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DVD Review: Of Time and the City by Terence Davies

Of Time and the City - Now on DVD
by Jason Whyte

Here was a film I knew nothing about prior to seeing. Initially a time-filler at last year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, “Of Time and the City” just had a small picture and brief description to get by, and I went to this screening after I was sold out from another one. And usually when the festival program reads “experimental”, I immediately raise a red flag. One of my regular festival friends, who I ran into outside the screening room, assured me of the director’s earlier works (of which include “The House of Mirth” and “Distant Voices, Still Lives”) and was thrilled that I chose to see it admist many other screening choices that night. Yet deep down, I was worried that I was going to get a 90 minute video of nothing, which I have been given at VIFF oh-so- many times before.

Yet as the film progressed, my worries quickly began to disappear. Terence Davies’ deeply visual, poetic slice-of-life is set in Liverpool, where Davies was born and grew up in 1950’s post-war London. More than anything, “Of Time and the City” is about the times that have changed and how everything looks and feels around us. Davies brings us up close and personal into his life as he reflects on his childhood and how the world has changed around him since then. It is almost fascinating to see surroundings that you wouldn’t mind living in; in today’s ever changing, fast moving environment, here is a time and place that looks like it is standing still. The film runs at a brisk 75 minutes and spends every one of them quite well. This is a fine film that I’m sure will find a niche audience on home video.

VIDEO: Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver reported that the DVD was sourced from a PAL transfer, and he’s absolutely correct. This is a transfer taken directly from the Region 2 release, which means that the NTSC DVD runs about 4% faster than it should. This is fine if you are running it in PAL (it is published by the BFI company in England), but when transferred over to NTSC you get severe motion artifacts, edge enhancement and music that sounds faster than it should.

With that said, you won’t terribly notice the traditional problems with the PAL speedup here. What film footage here was converted to video and it looks all low-key to begin with. I never saw the film projected in 35mm, rather a digitally projected version, so I have no idea how this film would have looked in its (very limited) theatrical release. This is an acceptable transfer thanks to the low-res material, although any North American DVD company shouldn’t stoop to cheapening out and making the customers the suckers. Do your own transfer the right way.

AUDIO: Despite the transfer issue, it’s not a bad soundtrack. This is not a disc to demo your sound system with, however the 2.0 Dolby Surround track gives a nice balance to the music and narration, even when slightly accelerated with the PAL speedup. As typical with 2.0 tracks, I found I had to set my volume a bit louder on my home theater than normal for optimal viewing.

EXTRAS: A surprisingly detailed set of interviews and featurettes on the making of “Of Time and the City” round out the bonus features. It’s nice to see some entertaining and informative interviews on the subject. There are also a few additional trailers promoting other titles from the Films We Like and Strand Releasing companies, including the recent release “Died Young, Stayed Pretty”.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re into Terence Davies and his work, this well-made and engaging effort should absolutely belong in your collection. For those on the fence on experimental filmmaking but are looking for an interesting movie night, I recommend a rental first. I’m also not very impressed by the porting over of a PAL transfer to North American audiences.

Thanks to Films We Like for supplying this DVD for review. Be sure to be on the lookout for future DVD and Blu Ray reviews at! – Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 06/12/09 14:24:51
last updated: 06/18/09 04:03:09
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