Saturday, 3 August 2013
Saint Etienne London Trilogy - the eternal magnet attracting our dreams
I've recently enjoyed watching a trilogy of Saint Etienne videos about London. They been recently re-released as a single DVD collection by the British Film Institute. I popped into the BFI on the way to a meeting to get the DVD.
The first, Finisterre, shows more or less a 24 hour look from sunrise to sunrise of the capital going about its way. From sleepy pigeons, markets, commuters, tourists, nightlife, afters and the quiet streets of 4am.
The film was made in 2003, but seems to come from an older place. Occasionally something will show up that looks strikingly modern as a reminder. Yet the gherkin is still being built, there's not an iPhone in sight and tickets are being fed into slots at the tube.
It's a good example of how things change subtly and how a contemporary environment looks unexpectedly different - an example of wide change.
The film-makers had a budget originally to spend on a 3 minute promotional video (£20k a pop in those days) and decided to instead create something of a love poem to London. I gather the original money was stopped after they'd used the first promo video funds to create the pilot instead of a pop video, but they'd also bought the camera by this point, so carried on anyway.
The next film of a paperboy round was dramatised to appear shot on 7 July 05, when both the Olympic result for London was announced and four tube and bus bombs exploded in the densely populated areas of the capital.
It's a quiet look at the pre-Olympic version of the Lea Valley, which many would have known as The Wick, before its massive makeover. 150 years of history along this river, with the towering Bryant and May site of the Annie Bessant led match girl strikes, the invention of early plastic, and even the first refining of petroleum among the almost forgotten credits of the area. I know parts of the run-down areas shown in the film, much of which has gone since the Olympics ploughed through the area.
And finally, the modern looking update of the area around the Festival Hall. Part of the South Bank and an immensely successful exercise in branding too.
So much that the other riverbank of the Thames around The Strand/Villiers Street is right now considering how to brand itself as 'Northbank'. Confusingly, the area is already well known as 'The Strand' and some of it is already cross branded as 'Theatreland' although most people don't spot this. Also with South Bank being two words, they've chosen to make Northbank one word. Oh well.
I should mention the music in the three films too. A blend of Saint Etienne songs and their other synth-inspired pieces. Some of their songs get right inside.
Here's my ancient video from my own commuting soundtracked by Saint Etienne, when I lived in the Temporary Apartment in Copenhagen.