Robinson in Ruins marks the eagerly awaited return to feature filmmaking by Patrick Keiller, imaginative social commentator and Britain’s foremost cinematic essayist. The film reconnects with the enigmatic scholar Robinson (London, Robinson in Space), newly released from open prison and embarking on a journey through the South of England, where he is ‘shipwrecked’. Believing he can communicate with a network of non-human intelligence, and wanting to investigate the possibility of ’life’s survival on the planet’, he travels to sites of scientific and historical interest, exploring the development of capitalism since the 16th century, and moments and movements of resistance. The film is presented as a series of ‘picturesque views’, drawing on Robinson’s everyday surroundings, from the drably urban to the seductively pastoral. As in previous films, these are contextualised by a witty, erudite narration, here spoken by Vanessa Redgrave. Art, literature, philosophy and economics are woven through, and an invigorating flow of themes from financial crisis to climate change and mass extinction wend their way to an optimistic conclusion. —Sandra Hebron
One of the most distinctive voices to emerge in British cinema since Peter Greenaway, Patrick Keiller was born in Blackpool in 1950. He studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and initially practiced as an architect. Chris Marker’s film La Jetée (France, 1962) left a deep impression, but he only made practical steps towards cinema in 1979, when he joined the Royal College of Art’s Department of Environmental Media as a postgraduate student.
Slide-tape presentations blending architectural photography with fictional narratives pointed the way towards his first acknowledged film, Stonebridge Park (1981), visually inspired by a railway bridge in an outer London suburb. Images from a hand-held camera are accompanied by a voice-over commentary presenting the thoughts of a petty criminal panicked by the consequences of robbing his former employer. Norwood (1983) continued the ‘story’, and the technique, in another London… read more
More dryly observed musings from Robinson, this time taking in British institutional failings over the centuries (notably their impact on the natural environment) with a sketchy thesis of anti-capitalism and nature overcoming man's ruination of the world about him. Largely successful, if a little caught- up in it’s own deliberately slow mechanics.
Also: Owen Hatherley on Patrick Keiller, Cavett on Groucho, Scorsese’s storyboards and more.
We'll get to what all else is online from the new issue of Film Comment in a moment, but first, here's Joumane Chahine on a film playing
In the dying years of the last century, Patrick Keiller was Britain's leading cinematic psychogeographer, mapping the unconscious impulses
"Let me count the ways I love the Harry Potter movies," wrote Amy Taubin in the summer of 2009, as if asking permission to do so in Artforum
"Robinson in Ruins, the latest essay film/experimental landscape study/cinematic state-of-the-union address from the great British avant
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