London / Robinson in Space DVD
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Directed by Patrick Keiller
Produced in 1994-97
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Under the shadow of another general election, and in the year that sees the final phasing out of Robinson’s ‘undeniably utopian’ Routemaster buses, what better moment for Patrick Keiller’s cinematic elegies to British public space to appear on DVD? London (1994) and Robinson in Space (1997) are stages in the journey of an autodidact and his companion in their attempt to understand the ‘problem’ of modern Britain through its economic geography. Both films are wonderfully narrated by Paul Scofield, (who brings the distinctive wit and melancholy of Keiller’s scripts to life) and capture two of the 1990s defining moments: Black Wednesday and the months before the ‘97 landslide. No post-modern celebration, then, but an indictment of ‘the most unsociable and reactionary of cities,’ Keiller’s London has a void at its civic heart, filled up by international commerce and the meaningless spectacle of monarchy. While the film’s static visual fragments convey an urban culture that is broken and impoverished, they also suggest the remains of an idealised modernity that lies buried in the city. Robinson’s metropolis has moved to the margins: to migrants, exiles and the suburban crowd. His project of suburban excavation continues in Robinson in Space, where, inspired by Daniel Defoe’s Tour of the Whole Island of Great Britain, Robinson and friend set out to anatomise a ‘peculiarly English form of capitalism’. On an odyssey of bus-shelter brief encounters and bad motorway food, they discover the provinces as a terrifying sequence of private spaces and flee from the interior to the edges: the distribution centres and ports that form the key to the paradox of national character. Immingham’s wealthy sterility sums up how British public space has been reduced to the dimensions of a container. Yet the possibility of a creative outside is still there in the Neolithic art of the Scottish border and the stubborn haunting of the landscape by birdsong, eccentrics and visionaries (Robert Burton, Laurence Sterne, and watch out for the soundtrack’s affecting and sneaky homage to Powell and Pressburger). As central to our cinematic culture as Humphrey Jennings or Lindsay Anderson, these are perhaps the two most important British films of the 1990s.
Two provocative film essays from Patrick Keiller: London (1994) and Robinson in Space (1997).
London is a journal of 1992, the year of John Major’s re-election, IRA bombs and the first crack in the House of Windsor. Scathing reflections on the recent past are enlivened by offbeat humour and wide-ranging literary anecdotes.
In Robinson in Space, Robinson, the enigmatic and unseen hero of Keiller's 'London', returns with his travelling companion and researcher (again voiced by Paul Scofield) to undertake a hugely enjoyable journey around England. He has been commissioned by an international advertising agency to investigate the 'problem of England'. Although this problem is never clearly stated, let alone solved, Keiller’s beautifully framed images and Scofield’s sly, deadpan narration stimulate the eye and the mind.
Length: 160 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 20th June 2011
Cat No: BFIVD926
- 2 discs
- Fully illustrated booklet.
Desert Island Movies 120 films
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