Review: ‘London Orbital’

A combination of documentary and experimental video, "London Orbital" is preoccupied with Britain's M25 motorway, which circles London for 120 miles. This collaboration between filmmaker and novelist Chris Petit and Iain Sinclair results in an at times hallucinatory, at times amusing, and at times deadly dull experience.

A combination of documentary and experimental video, “London Orbital” is preoccupied with Britain’s M25 motorway, which circles London for 120 miles. This collaboration between filmmaker and novelist Chris Petit and Iain Sinclair, who has walked the entire length of the M25 and published a book about it, results in an at times hallucinatory, at times amusing, and at times deadly dull experience. Fests may bite, but otherwise there’s little future for this would-be cult item.

The six-lane highway, described as “the world’s biggest bypass,” dominates this DV pic, for which the directors sometimes divide the screen into two. Video image is murky, and since most of the film consists of nothing more than the view from a moving car, it quickly becomes tedious. Soundtrack contains helpful information about the countryside flashing past (for example, Bram Stoker located the English home of Dracula in Carfax Abbey, which is now adjacent to the road), anecdotes (including a story about the murder of treacherous drug dealers) and humorous observations (the M25 is described as “true, transcendental boredom.”)

London Orbital

U.K.

Production

An Illuminations Films-Channel Four Television production. (International sales: Illuminations Films, London.) Produced by Keith Griffiths. Directed, written by Chris Petit, Iain Sinclair.

Crew

Camera (DV color), Petit, Sinclair; editor, Emma Matthews. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (New Territories), Aug. 31, 2002. Running time: 77 MIN.
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