Published: 2 August, 2012
by DAN CARRIER
Directed by Julien Temple
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars
The Olympic Games opening ceremony is a tough gig. By its very nature, it is cringeworthy, expensive and easy to pick holes in.
And that is another reason why Danny Boyle’s tremendous celebration of the history of our nation was so utterly brilliant.
Humour and a proper people’s history, all backed with the songs that have made us tap our feet and click our fingers.
While perhaps it was a real surprise, it was something I felt well prepared for. Earlier in the day I saw what I can only describe as the opening ceremony for the cinema – a perfect, dovetailing documentary that celebrates (and criticises) what our wonderful London is all about.
Julien Temple has created a contemporary art version of the Bayeux Tapestry, a documentary that for two and half hours assaults your senses and leaves you wishing to go back to the beginning immediately, as if it were a funfair ride, and start the film rolling again.
The story essentially starts with the invention of the film camera.
Temple has gleaned footage through decades, layered them on top of one another, and told the history of the city through interviews, archive pictures and music.
The result is a glorious feast that had me sobbing at times, laughing at others, and aching to get home to replay some of the music on the soundtrack.
Using a massive mash-up of TV and film clips, pictures, photographs, street art and painting, poetry, adverts, LPs and family photo albums, we are given a ringside seat of Victorian London via a hand-cranked monochrome lens, through to London’s vibrant high-definition world today.
The list of talking heads is expansive, creative, and unique.
As well as New Journal contributor Hetty Bower, we’ve got the well known and the unknown. From dock-working trade unionists to Suggs from Madness, Irish folk singers in Camden Town pubs, to Ray Davies, elderly East End Jewish immigrants, Lord Kitchener (the calypso singer, not the First World War one), Michael Horowitz, George Melly, market stall-holders from now and the past and hideous 80s yuppies – its breadth is extraordinary.
Temple hasn’t gone for the obvious. Instead he has peered between the cracks of the time-trodden London streets and pulled out brilliant observations.
As with Boyle’s Olympic beano, the soundtrack is a collective trip for us all. This is London folk music history – the music generations have collectively hummed, whistled or sung.
It means we get the old-time Burlington Bertie stuff, the Champagne Charlie and Fings Ain’t Wot They Used To Be, followed by Anarchy In The UK, Israelites, What’s Happened To Soho?, London Town, Get Up, Stand Up, West End Girls – the list goes on and on.
Vibrant, poignant, clever, witty, packed with meaning and beautiful to watch – Temple has made a cinematic love letter to our city, and, as Boyle basks in the plaudits after his Olympic effort, Temple can also take a bow.