It was wonderful to see the film London Road the other day at the movies. It’s musical shot in the dourest of colours — even the flowers that finally bloomed at the end, after the neighbourhood serial killer had been banged up to rights, seemed to have the colours on their petals rationed as though it was still World War Two. The film was the adaption of a stage musical based on recordings of actual interviews with actual English residents in 2006 (which we finally heard over the end credits). The librettists had lovingly repeated and chorused each captured speech inflection, each glottal stop, each rising ‘yeah’ at the end of the sentence. It was a film that could only have been made in the UK. It made me think of Nick Park’s claymation Creature Comforts, then further back through all the angry kitchen sink dramas of the fifties, then back through the Mass Observation Movement and finally to the GPO Film Unit of the 30s and 40s, with Humphrey Jennings’ wonderful stiff-upper-lip vox pops with stout fire wardens and unflappable matrons. The title even echoes Jennings’ blitz masterpiece London Can Take It!. I came over all patriotic and I’m Australian!
I’m still catching my breath after experiencing the tour de force animation in The Wind Rises, Hayao Miyazaki’s own Doctor Zhivago. He loves cameras and film: lovingly hand-animating moving parallax perspective, the carefully delineated iris hexagons in the carefully painted lens flare, the beautiful bokeh, the shutter-blur on railway-bridge pylons as they flash past, the defractions of teardrops, the distortions of pre-war glass-panes, and the sheen travelling across aluminium. But he loves paint equally: our heroine palette-knifes the great animator’s own colours into her fateful canvas, to be eventually washed away by the rain, more driving rain become the manga shorthand of parallel lines for motion, in an aerial view a winding train becomes a charcoal line that momentarily drifts off the tracks, and the faces of the quake victims morph into expressionistic blobs of paint. Although I think it’s somewhat disingenuous for Miyazaki to compare, via the Italian dude philosophising on the plane wing, Imperial Japan’s brutal ‘Co-Prosperity Zone’ and Mitsubishi’s Zero fighter program with the Pharaohs and their pyramids, for an end-of-career movie this one is amazing.