House of Mirth director Terence Davies’ rich, British voice narrates Of Time and the City, his “visual poem” about his life in Liverpool, with gusto, dripping with sarcasm, humour and lyricism.
Essentially a montage of archive footage of 20th Century Liverpool, Of Time and the City is a small scale portrait of the city, picking and choosing only the least generic tourist footage to chart the passage of time. There are Liverpudlian landmarks every now and then, but they feel very much secondary to the lives being lived beneath them.
Through struggles and experiences with sexuality, religion and music, Davies remains autobiographical, celebrating and occasionally criticising the city of Liverpool only in its reflection on his life, whether he’s visiting the wrestling or at a coronation street party.
This is as much the film’s greatest challenge as it is a success, for moments of the film leave you longing for elaboration that never comes. Davies found appreciation for classical music while the Beatles rose to prominence, he explains, so the Fab Four’s impact on the city is understated within Davies’ film.
But in moments of humour and almost nostalgic slices of everyday life, Of Time and the City shines. As Davies’ narration wraps around his words there are moments so inherently British that you can’t help but fall in love.
While shying away from the darker side of Liverpool’s recent past, Of Time and the City is, ultimately, a hopeful film. One man’s personal time capsule of this year’s European Capital of Culture is both a remembrance for those who were there and a window into the time for those who weren’t.