london’s londoner-video essay by christie

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One Response to london’s londoner-video essay by christie

  1. JS says:

    A Review of the film – London’s Londoner by Christie

    What now seems like a few lifetimes ago I used to write film reviews for a local magazine in Bristol. They were terrible really, badly written, poor punctuation and a strong sense of injustice used to hang around my sentences to imply I could do better myself if only someone gave ME the money to make the films instead.

    But I loved it. I loved the weekly reverie and being given 300 words to air my views or to find an impassioned response to films that I felt deserved writing about. I also learnt a format which has helped me in all manner of writing work that I have had to do, from cover letters for jobs, to critiques of student dissertations. This format which I had to follow involved writing short paragraphs addressing these questions which it was felt contained all that a reader would be interested in –

    (a) The hook – A direct, first impression of the film.
    (b) A brief, factual treatment outline of the content of the film.
    (c) What does this film say about the filmmaker?
    (c) How does the work fit in within the filmmaker’s oeuvre?
    (d) What is the filmmaker saying about the world?
    (e) Lasting thoughts from having considered the above?
    (f) Would I recommend people to watch the film? Who?

    So, once more, I’m going to follow this format to review Christie’s film –

    London’s Londoner

    You’re sat there not sure whether to smile, or to smile to yourself. Was it naive, quaint and sentimental, or did it affect me in a way that I hadn’t expected it to? Why am I questioning myself (as an oriental person living in the west perhaps?) and feeling an unfamiliar affinity to the subtext of the film? A longing for a place… Or just a longing for a name to put to a place ?

    The title of the film only holds meaning towards the end. At first you would be forgiven for thinking you’d misread the title or that there’s a typing error – “London’s Londoner”. You haven’t. As I said, these words are elucidated when the camera turns off. Fade out.

    From Dicken’s work to Dicken’s world, from nightlife and British illustrations to tourist attractions in the capital,the film takes us through a kaleidoscope of this country’s capital and it’s images. The views from the London Eye, tick, the buses, tick, the taxis, tick, the squares, tick and even the buskers and the pigeons are all fairly represented. The music is drifting piano accompaniments fused with a rock ballad by Dire Straits (tellingly, the busker is singing a love song of a doomed relationship – Romeo & Juliet). Everything is laid out there as you would expect it to be. The English subtitles rudely underline the poetry of her Mandarin speech as she narrates. But more about that later.

    The filmmaker has a key question – “I don’t know what exactly Londoner’s look like” although by the end of the film she and I have a pretty good idea. So she says. Underneath this question, the filmmaker is asking us to help her with her curiosities through the repetition of this mantra. She notices the evil lurking in the Dickensian work and by extension, through her affinity with London as this sordid, old capital from the Victorian times, she must also recognise the evil. Drunks are mentioned and somewhere the west is portrayed in a snapshot. Not a photo snapshot mind you. The snapshot is of this Western representation back in the East. The filmmaker is almost surprised that she likes what she sees although she is not sure what she is looking at..

    The drifting piano music accompanied by the poetry of the mandarin is punctuated by the haphazard English translation. This isn’t a criticism. The opposite is true. The film, to a native English speaker is enhanced by the random associations that we make when we read a sentence that doesn’t make “conventional” sense. Our sense is derived from the rhythm of the images to the sound of the mandarin which creates a poetry that might be absent in a literal English translation. Simone De Beauvoir once wrote the hardest part of translation was not in conveying the meaning from one language to the next, but to copy the tone of the writer’s voice. Strangely, this doesn’t apply here. The English sentences are redundant because words are carefully chosen to make sentence structure meaningless.

    This film is a springboard. A visual essay and a documentary but without the boarders. The filmmaker is experimenting with expression as much as fiddling with the film form. She just hasn’t opened the double doors fully yet.

    Watch this film if you hate London. Watch this film if you love London. Watch this film if you have no idea what London is. Don’t watch this film if you are a Londoner wanting to know what London is. What this film if you are in London but haven’t met a Londoner. Who knows, you might meet someone wondering who Londoner’s are too?

    It is simple, it is light, it is wanting to make friends. It is a friend to London without ever suggesting knowing what London actually is. Shhhhh…. she doesn’t need to know. -JS

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