Tag Archives: Westway


Content, Dir Chris Petit, UK 2009

Content, Dir Chris Petit, UK 2009

This is the foregoing, redux. Chris Petit cannot let go of the Westway, a promise of modernity unfulfilled, now only a key to the past, driven over again, the camera always behind the wheel of the Mercedes, the act of driving as tracking shot. Serious bespectacled youngsters, old men in statement hats and sallow psychogeogratrices are here to see. Multiple narratives, overlapping narrators. It’s usually at this point that we come out of the dive, says Emma Matthews.

Abandoning synchronised sound means the freedom to create any narrative from the images you have. Ten horses begin the race; not so many finish. Malfated children talk about the daily drizzle of family life. Family: “a mechanism for turning life into containers of resentment”. Ian Penman returns from cyberspace to speak through Hanns Zischler about email and late middle-aged desire. A film whose writers have been downloaded.

Petit’s collection of postcards from Berlin, in all states: pre-war, occupied, DDR, post-Wende. The architect whose 1941 vision of Auschwitz as a dormitory town for German emigrants is reborn in the 21st century as the newtown non-place of Cambourne. The parallel drawn, I won’t take it further than that, says Petit. What is said after the film illuminates as much as the film itself.

Always, again driving. Driving as the inevitable Ballardian anticipation of the crash. The crash writ real, the Crisis. Beneath a Dallas underpass, the approaching panoramic rectangle of daylight a forced metaphor for the cinema screen when this technology would no longer be recognizable to the Lumières. Petit pronounces his own take on the Kennedy assassination: an inside Catholic job to martyr the philandering president.

Thomas Hood’s ‘I remember I remember’ orchestrated by a musician found online, located in Finland and encountered in Dalston. “We are imperfect readers of the texts of our parents’ lives”. The middle-aged fear is palpable, but the tone is still sharp, still Robinson. These bald men in round glasses: is Keiller, Sinclair or Petit ventriloquising this film? Where’s the resistance, someone asks. Disappearance, he replies, is dissent.

Watch it on More4 next Tuesday


Ten reasons West London is better than East London

Westway and Canal. Photo: Pkabz flickr.com/30903003@N04

Westway and Canal. Photo: Pkabz flickr.com/30903003@N04

Posh people who act like proper posh people. They dye their hair blonde, put their sunglasses on their head and bray about the price of their shares. They don’t pretend to be artists, the new working class, or hipster urchins. You know where they are, and how to avoid them.

Portobello Road market. Antiques, comics, food, clothes, music. A little bit more than second-hand tools and bootleg tobacco, if you know what I mean.

Iain Sinclair has already bored everyone to death by writing everything possible about the history of East London. Michael Moorcock’s a better novelist too.

Brick Lane’s all right for a curry but for Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Mexican or almost any other kind of food you’d be better off west of King’s Cross.

Your neighbourhood isn’t full of pestilential artists busy putting up everyone’s rent and then moaning about how it isn’t as ‘edgy’ as it used to be.

The Westway: a majestic and legendary piece of urban engineering, a work of true post-Victorian hubris, it swoops like a mighty concrete eagle over the city. I’m still waiting for that ‘From the M11 Link Road to the World’ documentary.

Freedom from the relentless recooling of everything. Harlesden isn’t the new Willesden. Acton isn’t the new Shepherd’s Bush. People aren’t turning perfectly good shops into hip new nightspots. I’d rather have a fresh red pepper than another night of bad poetry.

Your allotment’s safe from the Olympics.

Mela? Shoreditch Festival? Lovebox? Carnival.

Being the other side of London from anyone who has anything to do with Vice magazine has to be a good thing.