Museums

11th October 1996 at 01:00
There is a strange, international urge to authenticate images seen on film in most capital cities, and nowhere is this better evidenced than in London. All year round, tourists fill the capital and stare at what they've already seen at the cinema and on television. Moving pictures surely determine visitors' itineraries more than any other medium.

The exhibition London on Film gives some idea of what kinds of images of the capital might have influenced audiences most over the 100 years since films were first shown. An eclectic and intriguing mix, it will appeal to media students of all ages and levels.

The largest and most ambitious section is devoted to a seven-part presentation of documentary and feature film representations of London life, most prominently war, politics, class and race, leisure and work. Television monitors showing looped compilations of newsreel and documentary extracts are complemented by rows of still pictures.

There are clips of Sixties King's Road fashion victims, newsreel film of pre-war fascist rallies in Whitechapel, glimpses of Labour Exchange queues during the Depression, and of black immigrants arriving in Britain in 1961. From the Thirties come contrasting pictures of Bermondsey - broad, tree-lined avenues situated five minutes' walk from the meanest slums - while, from the same decade, dockers hook sacks from ship to shore, invoking the golden age of an industry that has now all but disappeared.

Well-captioned stills add more interest. For example, one picture of Laurence Harvey bopping joyously in the 1959 film Espresso Bongo perfectly sums up the youth culture of the time, as does another of Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious, in the 1986 film Sid and Nancy, serenading (for want of a better word) his audience.

It is a shame that there are hardly any clips from these or other feature films, although another section, "Recreating the Past", partially compensates for this omission. Here, lengthy extracts from four films - Oliver Twist, Henry V, Tom Jones and Hope and Glory - show how eminent directors have attempted to evoke London's past.

A large wall display, "As Others See Us", examines mainly American representations of London life while another display, this time on London "types" - among them Michael Caine as superlad Alfie, gangster Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday, David Kossoff as the wise Jewish tailor in The Bespoke Overcoat - make one consider the effects, if any, of such stereotypes.

* London on Film, Museum of London, London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN. Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 12 noon to 5.50pm. Free admission to school and student groups. All group visits must be pre-booked on 0171 600 3699. Exhibition ends 27 October 1996

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