25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
BRIAN SEWELL'S GRAND TOUR OF ITALY is grande indeed. TEN episodes show what the upper-teenage British nobility route that might have been taken plus the sights seen. This recreation of a "Grand Tour" trek (via car, not carriage) was researched from books and diaries left behind 300 years ago by the young men who set out to finish their education in Italy. The trip took months, a year, or more. It was designed for the gentlemen to see the best art (and purchase some), architecture, experience the Italian culture, learn the language, and experience the female "freedoms".
Over 24 cities and small towns are passed through and filmed. Beautiful. Local people open their hearts to the film viewers. Every stop is another historical moment in the lives of the Grand Tourists. Each displays paintings, architecture, and/or artifacts that can be seen up close as well as from a picturesque nearby hillside. IT IS AN ADVENTURE WITH ITALIAN PAINTING, ARCHITECTURE, RAPHAEL, TITIAN, MICHELANGELO, & an intense view of the cities of FLORENCE, ROME, AND VENICE (just to name 3).
Your filmed Grand Tour has as its guide, famous & controversial art critic, Brian Sewell. So why 4 stars, and not 5?
Sewell often rubbed me the wrong way. But he's won reviewing awards; I have not. At times I wished I could pay a few extra Euros and get a new tour guide. Perhaps one as knowledgeable as Sewell is tough finding. Honestly, there is a lot of intellectual wealth from Sewell.
What's wrong with Sewell? Often his personal taste, conservative to the n-th degree, has him putting down much Italian art, architecture, life, wine, food, etc. and using terms as "It's awful!", "Reduculous", "Awful". Sometimes he's wrong, I've been to Italy. Just outside of the Pompeii digs gate is the best pizza in the world (my opinion). Sewell refused to eat Italian pizza, and made fun of most of what he did eat on film. Italians will never buy this DVD set.
At a Renaissance church in Todi, (he nicknamed "Pepper Pot"), he stated upon exiting, "Well, dear, oh dear and lawks a mercy. that's a bit of a dog's dinner. Pedigree chum, but still a dog's dinner." When Sewell abounds in intellect, he fails in tact.
Perhaps Sewell wants to comically portray the manner and breadth of the Grand Tourist's educational aspect regarding the bird and the bees. It sounds more like he's hung up in some perverted way with classical nude painting and sculpture, fixing on "buttocks" and other personal body parts. "Gosh!" (his word). And then he's a bit over the top with his gestures, overly dramatic speech, and his white umbrella. Perhaps I'm just too picky nicky. "Gosh!" "Awful."
Aside from Sewell's quirks and humor bits, this is "bloody good" viewing.
The 4-DVD set is really very good, highly recommended. Educational, pleasant to the eye and ear, historically wonderful, and cheap. It costs less than the price of a pair of passport photos.
....Bonus Features add additional facts on Italian artists of the period, explanations of terms and tidbits like fancy dressed "macaroni", map, list of what the rich tourists packed, and more.
....THANKS ATHENA FOR THE SUBTITLES. Very helpful for names & places.
....And a Biography of Brian Sewell explaining why my opinion of him is certainly not acceptable to the British.
This is Italy like I've never seen it on film prior.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I came across this art and architecture guide to Italy, hosted by the London Evening Standard's art critic Brian Sewell, quite by accident, and after giving it a go, I enjoyed myself so much I watched all ten episodes in nearly one go. The idea is to trace the standard eighteenth-century wealthy young Englishman's Grand Tour through Italy, conducted after his time at Oxbridge so as to give him polish and culture; starting at Turin, where he trained in swordsmanship and deportmant, he would then make a progress through the multiple duchies and principalities of the Italian peninsula, learning about the great artists (Michelangelo, Titian, Raphael, Bernini, Canova) and buying things for his estate along the way; he would visit the great architectural wonders of the peninsula (in Rome, Urbino, Bologna, Paestum, and so on), and also acquire a kind of carnal education in the fleshpots of Siena, Naples, and Venice. The series is beautifully filmed, and while it makes surprising omissions due to time constraints (we see nothing of Tinteretto or Bellini or Giorgione, for example), the documentary also makes surprising stops along the way for Brian Sewell to reminisce about his own experiences on his first Grand Tour in the 1950s and to sample products a Grand Tourist would try in Italy, such as olive oil or Parma ham. Indeed, the greatest wonder the series shows us is not the towers of San Gimignano or the caldera of Vesuvius, but Sewell himself.
Americans will not know Brian Sewell as well as Brits do: it is important to remember from the outset that this is his show (which the director, Christopher Bruce, ingeniously emphasizes), and Brian Sewell is no Sister Wendy. The septuagenarian critic, sporting a full head of leonine white hair and straggly eyebrows, is a tremendous character: opinionated, foppish, erudite, amusing, cantankerous, snobbish, lascivious, mischievous, self-mocking, sentimental, cynical, and always outrageous. He speaks in a kind of Southeast England Received Pronunciation that is so berserkly plummy that perhaps no one else English has ever sounded like him before or since (except perhaps Mick Jagger when he once pretended to be Camilla Parker-Bowles' butler on Saturday Night Live). Often sporting a white umbrella to protect himself from the heat of the sun, or draped in a flannel prudence (i.e. a kind of wrap) to protect himself from the furious winter's rages, he amiably ambles through the Italian townscapes, pronouncing on anything that interests or irritates him (which is almost everything). In almost every art museum or palazzo he finds some famous art object or architectural detail to gripe about, although Bruce very wisely usually balances this by also showing something for Sewell to praise; we also hear amusing and sometimes thoughtful asides Sewell makes in his car along the way. Many Brits find Sewell's erudition and his unreptentant snobbishness incredibly refreshing; Americans may have a harder time with it, but if you can enter into the spirit of the thing and realize Sewell is constantly poking fun at himself, you'll have a terrific time.