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Listen to Britain & Other Films By Humphrey Jennings [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

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Region 1 encoding. (requires a North American or multi-region DVD player and NTSC compatible TV. More about DVD formats)
Note: you may purchase only one copy of this product. New Region 1 DVDs are dispatched from the USA or Canada and you may be required to pay import duties and taxes on them (click here for details) Please expect a delivery time of 5-7 days.

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Product details

  • Actors: Philip Dickson, George Gravett, Fred Griffiths, Johnny Houghton, Loris Rey
  • Directors: Harry Watt, Humphrey Jennings, Stewart McAllister
  • Writers: Humphrey Jennings, Stewart McAllister, E.M. Forster, Quentin Reynolds
  • Producers: Alfred Duff-Cooper
  • Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 4 Jun. 2002
  • Run Time: 191 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006674B
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 196,474 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Murray Bolser on 15 Nov. 2008
Format: DVD
Please ignore idiots who scream "OOH ISN'T IT WONDERFULLY POLITICALLY INCORRECT!!! OOOH!". This is nonsense. The films 'Listen to Britain' and 'A Diary For William' are artistic masterpieces in their own right, in addition to being distinctly patriotic films made in a time of war. Full of hope for the future, the films are about understanding the reasons for the war, made at a time when the end was unknown. Powerful, moving, classic British wartime film.

The disk includes seven films;

1) London Can Take It!, a nine minute propaganda film from 1940
2) Words for Battle, a compilation of quotes from British and American literature recounted by Laurence Olivier.
3) Listen to Britain, one of Jennings's more famous films
4) I Was a Fireman [also known as "Fires Were Started..."], at 70 minutes is the most substantial work presented on the disc and tells the story of the day in the life of a volunteer fire fighting unit during the Blitz.
5) A Diary for Timothy, widely believed to be Jennings's masterpiece, a heart-rending portrayal of a people maintaining their daily lives while the world all around them goes mad
6) Family Portrait, released posthumously, is another celebration of British life.
7) Myra Hess Playing the First Movement of Beethoven's Sonata in F Minor Op. 57 (Appassionata) is simply a nine minute straightforward account of the pianist performing a bit of music.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. C. Gowans on 4 Dec. 2009
Format: DVD
I've watched 'Listen to Britain' many times and will probably watch it many more times (hopefully). It is quite simply poetry in moving picture form, and the soundtrack is the glue binding the whole. Add to that the drama and poignancy of the subject matter - Britain facing possible destruction in the second world war - and you have a film of REAL power and emotion, yes - and beauty too.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Captain Chaos (Semper Vigilans) on 11 Jan. 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
In our all too soft and namby-pamby politically correct present it's the easiest thing in the world to sneer at the sentiments expressed in this collection of films, and to criticise the standard of acting, quality of the film etc.
This film is not for those who rave about the likes of '300', or other 'Arnified' Hollywood pap loaded to the gills with special effects, usually to disguise the abysmally poor acting offered by self-obsessed media celebrities.
This film should be required viewing for all, if only to illustrate the sacrifices made on our ungrateful behalf, by an older, and infinitely 'ballsier' and more courageous generation.
Being staunchly 'Politically Incorrect' I am grateful that the BFI, and others, have given me the opportunity to experience the genius of Humphrey Jennings once more.
There is not a bad film in this collection, however, my personal preference exactly mirrors the playing order and I am indebted to Mr Quentin Reynolds for sticking around and helping fight our corner when too many others were running for the hills.
If the film quality is not to your taste just remember this is the real thing not some backlot sound stage - as Mr Reynolds so aptly reminds us.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pat McCarran on 20 Sept. 2008
Format: DVD
It is with proud political incorrectness that I praise these honest documentaries which show how we came together to fight Fascism, and the social solidarity which led to the election of Britain's first Labour government willing to challenge the interests of capital and the market for the collective good. Not like the craven New Labour/Tory lot we have now... but seriously, read whatever you want into these, but listen and watch with respect for the people without whom...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
great wartime documentary films 9 Jan. 2007
By Mr. Nicholas J. Scudamore - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Jennings is the almost unsung artist of British documentary cinema. His films are poetic yet harsh - full of compassion for the wartime difficulties of civilians just trying to live through bombing and destruction and fear of death. The films are edited like music, by association and rythmn. His films emerge today as a brillent set of cultural portraits of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Jennings became a genius in his war years 27 Nov. 2007
By Jacques COULARDEAU - Published on
Format: DVD
The film was recently presented at the Cinematheque in Paris for a debate on Jennings' work, with David Robinson and Elena von Kassel Siambani as debaters, and the participation of Stephen Frears. Stephen Frears' participation was disappointing because he did not say one single piece of his mind about Jennings. But the two other debaters totally missed the point by qualifying Jennings' war films as poetic. That satisfied the nostalgic audience but they completely missed the point. Too bad for our historians.

