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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This green and pleasant land, 15 Jan 2012
Colin Smith (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: COI Collection Vol 5: Portrait of a People (DVD) (DVD)
Produced by the Central Office of Information (COI) this collection has a total of fourteen films, (when including the bonus film "Shown By Request") and provides a total running time of almost five hours. The films were mostly intended for overseas consumption, in an attempt to 'sell' Britain around the world. Consequently, any signs of post-war austerity or social discord have been conveniently swept under the carpet, there's no biting observations here, just a mostly sanitised portrait of a nation who's population inhabit an idealised Utopian society, where the people work, rest and play in blissful harmony, proving that 'spin' is not an exclusively modern phenomenon.

Amid carefully orchestrated scenes, the lives of country folk in "An English Village" could almost have been lifted from an episode of "Camberwick Green" or "Trumpton", an over-exaggerated comparison maybe, but only an affectionate way of making a point. The 1962 film "Looking At Britain: Industrial Town" takes a look at the community spirit within Huddersfield, along with it's manufacturing output and the everyday lives of it's citizens, as well as brief images of the local countryside.

Made in 1949, the film "Come Saturday" features some lovingly choreographed scenes of the public scurrying to engage in their various leisure activities. The film "John Turner MP" is a glimpse at the political life of the fictional MP of the title, who represents the equally fictitious constituency of Mandelbury. Made in 1964, "The Poet's Eye" takes a look at the influences that inspired Shakespeare's writing. From the early 1960's "Moslems In Britain - Cardiff" takes us on a tour of the Welsh capital, while the presenter interviews members of the local Muslim community along the way.

Presented by amiable journalist/broadcaster Bernard Braden, the 1958 film "Dateline Britain: Look At London" sees the Canadian taking us on a guided tour of the capital, taking in familiar landmarks and buildings while also dropping in at the Palladium for a chat with Harry Secombe. From 1967, the experimental "Opus" is a colourful abstract montage of art and fashion images set to experimental sounds. I found it a little too 'abstract' for my palate, a film I suspect will probably either delight or disappoint you.

While generally filmed through rose-tinted camera lenses, this release is probably my least favourite of the many excellent collections released by the BFI. Having said that, the collection does have much to offer, including some beautifully photographed rural landscapes and country villages, an 'idealised' world maybe, but a world imbued with plenty of warmth and cosy charm.

In general, the picture and sound quality on most of the films is good.
Here is a list of the films with brief details:

Come Saturday (1949,B/W,29 mins).
Local Newspaper (1952,B/W,16 mins).
An English Village (1956,B/W,20 mins).
Oxford (1958,B/W,20 mins).
Dateline Britain: Look at London (1958,B/W,28 mins).
Looking at Britain: National Parks (1961,B/W,15 mins).

Moslems in Britain - Cardiff (1961,B/W,18 mins).
Looking at Britain: Industrial Town (1962,B/W,11 mins).
John Turner MP (1962,B/W,17 mins).
The Poet's Eye (1964,colour,19 mins).
Speaking of Britain (1967,colour,25 mins).
Opus (1967,colour,27 mins).
Portrait of a People - Impressions of Britain (1970,colour,28 mins).

*Shown by Request (1947,B/W,18 mins). A film showing the work of the COI's Central Film Library.
*Fully illustrated 24-page booklet containing notes and essays, plus full details of all the films.
*Dolby Digital mono audio.
*Optional English subtitles.
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