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London Review

Image for London

A narrator guides both us and his companion through London, pointing out the things that are historically important as well as what is important to him. Includes comments on the IRA and the current election

★★★★

The first full-length feature for avant-garde British filmmaker Keiller, this collection of visionary fragments presents a kaleidoscopic view of London as a terminal city besieged by literary voices, ancestral whispers and IRA bombs. Constructed as a series of journeys across the capital, the film lingers over shots of London as a narrator details their mythic significance to Robinson, the friend and ex-lover he is accompanying on his last walking tour of the city.

The urban landscape which falls under Keiller's microscopic gaze is dark and complex. The connecting thread for Robinson's occult wanderings is provided by memories of English Gothic romanticism, 19th Century European decadence and the homely virtues of the British welfare state. He may bang on about the iniquities of the Tories and the monarchy but he also finds time to praise the sturdy democratic design principles of the Routemaster bus.

The film drifts from Strawberry Hill to Vauxhall, from Stockwell to Stoke Newington, from Brent Cross to Brentford, taking in the City, the Notting Hill Carnival and Southall, while constantly returning to the slow pull of the Thames. The model for this kind of psychic drift seems to have been borrowed from the French situationists of the 60s and while it is a good formal device to use to excavate buried bits of London's history it can risk whimsy and obscurity. On the whole, however, this is an erudite, witty and imaginative look at secret London.

Without much of a cast to speak of, it comes as a surprise that London still remains an engaging film, with intriguing sub-plots and amusing anecdotes. Keillier does not only his film but also London itself justice with this memorable and witty film.