Urban Wandering | Cinema and Psychogeography

Tony August 19, 2013 0
Urban Wandering | Cinema and Psychogeography

Here we look at an interesting array of contemporary and classic films and documentaries based on London and the concept of psychogeography – how we are influenced and affected by the landscape and built environment around us.



With its iconic buildings and architecural styles ranging from the medieval to the Georgian, Dickensian and Edwardian eras to contemporary skyscrapers, London is one of the most diverse and dynamic cities in the world and this rich backcloth has deeply affected and shaped the communities and characters who live there. This selection of films shows how London has played its part in cinema, offering a snapshot of the past and a window into the future.

LONDON (1994)

Patrick Keiller’s standout film chronicles a year in the life of the capital seen through the eyes of “Robinson”, an imaginary character who wanders around reminiscing on his favourite haunts from Brixton Market to Wembley. Why he chose to quote Rimbaud and Baudelaire rather than more apposite London poets such as Keats and John Betjemen remains a mystery. Nevertheless a haunting memoir to the capital, narrated by Paul Scofield.



Documenting urban development in Banglatown and Spitalfields through the lens of filmmakers Phil Maxwell and Hazuan Hashim, EAST ONE celebrates the physical and cultural changes that have taken place to improve this vibrant community, while managing to retain its unique identity.

THE LONDON NOBODY KNOWS (1969)Who better than the eloquent and elegant James Mason to present a unique study of London as it was in the sixties from the famous Chapel Market to Bedford Theatre in Camden Town, courtesy of filmmaker Norman Cohen. (Forms the first of a trilogy of trips down memory lane).



As Le Corbusier once said: “A house is a machine for living”. Here Modernist Architect, Erno Goldfinger, and Brutalists, Alison and Peter Smithson, talk about their controversial social housing schemes and the idealist methodology behind their cutting-edge designs in a series of short documentaries. (67mins)

Swandown4-e1365336107998SWANDOWN (2012) 

Ian Sinclair and Andrew Kötting’s superbly silly but charmingly poetic travelogue is a tribute to the River Thames, following the pair on their pedalo voyage from seaside Kent to the heart of London through a quintessentially English landscape.





FINISTERRE AND TWILIGHT CITY  finicover300-716x1024

A psycho-graphical drama celebrating the seediness and splendour of the city that’s has long been the muse behind the melancholy music of the band ‘St Etienne’. The score compliments the pop music of the band’s Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and Sarah Cracknell.



Starring Charles Dance and Cassie Stuart, Stephen Poliakoff’s debut feature paints a potent portrait of the unknown world beneath the streets of London, when the pair become involved in unlocking a secret within a 1940s Government Information Film. Bill Paterson and Richard E. Grant also star.













Stanley Kubrick’s violent tale of alienation and despair fits perfectly into the dystopian setting of the newly-completed housing development at The Thamesmead Estate.

Underground8-842x1024UNDERGROUND  (1928)

Anthony Asquith’s 1928 silent gem showcases working-class London in this tale of jealousy, murder and unrequited love. BBC Symphony Orchestra perform the score.


This post war Ealing noirish drama, set in London’s Bethnal Green, tells of sinister goings-on when a criminal returns home to an East End plagued by racketeering, rationing and domestic tension.

It_Always_Rains_on_Sunday_2-e1356992168240NAKED (1993)

Mike Leigh loves London much as Fellini loved rome or Jean-Luc Godard, Paris. Here in NAKED, David Thewlis gives an exultant performance as a homeless man and the film explores his setbacks and daily experiences as he strives to survive in the city.


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