Like Morrissey with Manchester or Joyce and Dublin, Terence Davies enjoys an intense love-hate relationship with the half-remembered Liverpool of his youth. A low-budget docu-memoir blending music, poetry and archive footage, Of Time And The City is highly personal and exquisitely beautiful in places.
Drawing on a childhood dominated by poverty, Catholicism and guilt-ridden homosexuality, Davies cuts between footage of monochrome post-war austerity, the full-colour 1960s and the designer drinking dens of contemporary Liverpool. Endless shots of terraced streets and kitchen-sink squalor glide past with little guiding narrative.
Davies cites the great social documentarian Humphrey Jennings as an inspiration, but there are echoes of Derek Jarman and Patrick Kieller here too. Alternating between mournful and scornful, Davies prissy voiceover declaims pet hates including Britain’s “fossil monarchy” and The Beatles, who he blames for the decline of wit and glamour in popular music.
More elaboration of these bitchy one-liners would have been welcome, as would more depth to the film’s sketchy musings on class war, religious oppression and sexual politics. But once you tune in to its musical grace, Of Time And The City becomes a mesmerising and immersive experience.