London Moves Me at the BFI London Film Festival

18 10 2009

At the moment the 53rd British Film Institute London Film Festival is on…

Particularly interesting to Londoners, Londonographers, Londonophiles, Londonists and Londonologists is ‘London Moves Me’:

Under the watchful gaze of Horatio Nelson, the London Film Festival’s annual free screening of short films from the BFI National Archive and London’s Screen Archives once again takes place in Trafalgar Square.

Almost all Londoners enjoy – or endure – a daily commute, and even the earliest filmmakers liked to record our trips across the city. London Moves Me is a celebration of transport in London – a whistle-stop tour from 1896 to 2009 with more than 20 films. With live piano accompaniment by Neil Brand, we invite you to cross the capital by the usual trains, buses and bicycles, but for the more adventurous we offer the odd skateboard, airship and canoe.

Victorian ladies skilfully negotiate the art of cycling in long skirts in Hyde Park Cycling Scene (1896) while Edwardian Ealing is revealed in Panorama of Ealing from a Moving Tram (1901). Tower Bridge Boats on Thames (1905) shows the river as a place of work rather than pleasure, but the younger generation is allowed a spot of aquatic fun on Clapham Common in Paddle Your Own Canoe (1922). In Barging Through London (1924) a horse-towed barge makes its journey along the Regent’s Canal – from Limehouse, under Mile End Road, through Hackney to Kings Cross, Kentish Town, Camden and on to Paddington Basin.

Unimpeded by concerns for the environment, the early colour film pioneer Claude Friese-Greene filmed the sights of London from his sporty Vauxhall D-type as seen in The Open Road (1925). Scenes at Piccadilly Circus and Hyde Park Corner Underground Stations (1931) is captivating amateur footage – possibly shot by a London Underground worker – that captures the almost ethereal beauty of the tube in the early Thirties. Our journey comes right up to date with Project One (Yohan Forbes, 2009), following a young skateboarder’s odyssey from the Thames Barrier to the South Bank.

Total running time c90min

Continuing our theme of transport in London, this year’s Archive Gala screening is Anthony Asquith’s classic, Underground (1928), a tale of love, treachery and murder on the tube.

Screenings commence at 18:30 and are free and open to all.

Another interesting BFI film about London is ‘London in the Raw’, which is an amazing portrait of London in the early sixties:

‘The World’s greatest city laid bare! Thrill to its gay excitement, its bright lights, but be shocked by the sin in its shadows!’ Following on from his Take Off Your Clothes and Live, and influenced by the world-wide success of Italian ‘Mondo’ movies, which combined documentary footage with staged sequences of salacious effect, legendary British low budget movie mogul Arnold Miller concocted this fascinating exploitation-style documentary. Peering voyeuristically behind the grimy net-curtains of London life into seedy bars and clubs for beatnik ‘art lovers’, and burrowing beneath the glittering facade of the capital’s glamorous cocktail lounges and casinos, London in the Raw provides a cynical, sometimes startling vision of life on and off the rain-spattered streets of 1960s London.

Belly Dancer at the Omar Khayyam Club from Arnold Louis Miller's London in the Raw (1964)

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