Contemporary Days

Contemporary Days


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

From the 1940s to the 1980s, Robin and Lucienne Day were two of Britain's most important designers, often credited with lifting the country out of post-war gloom and restoring a sense of energy and fun when it was needed most. They made a significant contribution to the development of design trends that established Britain on the international stage for the first time, and their commitment to creating stylish work that could be mass produced at low cost meant that theirs really was art for the masses, intended to improve the quality of life of ordinary people in difficult times.

This documentary tells their story. Unfortunately, it doesn't do much else. Those who already have an interest may encounter some interesting new bits of trivia or enjoy admiring the work on show - though there's a limit to how long the same chair turning round can hold any viewer's attention - but overall the impression is of a curiously old fashioned history lecture with little to bring it to life.

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This seems appropriate in a way as many of Robin's furniture designs will be familiar to viewers from their schooldays. Most notable is the stackable polypropelene chair produced by the million. This is the first time I've heard it described as comfortable. It is described as comfortable a lot. Every other paragraph seems to rehash an old one as we are shown images of the same fabric patterns again and again; the Days' more unusual, less famous work gets short shrift, featured only briefly as the narrator tries to convince us that they were the coolest thing around during the Swinging Sixties, at which point they were already well past being part of a youth movement. It's a shame as the faux glamour conceals real personalities with the potential to be interesting if only we could see a little more of them.

If you're looking for he eqivalent of a university textbook to help you with a course, you may find this useful. It has some other things going for it; I personally found that it helped me to understand a little more about my grandparents' taste in home d├ęcor. It is not, however, likely to do very much for the casual viewer. The functionality sought after by the Days is here, as is the sense of something mass produced, but there is nothing about this film that is in any way modern.

Reviewed on: 14 Feb 2011
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A documentary exploring the lives and careers of two of Britain's most influential modernist artists and designers, whose iconic work inspired a generation.
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Director: Murray Grigor

Starring: Robin Day, Lucienne Day

Year: 2009

Runtime: 77 minutes

Country: UK


Glasgow 2011

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