Hidden City (1987) Poster


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Hidden Gem
sound-chaser-15 October 2004
One of the better British films of the last 20 years and criminally neglected - it doesn't appear to be currently available on video let alone DVD.

Intriguing (and somewhat unsettling) plot. Sensible portrayals - no overacting, Unusual settings - a London rarely seen either in life or on screen. Well constructed - the atmosphere builds beautifully.

All in all, it puts so much of recent British cinema to shame.

And we go and bury it.
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Striking and underrated film
flarracaranko5 February 2007
Of all Poliakoff's work on film, this is probably the most underrated and often missed , and is one of his two best works from the 1980s.

This is an interesting and thoughtful look at the workings of one aspect of modern government, which was well-received at the time and premiered at the Venice festival, but has become criminally and unjustly difficult to find. A proper DVD reissue is long overdue here.Charles Dance produces a typically strong performance with direction, performances and casting all solid ; this was a part of the important Film on Four strand that helped keep British cinema alive during some of its lowest points of the 1980s.
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Early Poliakoff
winsfordtown9 December 2004
'Hidden City' has become another good example how British films of the eighties have disappeared without a trace. Having found a rare video copy this film I have had the chance to reassess this possible lost gem. Cassie Stuart plays Sharon, a mysterious girl who turns up in the life of lecturer, Charles Dance with a mysterious piece of film placed at the end of fifties public information film. What unfolds is a genuinely interesting look at how Governments have so many secrets they can sometimes get lost. What is also interesting is how this gives an insight in to the early work of writer Stephen Poliakoff and how he still follows many of these theme in his later work more critically acclaim work. Unfortunately 'Hidden City' has dated in it's look and the plot just fails to hit the target. However it is certainly worth looking out for because just like the two leading characters the viewer is drawn into the film's theme of intrigue and mystery hidden in the bowels of London.
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Good Views of Hidden London
samwise225 January 2003
I loved this film for two reasons.

Firstly, it was well written and the direction was strong which is something often lacking in a British film.

Secondly, the scenes of London were fantastic; especially those parts of the city not always open to the public eye.
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Intriguing story, execution is a bit dated
rlaine6 May 2010
What a strange movie. The story is amazingly thought-provoking and intriguing. Think of all the hidden secrets a city like London hides beneath it's surface? All the archives of wartime experiments, government mysteries, documents and information never meant for public eye.

You have a young woman trying to convince a statistician (?) played by Charles Dance that there are hidden messages or clues of a bigger picture in some wartime archive films.

The story sadly never quite uses all of it's potential. It's interesting all the way, but you're never really sure what is going on until the very end and the motivations of the characters are left a bit unknown. They're basically just intrigued and driven by pure interest rather than a real cause.

What makes the movie a bit messy and difficult to follow, is the fact that there are a few separate leads they're following, the archived films and a few documents they find at a waste dump. You also have people trying to catch them, but you're not really sure why. At least I was left a bit puzzled of what's going on at times, but maybe that was the point. You never know what you find, if you just look carefully.

Definitely an interesting story, but the execution is a bit flawed and dated. It's got a very strong late 80s vibe to it and it's a bit of an artsy one. Someone might call this a "strange one", but definitely worthwhile if you catch it somewhere.
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Strange but good
oloiatao5 August 2015
I only watched this picture because of my current obsession with Charles Dance. It's a very strange film, rather too artsy and noir for my taste, but in general a pretty good picture.

A few items: far too much is made of the "hidden city" component. Any older city has subterranean tunnels and chambers. Disused subways, dry drains, utility shafts and connectors, power cable channels, catacombs, and sewage pipes form a veritable honeycomb beneath a city's surface. Not secret so much as not relevant to the daily life of ordinary people. That these areas might be useful for file storage is sensible and efficient.

The more intriguing mystery for me was why the writers writers (who otherwise did an excellent job) failed to give us explanations to these questions:

Why would an intelligent, sophisticated, educated man disregard several days' worth of scheduled meetings in order to assist a complete stranger in an ill-defined quest for information of questionable value?

Why, having learned the mysterious government secret, do the pair do absolutely nothing with what they've learned? It's implausible that anybody would go to so much trouble merely to satisfy idle curiosity.

And finally, why do the pair decide to continue rummaging for secrets?

