Nerve Magazine DVD review by Sebastian Gahan 26/1/2011
Up here in t'North we tend to see London as a scary melange of pissed off commuters and searing traffic jams. And whilst both are indeed present in the capital, they don't necessarily reflect the whole picture. Neither do people and transport always go hand in hand in the expected fashion. Whilst it may be socially acceptable to ride public transportation to work or elsewhere, some people consider it a canvas to be filled, however fleetingly the illegality of the act allows it to stay on view. It is these people whom London Tonight follows.
London Tonight is a record of the (then) burgeoning street art scene of the capital in 2007, featuring an appropriate hip-hop soundtrack and 'covert footage' of the writers at work as they hit the trains of the London Underground. Rather than glamorise the writers, a careful balance is made to highlight the risks of 'train bombing' both physical and legal, by including audio snippets of police questioning a train bomber and a tribute to the writers shown who were killed by a moving train whilst running from the London Transport Police.
And whilst this film isn't likely to answer any questions as to the artistic status of graffiti or indeed the legality question, it is showing a human side to the pieces that we would normally see come through the tunnel on the side of a train on our morning commute and glimpse again only fleetingly as we reach our destination and move on. The footage shows the writers - all young and with a future ahead of them - bragging, painting and being generally of their age group and enjoying themselves with their art. Indeed, the art is impressive and would surely gather more than a few fans on its journey down the tracks.
As artists practicing their still ripe and developing work, the joy is evident in their faces and voices and that is the best part of this film. The fact that such tragic events occurred is just another part of life, and its obvious from the interviews with people connected to them that they were respected for their work. The train bombing scene is clearly one with risks, and when the writers say that there are problems most writers don't experience, you can easily believe them. Despite the events being at first strange to watch (if you're not a writer, that is) from the opposite point of view to normal, it soonfades and you can see the pure humanity behind what many people consider to be an eyesore or even worse an indicator of nothing good at all.
If you can, watch London Tonight soon and see a whole different side of a scene you probably know little about besides the headlines.