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“Why can’t every movie be directed by Terence Davies?”

That was the oft-heard post-screening refrain among the three of us who attended last night’s showing of Davies’s newest film, Of Time and the City, at Manhattan’s City Cinemas Village East. Yes, that’s right, for all you readers living in New York who care a whit about cinema: Terence Davies’s new film, and his sixth ever since he began directing in the Seventies (if we’re including his masterful Trilogy as one film), is playing this week in Manhattan, as part of the less than well-publicized DocuWeek. Right now. (Thanks to Nic Rapold for the tip; otherwise I would have thought the only thing showing was more effing French crime dramas at Film Forum….enough, Melville, enough!).

You have four more days to take in Davies’s splendid documentary, which is actually more of an essay film, which is actually more of perfectly reappropriated art. Mostly using unearthed archival footage, Davies has made a deeply personal yet wide-ranging meditation on his childhood home of Liverpool: not just about those twinned things found in the film’s title but also on his own past. Sexuality, architecture, movies, church, family: as in his earlier memoir fictions (Distant Voices/Still Lives, The Long Day Closes) these things are not mutually exclusive. And even if they’re a little expected at this point for Davies, what comes across as the grandest revelation is that this phenomenal storyteller and visual stylist is also an instinctively great nonfiction filmmaker. Every cut counts in Of Time and the City, one of the most successfully aestheticized documentaries in recent years. Even if Davies indulges in his own poetic musings and his own martini-dry witticisms (Davies himself narrates, in his lovely, profound British-accent), he always zooms out to the bigger picture. Melancholy development. Tenements crumbling through the decades from poverty to extreme decay. Hideous high rises dotting the Liverpudlian horizon. The silly pageantry of the Windsors as they parade through town. A speck of Beatles mania. A treasure trove of expressive songs (Peggy Lee singing Jerome Kern’s “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” the most pointedly sarcastic and lovely). Demons and angels and all in between. It’s glorious filmmaking, even at times heart-stoppingly perfect, constructed with the precision that only a master can wield. Four more days, six more showings:
8/11 4:00 pm 9:35 pm
8/12 12:00 pm 5:35 pm
8/13 1:35 pm 7:10 pm
8/14 4:00 pm 9:35 pm
Village East,
181 – 189 2nd Ave. at 12th St.

More on the film here, from our earlier coverage of the Sydney Film Festival, and more on the career of Davies here.

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