary, dreamy elegy of days and a city gone by, from a man whose youthful innocence turned bitter and sad. It leaves an indelible mark on the heart.
Cyn Collins (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Twin Cities freelance arts and culture writer. She is the author of West Bank Boogie, a substitute programmer at KFAI, and an assistant producer of Write On Radio.