A Dense World of Recurrences


Patrick Keiller’s daringly simple and yet fulsomely written meta-doc is composed of three fairly fundamental elements: footage of London shot in 1992, a rich spoken text of deep cynicism and literary wit, and the laconic oracular tones of Paul Scofield, acting as the unnamed narrator. That’s it, but the assemblage is hypnotic, hilarious, and beguilingly close to redefining what a movie narrative is and isn’t. Strictly first-person, the narration tells the story of his sometimes sexual relationship with Robinson, an unseen and precociously romantic figure who hunts the eponymous city looking for meaning, which he finds lacking in the modern age. Keiller evokes a dense world of recurrences, historical connections, and patterns of force; what we see of London’s surfaces is framed as merely the charade under which the significances of public life hide. The economy, English literary history, the exploding horror of modern consumer culture, and the apparent social dysfunction responsible for the 1992 parliamentary elections are all grist for the two men’s mills, and Keiller’s ur-British piece of fiction is revelatory, possibly the most telling film made about that national sensibility since Ken Loach’s Family Life. No supplements.