“It’s been talked of as an ‘anti-nostalgic nostalgia film,’” says Travis Elborough, who co-wrote How We Used to Live with Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley. “We tried to make a portrait of the past but one that you can swim around in, as if you’re living it.” Excerpted in today’s retro-futuristic snapshot of the dawn of the computer age, the poetic trawl through a not-so-distant London is directed by Paul Kelly, who has already collaborated with the pioneering British electronic-pop band on Finisterre (2003), What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? (2005) and This is Tomorrow (2007). Weaving together analog color footage of the city from 1950 to 1980 sourced from the archive of the British Film Institute, it reawakens the vibrancy of a lost time with the aid of effervescent new music by Saint Etienne's Sarah Cracknell and Pete Wiggs, as well as a narration by Deadwood’s Ian McShane. “The future is never quite what you’d expect it to be, just as the past isn’t either,” says Elborough, whose reputation as a pop-historian has burgeoned in recent years with his books London Bridge in America and Beside the Seaside. “A lot of the footage is looking towards this bright tomorrow,” adds Kelly. “We’ve used it to look back, so we’ve kind of reversed the purpose.”
How We Used to Live will be screened at Southend-on-Sea Film Festival on May 5, and with a first ever live performance of the score by Saint Etienne at the Sheffield Documentary Festival on June 12.