Like Patrick Keiller's 1997 cult film Robinson In Space, his lesser-known 1994 experiment London matches static travelogue photography with the detached narration of Paul Scofield, who describes how he and an old boyfriend named Robinson tour England, trying to make sense of its flaws. Neither Scofield nor any of the characters he describes—Robinson included—ever appear on camera, and though the pictures and narration sync up, the effect is more like home movies, or an illustrated book on tape. Keiller has Scofield speaking in a direct but literary style, like something out of a Sherlock Holmes story. As the narrator and Robinson debate the conflicted state of London, simultaneously hopelessly corporate and vibrantly multicultural, Scofield explains that they mean to "transform the world by looking at the landscape" and get down to "the molecular basis of historical events." So Scofield keeps talking, looking for the right combination of words to explain what he and Robinson see.
Meanwhile, Keiller looks for just the right image. When Scofield describes Robinson's views on romanticism, Keiller shows a giant inflatable Ronald McDonald; when Scofield talks about the beauty of a river, Keiller selects a pretty shot from afar, followed by a close-up of water littered with trash. London flits from one historical site to another, but it's primarily concerned with the city in the mid-'90s, when IRA bombs and Tory-friendly elections left a lot of citizens feeling as alienated from their home as the movie's investigator heroes do. Between the background shots of Princess Diana scandal headlines and the foreground shots of happily oblivious Londoners hustling to and from work, London feels, now more than ever, like a beguilingly eerie dispatch from another world.
Key features: European editions of this film include Robinson In Space. The U.S. edition includes jack.