They got lost and satisfied to be lost in the biographical elements and the historical events of the time, as if it were capital to know that Jennings was an aristocrat by birth. When we come across a film, or as for that any work of communication or art, any work produced by human beings, we have to look for the language in the message, the alphabets used to produce the message and the syntax of that message.

At once we discover that this Diary for Timothy has little to do with a documentary, as little at least as Oliver Twist. At once we know this diary is not a documentary and that the films Jennings produced that were not connected with the war are different, be it only absolutely boring. The war enable Jennings to jump into a different style, syntax, language, message. A Diary for Timothy is pure fiction aiming at having a political effect on the captive audience of 1944-45 in England. This film is a masterpiece for his time because it invents something that will become the first and foremost medium in human history, television.

The first language of the film is dictated by its framing-shooting-editing. Jennings centers his framing and shooting on characters, bodies, at times travelling from foot to head or vice versa, at times giving close-ups of one or two faces. This very close shooting, narrow framing is typical of what was to become television. It is thus aiming at empathy, especially since the characters do not speak: the discourse comes from a voice-over. The second technical element. The framing-shooting-editing of this film concentrates on absolutely common place everyday situations in 1944, so that you - the audience - can feel a high level of all-sensory empathy. Take for example the image of the bunk beds in the underground station: It focuses on one person in one bunk bed, in the dark, wrapped up in a blanket.

You can at once smell the dampness and the soot, the stale air, the sweat and other body smells. You can feel the closed up environment in which human beings are packed, slightly claustrophobic and holding onto people who are invaders in a way, and you are feeling as if you were an invader too. You can also feel the fear, the danger, the night, etc. And of course you can hear the announcement for the last train and the train rumbling by, without seeing it. It is all-sensory except for the intellect and the mind. It is an immediate unmediated reaction. It does not want to make you go out and do anything, not even think. It does not aim at making you engage in any action of any type. It just wants you to feel 100% convinced that what you are doing everyday in that war is the right thing. It is propaganda. And this very last element is fundamental.

Jennings is inventing the ultimate manipulating medium, television, for which the medium is the message, the message is a massage and the massage is the ultimate message. TV is doing that all the time, especially in its fictional productions and it seems to deal with its news programs as if they were fiction with the stamp of TRUTH printed onto them. Now is this Diary for Timothy poetic? That is your choice to consider most of these pictures as poetic. The aim is not to produce poetry but effective propaganda and the new medium he is inventing is using the same techniques as poetry to reach its aim which is neither to make people - in 1944-45 - nostalgic or soft around the edges, or to make them wonder about the beauty of a scene or a vision.

In one scene two people, one man and one woman are under a table covered with a tablecloth. But this scene is not funny and you will not smile or laugh at it, at least not in 1944-45 because of the direct edited surroundings of this short sequence. We know what this means and we admire the courage of these people very much. We think of other scenes of the same type (Mozart and his wife-to-be smooching under a table in Vienna as seen by Milos Forman) and the one here is serious and reveals the courage and strength of the two people, not their lust or freewheeling carelessness.

Why on earth did the Cinematheque in Paris miss that point? Because they are entirely concentrated on the cinema and do not consider television, like for instance the Museum in Bradford (photography, cinema and television). And because in France it has been very trendy for decades to refuse to see Marshall McLuhan has a point on the question. But it is more surprising that the debaters went along with that mistake. As historians of the cinema they should always consider the cinema as one medium among many other media. Apparently they isolate the cinema from the rest of the mediatic world.

Classic Piece of Wartime Social History 17 Nov. 2013
By Dr. Laurence Raw - Published on
Format: DVD
Produced to celebrate the work of the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), FIRES WERE STARTED is a drama-documentary recounting a day in the life of those men charged with the responsibility of dousing fires during the Blitz of 1940-41 in London's Docklands. None of the actors are professional; they have been encouraged to play the roles of 'ordinary' people. As a result some of the performances are better than others. What renders the film truly remarkable is the fact that it was produced under very difficult conditions with high production values: the re-enactments of the nighttime air raids are convincing, with staged scenes intercut with actual footage. Produced as a propaganda piece to celebrate the virtues of community, of people pulling together at a time of great stress, FIRES WERE STARTED shows the difficulties experienced by Londoners at that time; not only during but after the nightly raids; how the city picked itself up and continued working, even after the heaviest bombing. The actors manage to create a spirit of community - not only through working but also singing, eating and drinking together. The film is an invaluable record of life during the Second World War: should be required viewing for any social historians interested in the period.
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