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Tales From A Hard City Review

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The documentary follows the lives of four down-and-outs: Glen, karaoke champ and car thief; Sarah, single mother with a provocative past; Entrepreneurial Wayne, and ex-boxer Paul.

★★★★

Kim Flitcroft seems to have missed the point with this British documentary: art is life with the dull bits taken out, not painstakingly put back in. An account of petty crime and dreaming hard in contemporary Sheffield, this is a low point in fly-on-the-wall observation where everything is deemed equally essential viewing and therefore gets paraded before the lens. In Flitcroft's study, there is no edit facility.

The movie concentrates on four "real people". Glen is a car thief and karaoke champ. Single mother Sarah was imprisoned in Greece for "provocative dancing", back in Sheffield the Madonna wannabe mimes through a ghastly song called Dirty Dance. Wayne is an entrepreneur, you can tell, because he plays Monopoly with his kids and plugs capitalism. Paul used to be a boxer, now he is talking up car sponsorship, and between Tarot readings, opines such wisdom as, "Passion is passion. Love is love."

This is anti-Slacker culture - camcorder and karaoke, mobile phone and electronic organiser - in all its lethargic, tedious detail. It claims to offer a slice of life, but in striving for authenticity its set-up demands that little of import actually happens before the camera, and it all looks far too contrived to be a real documentary.

The point missed is that art, documentary or fiction, succeeds by selection. Any achievement and impact lies in sifting the interesting from the unremarkable - which is why Sheffield will remain best known for the Human League and shiny cutlery.

By showing her subjects' mundane lives in their entirity, Flitcroft creates an intensely dull film lacking any artistic observation or selection.