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on 30 January 2017
A first rate (and cheap!) collection of Alan Bennett's work for the BBC - mainly plays but also including a couple of documentaries observing visitors to an art gallery and a hotel. There are a couple of absolute stunners in this set with An Englishman Abroad about Guy Burgess, A Question of Attribution with James Fox and Prunella Scales and A Woman of No Importance with Patricia Routledge in a forerunner to Talking Heads. But all the works in this set demonstrate Bennett's powers of observation and recall and his command of language.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 24 June 2013
These four discs contain not a dull moment, and range from the early 70s to the early 90s. You can see a progression in terms of the complexity of the films, I think, or at least in terms of their multi-facetted aspect, beginning with the relatively straightforward A Day Out and the domestic dramas Our Winnie and Sunset across the Bay. These show his amazing ear for dialogue - he just gets people with unerring accuracy, and humour which never seems forced. Underlying this is also a sense of life's sadness, but the roundness with which he views his characters transcends this in a way that is far more subtle than covering it over with witty lines. Two vehicles for Patricia Routledge prove very enjoyable, A Woman Of No Importance having a particular pathos which sits oddly - but brilliantly - with the character's serious limitations. She seems to have absolutely no sense of how others perceive her - what Bennett calls her solipsism - yet the final wordless image is very moving. A Visit From Miss Prothero casts her in a more surreal role, with a strong projection of the baleful pull of the workplace psychology even against her former colleague's totally justified resistance.

For me the best films are probably the one about Proust and the two about Anthony Blunt and Guy Burgess. They are so densely written, yet thoroughly enjoyable. Alan Bates is fantastic in both his roles (as Proust and Burgess), beautifully offset by Coral Browne in An Englishman Abroad and Janet McTeer in 102 Boulevard Haussmann. The latter was new to me and the evocation of Proust's world was delightful, with his eccentrically grand behaviour as finely judged as the cooking of the takeaway meals he ordered from the Ritz at all hours of the night. This episode of his getting a string quartet to play for him after midnight means we get to hear excerpts from Franck and Faure beautifully in context, as well as following the subtle movement of his heart which elides with research for his novel. A Question of Attribution is similarly multi-layered and handled with superb aplomb, for all its unassuming surface. James Fox and Prunella Scales are completely worthy of the lines written for them, and it is enjoyable to see Jason Flemyng pop up in a smaller role, sparring amusingly with a much 'posher' star student from the Courtauld - and proving more knowledgable! Finally there are two documentaries, one on Leeds Art Gallery and one on the Crown Hotel in Harrogate, both written and narrated by Bennett himself. His take on these places is inimitable, while getting absolutely to the truth of what they're all about and how they function from day to day. He merges observation with autobiographical details and historical points and creates a fascinating picture. With a filmed interview about the works, and an introduction by him to each one, this collection is absolutely superb at every level, and shows what a wonderful writer Bennett is - there's surely no one writing better dialogue in English today.
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on 11 May 2017
A great collection by a master storyteller. Not the best of indices to the DVDs in the set. Need to make an effort to find which programme to view..
Shame that an equal quality booklet was not produced,
.
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on 2 May 2017
I love the humanity of Bennett's work. I recognize the characters in "Our Winnie" even though I have lived in the American Midwest my whole life whereas the vast, vast majority of American film and television takes place on a planet I don't recognize. I grew up living and working around mentally challenged children and Sheila Kelly's portrayal of Winnie stayed with me for days.
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on 3 June 2017
Excellent collection of Alan Bennett plays. Each story is so very enjoyable, but I just love An Englishman Abroad with Coral Browne and Alan Bates, which is based on an intriguing true story
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on 22 May 2017
One of the best box sets you could possibly buy. A really good selection of good things. I cannot recommend too highly.
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VINE VOICEon 1 June 2015
Some real gems here: I bought this because there are a number of programmes I remember from when they were first broadcast and I welcomed the chance to revisit them.
It has the Harrogate Hotel documentary which tells us more about Alan Bennett and his parents than hotels, and his look at Leeds City Art Gallery. But there are other great pieces that precede the Talking Heads. Some such as Miss Prothero's visit have been also performed on stage and useful to compare the television version.
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on 18 February 2014
The purity of ordinary life and lives observed and translated superbly for the small screen by a master of his writing craft. Thoroughly and highly recommended. When you find yourself bored with modern superficial TV drama and exasperated by the American film machine’s shallow writing values, sustained often enough only by its computerised special-effects crutch, then revitalise your jaded palate by returning to an original source of natural playwright-genius. You won’t be disappointed.
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on 3 March 2014
This is excellent and serves to demonstrate what an excellent playright Bennett is. Not only that but it is also a record of just how good television teams were at making these plays/films. Plus character actors given good scripts and direction turn in good and compelling performances. The plays include A Day Out, Sunset across the bay, An Englishman Abroad, Dinner At Noon and one of Bennett's finest, Insurance Man, which is worth twice the price of the set. If you enjoy good writing, good acting and good production values do not hesitate to invest.
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on 11 September 2014
This four DVD set contains an eclectic collection of programmes made for the BBC. Slices of ordinary life, documentaries and the Cambridge spies, among other subjects, are featured. Delightful and fascinating introductions to the programmes are given by Bennett, as he sits with a cup of tea at his elbow (and a plate of macaroons just out of camera shot, one imagines). This set is a bargain and is highly recommended for devotees of AB.
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