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Who better to make a chronicled history of modern London, as a Londoner himself and maker of some fine music-related films, such as Glastonbury and Oil City Confidential.
Not as flashy as might have been and certainly far from being a regimented classroom of events in an ordered manner, his style is always interesting, witty and diverse. Nearly always using footage from the past century, his aim is to show the wealth of culture, music, money, the docks, immigrants and of course, the people that live alongside each other and make the whole city what it is and what it has become.
Michael Gambon narrates throughout and there's a lovely, friendly 106 year old lady who was nine at the outbreak of WW1. She eloquently engages us with a personal history lesson that is both ordinary - and extraordinary. All the landmarks in my rather more limited living memory that affected London and often the whole country were all there, plus a lot more I didn't know of, or had forgotten.
Never shying away from the uglier elements, from the riots of last summer, the IRA & 7-7-2005 bombings to abject poverty Temple contrasts these with Royal Weddings and the brighter side, such as the bright lights of the West End and culturally flavoursome areas like Soho. Anecdotes from musicians and poets, politicians and workers, many black, Chinese and Asian add to the recipe. London 2012 Olympics are mentioned at the end, though, this film is stated as being made in 2012, we only hear of the announcement of London winning the bid.
I think that this will appeal to Londoners equally to us others, who occasionally visit and usually see an intentional shop window of a London designed to whitewash us rather. The changing face of London's landmarks is always fascinating, as vintage footage as well as feature films such as The Blue Lamp and The Long Good Friday.
Running at just over 2 hours, a lot goes on with many images and interesting subjects to digest. It's impossible to recall them all, now, just minutes after seeing it on BBC2, where it premiered. It's also impossible to think how the film could be made better, until someone actually does, we won't know! With occasional strong language and nudity, which gives it its '15' rating, the whole film is a good balance between edgy pop video and straight- laced old-style BBC. Few will find offence and most will be sufficiently entertained. Popular music from obvious sources such as The Clash and the Sex Pistols are an expected and suitably used throughout.
The main thrust has to be the element in its title, that London now, is the new Babylon. With some 300 languages spoken now, a population where 40% were born overseas has culminated in a treasure chest but of course, has created its own problems. But, the general conclusion seems to be that from all that London has gone through, from the Blitz to the riots, it survives and somehow gets stronger.
14 of 15 people found this review helpful.
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