directed by Terence Davies
U
K 2008

 

Terence Davies' ode to his native Liverpool has wowed audiences and critics alike after being hailed as the highlight of the Cannes Film Festival where it received its premiere. This is a spectacular return to form by Davies, long-hailed as one of Britain's greatest filmmakers. Of Time and the City is an illuminating and heartfelt work, powerfully evoking life in post-war Britain while exploring the nature of love, memory, and the toll that the passing years takes on the cities and communities that we cherish. This is no simple documentary; it is an entrancing piece of autobiographical cinema that reaches far beyond the city in which it is set, weaving a rich tapestry from archive and contemporary footage, music, voice, literary quotation, personal reminiscence and wickedly funny observation.

***

"Of Time and the City" is a difficult film to describe but a distinct pleasure to experience. A cinematic essay, a documentary and a memory piece, all at the same time, it is more than anything an unapologetically poetic film that allows British director Terence Davies to ruminate on Liverpool, the city of his birth, and his own life and times there.

If you've seen Davies' autobiographical dramatic films, especially 1988's brilliant "Distant Voices, Still Lives" and its sequel, "The Long Day Closes," you know how effective a director he is when dealing with his past as the youngest of 10 children in a difficult household.

While "Of Time and the City" is a documentary and, more than that, one in which 80% of the footage is archival material such as newsreels, it displays the same virtues that made the director's earlier fiction films so memorable.    

Excerpt from Kenneth Turan at the Los Angeles Times

Poster

Theatrical Release: May 20th, 2008 - Cannes Film Festival

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DVD Comparison:

Strand - Region 0 - NTSC vs. BFI  - Region 2 - PAL

(Strand - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. BFI  - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

   

 

 

Distribution Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC BFI - Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:13:54 1:13:45
Video 1.78:1  Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.85 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 
1.78:1  Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.64 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  Strand DVD

Bitrate:  BFI DVD

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)  English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles None English (Hearing Impaired), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Strand

Aspect Ratio:
 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Trailer (2:21)

• Interviews (Terence Davies, Producers Roy Boulter and Sol Papadopoulos, Executive producer Lisa Marie Russo and Editor Liza Ryan-Carter) - 24:13

• On the Set with Terence Davies (4:27)

• In the Editing Room With Terence Davies (2:43)

• Highlights (4:45)

• Trailers from other Strand Releases

DVD Release Date: May 12th, 2009

Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• The making of Of Time and the City (2009): in new interviews, Terence Davies and the film's producers and archive producer discuss the making of the film and the inspirations behind it(45:40).
• Listen to Britain - 19:09 (Humphrey Jennings, Stuart McAllister,1942): the classic wartime documentary which helped inspire Of * Time and the City, presented with a personal introduction by Terence Davies (1:18).
• Q&A with Terence Davies at Cambridge Arts Picturehouse (19:05)
• Original trailer (2:11)
• 22-page Illustrated booklet featuring essays, credits and biography.
 
DVD Release Date: March 30th, 2009

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 7

 

Comments:

Speaking bluntly - here we have a production company that frequently does things 'correctly' and another who almost exclusively 'screws things up'. Let's start with the positive - the BFI Region 2 - PAL DVD is dual-layered, progressive and represents the film's extensive archival footage to the highest ideal for the SD-DVD format. Onto the bad; it seems every time we review a Strand Releasing title - it is taken from an unconverted PAL source and thrown on an NTSC standard DVD . Hence it has all the deficiencies of that lesser transfer practice. They remain consistent here but not only is there frequent ghosting and combing in the Strand image (by the way, making it very frustrating to match captures with the superior BFI edition) but contrast is much weaker as well looking to have infiltration of green/blue (although both have been reportedly derived from the same telecine). The fact that the BFI is minutely sharper is really not the issue - how it looks in motion is world's apart. I don't mean to attack Strand all the time as there is a viable argument for at least exposing this film to a North American, region-locked, audience. Also though, on the visual front - the BFI show a tad more information in the 1.78 frame and has less noise/artifacts (is smoother). So while the static images below don't tell the whole story this time - you can take my word for it that the BFI is vastly superior.

 

I can't honestly say I noted a difference in the audio but I should state that I LOVE the solo piano accompaniment and other dramatic music used in the documentary. It is only in 2.0 channel for both but works wonders with a presentation. The BFI have thought to include optional English subtitles for the narration - where Strand have none.

Looking beyond the surface listing of each disc's supplements - they are again heavily in the BFI's favor. Strand have an extras section simply called Interviews which strings together 4 poor quality shot pieces with Terence Davies, a second with Producers Roy Boulter and Sol Papadopoulos, a third with Executive producer Lisa Marie Russo and end with Editor Liza Ryan-Carter. It lasts about 25 minutes and while the information has merit - it seems again simply thrown on the disc. Ditto for the other extras - On the Set with Terence Davies runs less than 5 minutes and has no probative value. A bit more interesting is In the Editing Room With Terence Davies but it runs less than 3-minutes. Highlights (4:45) could be outtakes or some of the more preferred shots from the film and there is a trailer (2:21) and trailers from other Strand Releases. It all seems 'puffed up' without much viable content.

BFI supply a detailed 'The Making of Of Time and the City' with new interviews. Terence Davies and the film's producers and archive producer discuss the making of the film and the inspirations behind it and it runs over 45 minutes. BFI have included Listen to Britain - 19:09 (Humphrey Jennings, Stuart McAllister,1942): the classic wartime documentary which helped inspire Of Time and the City, presented with a personal introduction by Terence Davies running just over a minute. There is also a 20-minute Q&A with Terence Davies at Cambridge Arts Picturehouse and an original theatrical trailer. A wonderful touch is the included 22-page Illustrated booklet featuring essays, credits and a biography.

Finally, let's look at price - the Strand is $22.49 USD and the BFI is 12.98 = $19.66 USD  - almost $3 cheaper. I am enamored with Terence Davies cinema and while I'm not as keen on documentary work - I am so glad to have seen this as it reflects on his other work very well. This should be seen - and we roundly choose the BFI - for the best viewing experience and valuable extra features.  

Gary W. Tooze

 


 

DVD Menus

 

(Strand - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. BFI  - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)


 


Subtitle Sample

 

(Strand - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI  - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

(Strand - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI  - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


(Strand - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI  - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


(Strand - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI  - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


(Strand - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI  - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


(Strand - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI  - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)
 

 


Report Card:

 

Image:

BFI

Sound:

-

Extras:

BFI

 

DVD Box Cover

   

 

 

Distribution Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC BFI - Region 2 - PAL




 

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