‘The City and the City’

“Nowhere else works like the cities”. This is the first line of BBC1’s new drama based on the 2009 ‘weird fiction’ novel by British author China Miéville, an exotically named man actually born in Norwich. His book has been adapted for TV by screen writer Tony Grisoni.

The cities in the title are Besźel, which looks like the Eastern Bloc of 30 plus years ago mixed with cafes and people from 1970s Istanbul and Ul Qoma which is glimpsed only briefly in the first episode. These streets look brighter, cleaner, and more advanced. The colour pallets are quite different in each city; dingy yellows for Besźel and clean blues for Ul Qoma. Like the inhabitants, the viewer always knows where they’re looking.

The two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but the inhabitants wilfully ‘unsee’ the areas they’re not allowed to view. Early on Commissar Gadlem (Ron Cook) gets out his overhead projector, and lays two acetate maps on top of each other. That’s a good way to get your head around it.

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I Have Been Watching … Cathy Come Home.

Guest blogger SusieSue is inconvenienced, but a tv classic helps her remember how fortunate she really is…

May I digress slightly… my office is my kitchen. My kitchen is under my bathroom. My bathroom is being re-fitted. My office TV is below said bathroom. Consequently, the signal to said office TV has been at best, disrupted. Although I have been oop north for the most part of last week (I want to live in York now, btw) to escape the fact my house looks like a small branch of Wickes.

So I’ve turned to BBC iPlayer. The renowned and iconic Cathy Come Home re-aired on BBC4 on Sunday 31st July. It was first shown mere weeks before my birth, in late 1966. I have heard of it, but never seen it until now.

Directed by Ken Loach, this is the story of a young couple, full of love and hope and enjoying everything we take for granted now in family life, in their modern home with their children. Cathy (Carol White) and Reg (Ray Brooks) are amazing in this. But then Reg is injured at work. He loses his job. The bailiffs come and they trail from place to place until the family is torn apart.

There’s no happy ending here. It’s become a part of social history; proof that television and the arts really do matter.

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