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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robinson sez, 10 April 2013
Richard "Not here." (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: London and Robinson in Space [DVD] (DVD)
I'd just like to add to the other positive critiques presented here by emphasising the accessibility and pleasure to be had for the wider cinema audience coming to these films. Watching them is one of those cinematic experiences which stands-out as distinctive and memorably different. True examples of auteur film-making these films are stylistically and thematically of-a-piece and share a distinct, idiosyncratic character. They may be subversive 'art' films but they are far more accessible than most --certainly more so than Warhol's for example. And they are very beautifully crafted.

Most people are likely to respond to the unusual and intriguing way the film-maker's approach blurs the distinction between documentary and fictional cinema. It's a different vibe on offer here which you don't get to experience in the mainstream and is entertainingly engaging on that level alone. They appear to be straight but actually are enjoyably playful and subversive and transparently constructed --something that reveals itself very quickly. The narrator gives you the the wink early on that something different's afoot and as you get into them you find yourself insidiously immersed in a distinct atmosphere in which a familiar city/landscape becomes subtly transformed. This is principally achieved by the interpretation presented in the narration as you travel in the company of a couple of slightly cracked 'explorers'.

The wheeze is that the films come on as mock documents: a sort of factual and objective diary-come-journal constructed by the narrator who has been enlisted by the main protagonist --his chum and ex-lover 'Robinson' --to record his exploration of London (the first film) which then broadens to England in the second film. Robinson, as expedition leader, has certain theories regarding the political shaping of the topography of city and country; theories which reflect his personal background as a product of late 60's radicalism with all that implies regarding the heavy influence of French intellectual thinking of the period and in particular The Situationist International. None of this is art subtext is gone into overtly in the film (don't worry it's very far from a leaden theoretical diatribe) and actually you don't need to be familiar with any of it in order to enjoy what's going on.

The theory is imbedded in the structure of the film however and in particular Robinson's actions (his expeditions) are clearly signposted for those in the know as him engaging in an exercise in psychogeography. If you're interested, this conceptual activity emerged as one of the ideas originally spun-out of the Situationists and has subsequently been developed in different ways by British writers and artists in the 1990s and since. The 'Robinson' films are cited as manifestations of psychogeography and Robinson is a fictional take on the generational 'type' of artist/writer typically engaged in this sort of activity. As such I assume he operates as a sort of alter-ego for the film-maker --albeit a satirical and amusingly dodgy one. As the films progress, Robinson's rather obsessive and increasingly paranoid ideas begin to lead him into problems. Even the narrator openly disputes his interpretation and ultimately becomes drawn into his chum's unravelling situation. Both films end badly for poor old Robinson, besieged as he is by Toryism and the depressing history his investigations reveal. This is all done via the narration since we never see the protagonists.

Obviously, both characters present the radical-chic subversion and Leftist critique typical of the generation and type currently engaged in psychogeographical work. Consequently if you are so entrenched in the opposite political camp that you can't detach yourself from the politics sufficiently enough to enjoy an objective aesthetic response to these films (as appears to be the case with another reviewer on this site) then I should spare yourself the agony of confronting these annoying fictional Lefties. Unless of course you enjoy whipping yourself into a froth over this sort of thing. Personally as a wishy-washy arty Liberal type, that's not a problem for me. I think it won't be for most British people either, because viewed simply as a striking form of documentary essay, both these films offer meticulously researched, factually accurate and coherent views of contemporary Britain. Those facts are interesting, if sobering ones and the films stand as accurately evocative expressions of a nation in transition. As ever. For anyone who lived in this country at the time (no matter of what political persuasion) they will agree, I suspect, that these films recall the cultural ambience of first half of the 1990's very well. For this reason alone they are very honourable additions to British documentary cinema. The mock document idea (permitting the film-maker objective distancing from Robinson's commentary) paradoxically produces a genuinely valid cinematic documentary record. Given the creative ingenuity of this form and the high aesthetic quality evident in the films' style and technical craftsmanship, they certainly deserve a place in the pantheon of great British cinema.

Above all however, I respond to them principally as very stylish contemporary topographical essays of great beauty.

Shot and written by one man, the director Patrick Keiller, these films are superbly crafted examples of the subtle interplay between sound and vision possible in cinema. The skill with which this is done means that there is nothing stodgy or laboured about this stately-paced, reflective piece looking at what is potentially dry subject matter. As pointed out elsewhere there are fore-runners to the basic idea of fusing documentary and fictional feature film-making but Keiller's personal approach is an original one and fully realised. The closest to it in his predecessors I can think of is in certain of Peter Greenaway's early short films. But those were significantly different in essential character and objective. So criticism of Keiller for being unoriginal seems entirely unfair and misplaced to me. Particularly given the refined, completely-resolved form Keiller's 'Robinson' films demonstrate. These are self-evidently polished auteur pieces of high artistic quality.

Adopting an overtly static sequential approach recalling the Pictorialist tradition at the heart of British landscape art, the most banal and kitschy scenes are transformed by the cinematographer's skilful framing and the alchemy of lens and film stock into gorgeous images. The combination of traditionally refined imagery with the visual detritus and junk of cultural wasteland produce a radical-chic contemporary aesthetic that is consistently developed across the two films, objectively accurate, and historically connected to the British landscape art tradition. A fine and fresh modern addition entirely in keeping with the subject matter: the British cultural topography in transition. The ironic interplay possible by combining these essentially lyrical images with a politically-charged history narrative underscored by atmospheric use of music and live sound, makes for a rich and varied expressive cinema. A perversely romantic one, I feel, given the tragi-comic nature of Robinson's transition through the landscape.

The net result: personal films that exude a lyrical and very English melancholy as old as the hills and which anyone who loves this country is likely to recognise and respond to. I certainly do.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 6 Mar 2014
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This review is from: London and Robinson in Space [DVD] (DVD)
This DVD had been recommended to me and when I viewed it I can see why. Two fascinating films by a very creative director/writer.
If you like originality and creativity in your films than pick this collection up - you wont be disappointing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST FILM EVER., 2 Mar 2014
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This review is from: London and Robinson in Space [DVD] (DVD)
Thanks so much for sending this! It's the best film I've seen in years, thanks again, really great, good value etc
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London and Robinson in Space [DVD]
London and Robinson in Space [DVD] by Patrick Keiller (DVD - 2012)
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