This is Tomorrow (Paul Kelly, 2007)
Finisterre (Paul Kelly and Kieran Evans, 2002)
What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? (Paul Kelly, 2005)
Kelly + Victor (Kieran Evans, 2012)
So, Paul Kelly has made at least three documentaries with Saint Etienne, a musical beat combo whose work I confess I’m not familiar with, although I’ve listened to some since. And I suspect that means I’m missing something with Finisterre.
Of course, This is Tomorrow is mistitled, because it surely refers to the iconic exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1956, featuring artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi, William Turnbull, Richard Hamilton, and many more. Instead, it takes us back to the Festival of Britain in 1951, of which the Royal Festival Hall is one survivor. Designed by Leslie Martin, Peter Moro and Robert Matthew, compromises in building meant the acoustics were not as rich as they might have been. There was an attempt to improve this in 1964, followed by a major restoration and improvement between 2005 and 2007. The documentary shows the festival and then moves into an account of the work. I confess I was interested more in the former than the latter and it’s such a shame the Skylon was destroyed.
Having realised this was a loose trilogy, I then watched Finisterre, which includes extracts from The Shipping Forecast and music from the album by Saint Etienne. It’s a version of the City Symphony genre although, despite some really interesting shots and juxtapositions, doesn’t compare with Manhatta (Paul Strand, 1921) or Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (Walter Ruttmann, 1927). It’s a day in the life of the city, from 6.00am to 6.00am at Victoria Station, apparently also biographical of the band. I missed all this, but did like the snark about Camden.
Like This is Tomorrow, Mervyn was commissioned to be performed and screened in the Barbican, and is a depiction of the Lower Lea Valley, at around the time of the announcement of the 2012 Olympics. This coincided with the 7/7 bombing, which is brought in via snippets of news broadcasts. The trajectory depends on the wanderings of a paper boy, Mervyn Day (Noah Kelly, presumably the director’s son) on his rather extended paper route. David Essex and Linda Robson contribute as his grandfather and mother. Presumably his name is taken from a Leyton Orient footballer. It’s diverting enough, I learned a fair bit, and maybe needed to be watched alongside reading Iain Sinclair’s Sorry Meniscus (1999), about trying to walk to the Millennium Dome.
Kelly and Saint Etienne have since collaborated on How We Used to Live (2014), which I haven’t seen.
Evans, co-director of Finisterre, has also made a fiction film, Kelly + Victor, (apparently) loosely based on a novel of the same name by Niall Griffiths. Kelly (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and Victor (Julian Morris) meet at a club and go back to her place where they have violent sex in which she bites and chokes him. Kelly is a shopworker, who occasionally helps out her dominatrix friend, whilst Victor is a romantic who works on Liverpool dock and whose idea of a date is wandering around the Walker Gallery or Sefton Park.
Of course, this can’t end well, so it needs a bit of caution.