Sunday, 12 May 2013

London, 1927, in colour - bobbies, buses and bustle

There's something startling about colour films from eras we're used to seeing in black and white. I'm a great b&w enthusiast, but when it comes to non-distressing documentary footage it can lend the scene a distancing, nostalgic quality - the past really does become a foreign country. If the colour is garish, what's being depicted can seem decidedly unreal, staged, Hollywoody. But in this film, shot by pioneer Claude Frisse-Greene using an experimental colour process developed by his father, the naturalistic, muted tones make it hard to believe that we're looking at London as it was 86 years ago.

What stands out for me is the sheer loveliness of the town, its racial make-up, the fabulous buses, men in hats, the blessed absence of street markings - and the seemingly ubiquitous presence of policemen. The tracking shot along Petticoat Lane brought tears to my eyes, for some odd reason. 

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