Black And White Documentary About Liverpool
"It's a black and white documentary about Liverpool. What do I want to see that for?" - Simon Mayo, BBC Radio 5 Live
Terence Davies's Of Time And The City, the subject of a lengthy Kermodian Rhapsody. The film is a collection of old and new footage of Liverpool over which Davies narrates his life story. Mark adored it, describing it as "a poetic, cinematic eulogy" - a film about paradise lost, about a personal take on history, about roads that cannot be walked down again - all with the "ribald, fruity and rich" tones of Davies' voice. Mark saw it with Mark Cousins and they both were in floods of tears come the end.
However, its appeal completely baffled Simon Mayo, right from the clip - which featured Davies describing his childhood and relationship with Liverpool, God and the movies, and to which Simon responded, "is the film any better than that?" Mark said that this was like looking at the Mona Lisa and saying, "is that all?", and quoted one of the characters in Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast Of Champions asking, "What for I wanna read no Tale Of Two Cities."
Incidentally, Guardian journalist John Harris also disliked the film, arguing that it should not be possible to make a film about Liverpool's history without mentioning the Toxteth Riots, and yet somehow here it was.
The film got its Wittertainment title after, during a separate discussion, Mark offered Simon the book Quite Right Mr Trotsky - a tome about the splinter groups of the British left - to read; Simon was so averse to the idea that he suggested an evening watching "a black and white documentary about Liverpool" might not be so bad after all.
Of Time And The City came out at roughly the same time as High School Musical 3: Senior Year - another film about which Mark had raved to the bemusement of others. (Indeed, one Wittertainee emailed to say that they had decided not to see Of Time And The City because Mark's opinion was no longer valid to them, on account of what he had thought of HSM3). However, when people ask what is the point of critics, Mark felt that if he had made one person see Of Time And The City, then it was worth it. (And indeed, he urged everyone to see it rather than Question Of Sport).
When Mark wound up the Kermode Uncut blog in December 2018, he did so by selecting his best (and worst) films of the ten years the blog had been running. Black And White Documentary About Liverpool came in at Number One.