On the plus side, "Hidden City" does include a very excellent performance by Charles Dance. I think that one of the more difficult challenges for an actor is speaking lines that convey information the audience needs but would never be uttered in real-life conversation. The film contains an astonishingly large number of such lines, and Dance delivered them so naturally that only when I'd finished watching did I realize. In fact, I can't think of a better example of that sort of acting. Well done, Charles Dance!
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A conspiracy...and they'd have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for those pesky actors!
philipr0925 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
OK, I saw this movie only once and it was ages ago.

It is one of those that, while I didn't particularly like it, left a lasting impression.

First and foremost, it is a London movie -every bit as much as 'The Long Good Friday' (1980), 'Pool Of London' (1951) and so many more, where the city is really the star. I am a sucker for London films!

Secondly, it belongs to a loose-knit family (genre?) of films that seem to have their origins in that time (late 1980s). The principal characteristic of them is that they take the standard 'noir' elements and run them 'all the way up to 11' , until they become saturated with a nightmare sense of impending evil and conspiracy. EVERYTHING takes on a threatening aspect; each word, action, step and object becomes laden with menace. 'Defence Of The Realm'(1986) pulled off a very similar trick, as did the contemporary TV series 'Edge Of Darkness'. Into the 1990s and Noughties this kind of 'X-Files Paranoia' thing became more prolific, for example 'The Forgotten'(2004).

However, that vibe is something that Poliakoff was trading in long before then: his TV play 'Caught On A Train' (1980) nicely exemplifies it. Maybe he started it all!

That said, 'Hidden City' doesn't come off all that well. I think the problem is chiefly with the casting, and the rather soft drawing of the central characters. I can't really believe Charles Dance as academic turned-action hero (Islington Jones?), capable actor though he is it seems a daft way to go, and at odds with the rest of the thing. The gimmick of weighing him down with the stereotypical 'feisty single mum and infant' combo in tow adds another surreal touch to the melodrama, one that could have sprung from the iBook of Doris Lessing on an average day (and I can't help thinking that she may have done a better job here).

The plot is an absolute mess. Set in the (1980s) present, It concerns Dance's character being led a merry erm, dance piecing together the story of some obscure government conspiracy that occurred just after WWII. The only evidence of this exists in perplexing bits of 'extra' footage at the end of various ancient Public Information Film reels. No sweat, then!

Time-worn hazards and difficulties are then laid on with a trowel: sinister spook-types, obstructive officials, characters whose sole purpose seems to be as unnecessarily cryptic as possible: all the usual suspects.

After much too long, he produces a worrying jig-saw of a top-secret (presumably nuclear) project going badly pear-shaped, and the bizarre extent to which the powers that be (or were) resorted to in burying the truth along with the casualties. And anyone who had anything to do with them. And anyone who had anything to do with anyone...you see where this is going.

You could file this under 'deservedly overlooked', but there are some very fine scenes: Bill Paterson (always good value), having a superbly unreal conversation with Dance while a disturbing shadow-show plays out on the opaque room-divider behind him, is delightful ("...I think that's so-and-so...") so by all means have a look.

Best not dwell on any underlying diatribe about the nature and corrupting power of secrets, the celluloid image, or the sad fact that history is whatever 'they' want it to be. That is all plastered over as effectively as the remains of 'Project Magnificat', and just as ill- fated.

Finally, there is what I assume to be a little twist-ette right at the very end, where the ancient footage Dance has been analysing briefly reveals the face of the cameraman: Jumpin' Crickets, he look just like Adolf Hitler! Go figure...
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Not a good film
pyenme4 September 2008
I read all the other comments - are we watching the same movie?? Apparently this director went on to bigger and better things, but this movie was not good, not even for a starter. The premise was okay, but the execution was not. The female lead needed to stop yelling, at the least. She was never a sympathetic character; I thought she was annoying. The dialog was shallow, and did not really develop the characters. Lots of walking, no talking. It was a 15 minute plot in movie form. Charles Dance seems to have spent most of his earlier film career in fuzzy, badly produced movies. I wonder what could have happened had he spent more time in Hollywood, or if Merchant and Ivory had found places for him in their films.... When he has the right material, he is good. I waited for this movie to show more intrigue - all I got was waiting for scenes where there was some real action and some real acting (and scenes that did not feature the female lead). Oh, well.
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