Monday, January 26, 2009

Boats Against The Current, Borne Ceaselessly Into The Past

It pretty much rained the whole weekend, here in London, so I stayed in and worked on the ongoing project, which I hope to be able to tell you about soon, and indulged in some shameless and enjoyable nostalgia, watching a double-bill DVD of two 1960s rarities. The first, The London Nobody Knows, is a documentary based on the eponymous book by Geoffrey Fletcher. Fletcher wrote the script, Norman Cohen directed, and James Mason is the effortlessly sympathetic guide, strolling around the parts of London tourists generally don't see, and which would soon mostly be swept aside by modernisation. It takes in a disused music hall once frequented by Walter Sickert, ancient railway yards, buskers, street markets, an eel and mash pie shop and the site of one of Jack the Ripper's murders in a backyard in unreconstructed Spitalfields, and juxtaposes swinging London scenes with some shockingly visceral squalor. A small gem, and essential viewing for anyone interested in London.

It's paired with Les Bicyclettes De Belsize, a short, silly, but charming musical set in Hampstead rather than neighbouring Belsize, in which a boy on a bicycle crashes into a billboard, falls in love with the model it depicts, and sets out to find her. The catchy title song was a hit for Englebert Humperdinck.

Bonus link - a short colour film from 1935, showing the Thames when it was still a working river.


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