London Unplugged

 

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A diverse, uneven but often rewarding set of views recording life in the capital today

 

This film incorporates the following segments: (a) Dog Days; (b) Felines; (c) Club Drunk; (d) Unchosen; (e) Pictures; (f) Little Sarah's Big Adventure; (g) Shopping; (h) Mudan Blossoms; (i) The Door To; (j) Kew Gardens.

 
London Unplugged

 

In one sense this amiable portmanteau film suggests a continuation of the concept featured first in Paris, je t'aime (2006) and then in New York, I Love You (2008) each of which brought together a series of short pieces reflecting life in the city directed by different hands. But there is a major distinction to be noted in that those works, disappointing though they were, made use of much established talent. In contrast, London Unplugged was specifically designed to give opportunities to newcomers. To their credit some established names supportive of the project (Juliet Stevenson and Imogen Stubbs amongst them) gave their services free and that without hogging the best roles! Stubbs is part of an ensemble piece and Stevenson shares the screen with a haunting performance by Eve Pearce.

 

Like most features made up of bits and pieces, London Unplugged is uneven. But its good intentions are matched by effective colour photography and it is able to touch on many aspects of London today from the cost of renting and the loneliness so often inherent in living in a big city to the problems of asylum seekers and the difficulty many have in making meaningful contact with others. The film incorporates ten tales connected by a thread in which we see a real-life athlete, Yourlance Bianca Richards, running from east to west, from Stratford to Kew, while she confides her thoughts in voice over.

 

The two most effective segments come first. Both Dog Days and Felines are written and directed by George Taylor yet they are quite different in character, one being a romantic tale and the other sinister. These pieces together with Layke Anderson's Shopping set in a Soho sex shop contain the best acting in the film. As a narrative of obsession The Door To also works well: it shows a Norwegian worker seeking access to a club in Earl's Court used by a woman who has attracted his attention. For meatier material, you need to turn to Unchosen centred on a woman refugee and her hidden secret, but here the acting is less confident and some of the other sections are rather too slight to register in any memorable way. Two of them support the idea that some aspects of life remain much the same over the ages: that's suggested by the fact that both are based on material first created a hundred years ago. However, Pictures, adapted from a tale by Katherine Mansfield, feels too unreal to convince as portrayed here in this 21st century version; Virginia Woolf's Kew Gardens fares better in its fusion of past and present in a manner that touches on the poetic - it's slight but original.

 

The odd one out here is the film's single animated sequence, Mitchell Crawford's Club Drunk. I could have wished that it had not been interrupted by a shot or two of ordinary exterior footage, but this brief work with its downbeat portrayal of some people's pleasure is designed with real panache and an eye for telling colour detail. London Unplugged may be of mixed quality, but it's an admirable venture and its best pieces may well introduce us to artists of whom we shall hear more.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: (a) Melanie Grey, Ivanno Jeremiah; (b) Juliet Stevenson, Eve Pearce, Berwick Wickens, Chris Wilson (d) Dimitra Barla, Max Pritchard, Poppy Miller;  (e) Miriam Gould, Polly Lister, Shaun Prendergast; (f) Nina Cryan, Jane Kinninmont; (g) Ricky Nixon,  Bruce Payne; (h) Qi Zhang, Kotryna Sniukaite; (i) Stephen Cavanagh, Tuva Heger-Bratterud; (j) Anjana Vasan, Christina Carty, Imogen Stubbs, Simon Wilson, Natasha Wightman. In the interlink segment: Yourlance Bianca Richards.

 

Dirs (a) and (b) George Taylor from his own screenplay, (d) Ben Jacobson and Nicholas Cohen from a screenplay by Devorah Corona, (e) Rosanna Lowe from a screenplay by her and David Cohen based on the  story by Katherine Mansfield, (g) Layke Anderson from a screenplay by Ryan Child, (h) Qi Zhang, Natalia Casali and Kaki Wong from a screenplay by Qi Zhang, Natalia Casali and Kotryna Sniukaite, (i) Andres Heger-Bratterud from his own screenplay, (j) Nicholas Cohen from the story by Virginia Woolf, Dir, Screenplay and Ed (c) Mitchell Crawford, Dir and M (f) Andrew Cryan from a screenplay by him and Jane Kinninmont. Dir of Front credits, interlink segment and supervising direction Nicholas  Cohen, Original Concept Qi Zhang and David Cohen, Pro Nicholas Cohen, Ph Donny Johnson, Ben Daily and Davide Scalenghe.

 

Psychology News/London Film School/Four Corners Film/Migrant Resource Centre-Munro Film Services.
90 mins. UK. 2018. Rel: 18 January 2019. Cert. 15.