Brief City (film #21 on National Archives). [Category: Industrial]

This film documents the building and architectural design of the 1951 Festival of Britain, a world’s-fair-like exhibition held in London during the austere post-war period. As such, there is a dark backdrop to the film, unlike the usual cheery optimism that marks most world’s fairs. You get a sense that the hopefulness is a defense against despair, though in a healthy sense. The film is also very British, with the narrator explaining that many of the design decisions were made specifically to appeal to the British people––this is also a change from the internationalism usually touted at such fairs. The design is fascinating, involving not grand vistas, but little hideaways and cul-de-sacs, secret places for individuals to discover and enjoy. I personally love that sort of design, so I found the film very enjoyable on that level. This is one of the most unusual world’s fair films I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely worth a look as a counterpoint to the usual World of Tomorrow type of stuff.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

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