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London Nobody Knows / Les Bicyclettes De Belsize [DVD] 
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Double-bill of short films showing aspects of a bygone London. In 'The London Nobody Knows' (1967), James Mason narrates as the viewer is taken on a tour round a side of London the tourists don't see. Documenting the street vendors and local characters, and giving a fascinating glimpse of a culture soon to disappear, the film contrasts starkly with the 'swinging sixties' vision of London at the time. In the short musical 'Les Bicyclettes De Belsize' (1969), a young man falls in love with a fashion model after seeing her photograph. Most of the film involves following the characters, on bicycle, around the Hampstead area of London, to the accompaniment of a musical soundtrack.
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Top Customer Reviews
'The London Nobody Knows' is, as the title suggests, a look at some lesser known sights of London and is narrated by James Mason. We begin in an old music hall in Camden which is almost literally falling down. There is a sense of eery seediness here; one of the singers who performed here was the wife of the notorious Dr. Crippen. It was clearly a beautiful hall in its heyday, but was caught on film just before the very final curtain fell. We move through some street markets, and to an extraordinary sight in Holborn. Here we see a gas-lit gent's toilet, with, above the urinals, a fish tank- complete with living fish! Apparently some goldfish suffered the indignity of being moved into this tank (which really did house fish once) for the cameras, and were then safely taken back to a better place afterwards. Another old gents' toilet is shown down an alleyway, and it's in the style of the classic French pissoir- completely unexpected in London. We see an ornate gas lamp near the Savoy theatre which acts as a ventilation system for the sewer underneath. Is that still there I wonder? But this film is about people more than things, and we see a number of, mostly, men who are down on their luck. The Salvation Army Hostel provides a home for many, and Mason is seen chatting with a number of the men, all of whom seem quietly resigned to their lot. But this is not a film where the presenter intercedes too often; most of the time the director allows the camera itself to tell the tale.Read more ›
The 45 minute documentary "THE LONDON NOBODY KNOWS" has James Mason as your guide through streets of 1960s London showing you buildings and ways of life which even then were being lost forever - such as street performers including a "strong man", and a once vibrant, but now derelict theatre - as they are replaced by the modern era, itself now a chapter in history. It is a fascinating visit into 1960s London which brings the past to life better than any reconstruction or fictionalised film setting could manage.
"Les Bicyclettes de Belsize" is an enchanting short musical film. The melodies, beginning with the romantic french style title song, complement the cinematography warmly evoking the fashion, charm and innocence of a bygone era as the main character, a young man played by Anthony May, cycles round a pretty Hampstead village (not Belsize) in 1968 London in search of a beautiful model played by Judy Huxtable.
Being a child when this was made (1967), my views of the era are somewhat halcyon: playing outside, in the park, a simple life. What struck me more than anything about this superb documentary was the grinding poverty and squalor in which so many people still lived in the 1960s. Whilst this era went around the world as "the swinging 60s", fuelled by imagery of Carnaby Street and Kings Road, and Britain's dominance in the pop world, the reality for the overwhelming majority could not have been any different.
Scenes of meths drinkers brought memories flooding back of seeing these poor down and outs on the street, and made me wince when viewing them. Especially heartbreaking is the scene where James Mason interviews people in the Salvation Army hostel: 6 shillings for accomodation was a fortune in those days even for those at work.
Coupling this film with 'Les Bicyclettes de Belsize' is not at all incongruous, but a stroke of genius. In an instant, it contrasts the 'soft-focus' world view that many may have had about 'Swinging London' in the 1960s, with the reality that you have just witnessed in 'The London That Nobody Knows'.
This utter gem of a DVD should be in everyone's collection and, importantly, should be made mandatory viewing as part of the National Curriculum.
I would give this 10 stars if I could!!!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a wonderful double bill - very quaint and much recommended.Published 6 months ago by Keith Waterhouse
'Les Bicyclettes' is a gem of it's time and gives a real flavour of the swinging sixties. Some of the filming techniques were very new at the time and it was a popular supporting... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Brownshoe
The London Nobody Knows is a hidden gem of a film in which Londoners speak about their lives, narrated by James Mason in his inimitable style.Published 24 months ago by Janice Brent
The best historic snapshot of London with great presentation from James Mason.Published on 13 Aug. 2014 by Joseph O'malley
Two very different but brilliant films. TLNK is a fascinating look around the decaying remains of another era which, since this film was made, are no longer there. Read morePublished on 3 July 2014 by Freddie Valentine
I remember seeing London Nobody Knows as a B film at the cinema back in the Sixties. At the time, it was a bit boring for a fourteen-year-old, waiting to see the main movie, but... Read morePublished on 29 May 2014 by Sue