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4.8 out of 5 stars
Talking Heads - The Complete Collection [DVD]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
These twelve monologues are an amazingly complete experience, making you feel Alan Bennett has invented an entirely new genre. The first series tend to be more comical than the second, dating from 1988 and 1998 respectively, but the range is extraordinary, even within the same piece - Bennett is such a master of tone, and glides around the scale almost imperceptibly. It's probably best not to know too much before watching them, as part of the pleasure is in picking up on which direction events are likely to go in; you're on the lookout for clues, and sometimes can be wrongfooted, in that the true subject only emerges quite a way into the 40-minute duration. It's almost impossible to generalise about them; we usually feel sympathetic towards the characters, but not in absolutely every case, and in one case we do feel sympathetic where on paper we might not if we had the bigger picture up-front - another reason for not knowing too much! But what Bennett unfailingly does is take us into someone's private world, offering it for understanding first of all, with all its subjective distortions. One of the most enjoyable in this regard is Her Big Chance, where Julie Walters hits a high comic note with her projection of this brazen, not very aware but intensely sympathetic character. The genius is in the combination of Bennett's sharpness of observation and the brilliance of his actors, who can all withstand the closest scrutiny by the camera and remain expressive in their every word, in every slightest movement or nuance of facial expression. The writing is also very brave, I would say, daring to look into subjects that we are not comfortable with and pushing at the limits of our vision to give an expanded sense of things.

I didn't watch them in order but did save the last till last; having thought I had been through an extraordinary range of emotions with these characters, I found that Bennett still had a further area of uncharted feeling to access in Waiting for the Telegram with Thora Hird, so moving I can hardly believe what I've seen as I write this the next day.

Telling Tales, a series of short autobiographical writings by Bennett, make a very generous addition at nearly three hours - every minute full of life and interest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 July 2013
Monologues covering themes of old age, illness, loneliness, disillusionment and death, usually spoken in the cosy and mundane

setting of home. Illustrations of just how fragile is our sense of security and how misplaced our sense of our own permanence.

As such, these monologues are sometimes quite disturbing; Bennett shows that there is ultimately no escape from the terrors of

life. But he does so in such a casual, homely way, the way that people gossip, that the monologues are more sobering than say,

some of the plays of Samuel Beckett, which, although they explore similar themes, are often set in an overtly bleak

environment that bears little relation to Bennett's cosy living rooms. The reassuring homeliness, the familiarity of Bennett's

environment is,however, only superficial. Apart from the speaker there is nobody in the room because a husband may have died;

rooms are gloomy looking and sparsely furnished, adding emphasis to the devastating events which will inevitably overwhelm us.

Bennett's monologues capture some of the sadness of life in an understated way which only adds to their poignancy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2012
Talking Heads has to be one of the finest written and acted series of monologues ever produced. The fact of the matter is that, if you simply read the scripts, you experience some wonderful writing. To watch these performances takes you on a glorious journey through the emotions with Alan Bennett achieving his usual brilliant effects as he moves us from laughter through to tears (or very close). If you have never seen these and you believe that British writing and acting is great now is the time to give them your attention.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 October 2011
For Americans and others, Alan Bennett's work probably won't mean a great deal, although the acting is certainly brilliant if not inspired.
However,if you are are British and a contemporary of Bennett (as I am particularly one who had a lower middle or working class background (at least on one side) then it is quite a different matter. I can vouch for the absolute authenticity of the language, the attitudes and the quirky behaviour portrayed in these brilliant vignettes. Some will make you laugh. Some (like the old lady, played by Thora Hird, recalling her long lost love killed in the Great War, will bring you to tears.
He has written material like nothing else in extant English literature. And the text is brought brilliantly to screen by the bevy of British actresses.
You will not regret investing in this brilliant series. It is simply the best.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 July 2010
This was just superb. I have been looking for the "Talking Heads" monologues in videos format ever since listening to them on cassette many years back. Alan's monologues are just so life like. His "Telling Tales" on the third disc of this collection are just as fun to listen to and gives you a peek into his growing up. Talking Heads - The Complete Talking Heads [DVD]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2010
These two series, ten decades apart, represent the best of British writing and performance. That one actor, one camera can keep you riveted for upwards of 40 minutes at a time is testament to this fact. If you haven't seen these, buy them now. If you have, I'm sure you'll buy them anyway.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant beyond words, though I know Alan Bennett could find the words to put across how absolutely memorable and mesmerising his writing is (though he is too modest to do so). The texts are superlative, hugely poignant and hilarious by turns; the actors, mainly actresses, are astonishingly expressive; I only wish there were ten more series I could buy and watch. This collection is something to treasure and to view again and again. Just faultless. If you love words, and great British acting, then this should find a place in your home.I plan to buy copies for everyone I know who is a lover of the lyrical or comedic, or of first-class acting. Penelope Wilton and Thora Hird stand out but all the actors are excellent. Alan Bennett himself features in one of the three discs, telling tales of childhood, and capturing the deepest ambiguities of love, desire, shame, and resilience in family life which will resonate with any viewer born around the same time and/or in the same place or social position.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It's also easy to forget just how much talent he had backing the wonderful and thoroughly moving series "Talking Heads". He and the other actors and actresses performed master classes of delivery and of such class - that they can't help but stir the emotions. Make sure you watch them away from kids and distractions, because they need to be savoured and appreciated for what they are - true quality, from the pen of a real craftsman.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2014
Ever since I saw this series on TV many many moons ago I was mesmerized.
I bought the book that came out after the series and watched anything and everything to do with Alan Bennett. In Talking Heads, by using the finest acting talent that there is, Bennett has created a masterpiece and I am so happy that I have it sitting on my DVD shelf ready to be delved into whenever I am feeling in that kind of thought provoking mood.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2011
These monologues are a modern classic. Alan Bennett is an outstanding writer and an astute observer of human frailty.
Alan Bennett - the Complete Talking Heads [DVD]
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