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The East End Film Festival

+ Q & A with Marc Issacs

 

by Marc Isaacs

 

Directed By Marc Isaacs

 

Barbican – Cinema 1

 

April 26 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Couzens

A review by Angus Templeton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

Men of the City shows us snippets of four men who work in the middle of London - two professionals, a Bangladeshi working for minimum wage, and a street sweeper. The documentary also includes very brief interludes from other people’s lives, as Marc Isaacs wanders the city finding interesting people to talk to and interact with.

As a documentary maker, Isaacs is aware that the cameraman is always part of the project. His style is to engage with the characters and talk to them, not editing out questions and interactions as other film makers might do. This gives the audience a shared perspective of the lives of the people he follows, and a much more conversational informal style which helps them open up to the interviewer and the audience. Combined with a haunting soundtrack, we are transported into Isaacs’ city – which is an alienating and lonely world.

This film isn’t about the people it depicts as much as it is about Marc Isaacs view of the city he lives in. In preparation for this documentary, he spent several months walking around inner London, picking up the mood of the place and the people, which he referred to after the film as “Soul Destroying”. But when asked in a Q&A session why he painted the city in such a negative light he denied having consciously done so.

Well, conscious or not, Men of the City doesn’t celebrate life in the city at all. The characters are shown at their happiest when they’re outside, in the country, or on Hampstead Heath – where the final moments of the film take place. Isaacs presents us with a view of the city, which he linked to the financial sector after the movie, which is subtly negative in its’ portrayal.

I tend not to agree with this, I really enjoy living in London. But through the stories he presents, you can understand where Isaacs is coming from.

The city is an easy place to lose yourself in, making a buck in order to earn your keep. Men of the City serves as a wonderful warning to stay true to yourself despite having to work for the man during the day. And the lives that he shows us are about people who have found the ability to disassociate what they have to do in order to live in London from what they want to do in order to be happy. Photography, religion, motor bikes and philosophy are what these people use to remain human in what Isaacs presents as an inherently dehumanizing place. And it begs the question: ‘What is it that I use to stay sane?’

Men of the City was originally broadcast on BBC 4 on the 24th of August 2009. It is part of the East End Film Festival.

 

Run Time: 60 Minutes

 

http://www.barbican.org.uk/film/series.asp?id=844

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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