The American Civil War [DVD]
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KEN BURNS THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR is the most ambitious, comprehensive and definitive account of the bloody conflict ever produced. This epic work hailed around the world as one of the greatest documentary series ever made took Academy Award-nominated director Ken Burns five years to produce. It features over 16,000 archival photographs and innumerable period paintings, lithographs and contemporary newspaper features, as well as battlefield tours, newsreel footage of veterans and music from the period. Graphic first hand accounts of the war are brought to life with readings by top actors and actresses including JASON ROBARDS, MORGAN FREEMAN, DEREK JACOBI, JEREMY IRONS, SAM WATERSTON, JULIE HARRIS, ARTHUR MILLER and many more. Digitally mastered for exceptional picture and sound quality, this deluxe DVD edition includes all eleven hours of the series. A FILM BY KEN BURNS So much more than a mini-series. An extraordinary reconstruction of the American disaster... I must once more sing the praises of that television landmark... THE MAIL The most thought-provoking programme around. I m not surprised it broke all audience records on Public Television in American and was General Schwarzkopf s favourite viewing in the Gulf...the script, voices and the music are brilliantly chosen and performed. Five magnificent episodes to go, don t miss them. THE OBSERVER
The most successful public-television miniseries in American history, the 11-hour American Civil War defined what has since become known as the "Ken Burns approach"--voice-over narrators reading letters and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with still images (photographs, paintings, maps, prints), anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era he depicts.
The American Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller, and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained photos, Burns allows us not only to learn and understand history, but also to feel and experience it. --Dave McCoy --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Burns’ landmark PBS documentary series is available in Region 1 (the Americas) as a 6-disk DVD set with special features such as interviews with Ken Burns & Shelby Foote and a host of other extras. The exemplary restored Blu-Ray edition from 2016 is also available only in Region 1.
However if you live in Region 2 (Europe) the only PAL-compatible version available is a 3-disk DVD set of the original 9 episodes, with no extras. No Blu-Ray edition is currently available for Region 2 and although you may import these superior expanded versions from the USA, they won’t play on your R2 equipment.
So you’re stuck with the stripped-down original TV series which nevertheless is well worth buying, as it’s one of the greatest-ever documentary series in the history of the medium, right up there with Thames TV’s ‘The World at War’ from the 1970s and much of David Attenborough’s work like ‘the Blue Planet’.
If the excellent Blu-Ray edition is ever made available in R2 format, then that would be the one to buy. Meantime, if you can get hold of a copy of the PAL 3-disk DVD set at a good price, that’s the one to go for: the box cover-art has a sepia image of a line of Union soldiers standing in front of conical white tents, topped by colour-washed head shots of Lincoln flanked by Grant and Lee.
I shall watch this again and again over the years, get it you wont be dissapointed.
But more than anything, Ken Burns has succeeded in making this a very "human" and personal film, which not only exposes some of the questionable choices made in terms of strategy and politics, but the tragic and human suffering the conflict inflicted upon so many.
Expertly filmed Burns manages to bring still photographs to life using his now famous "Burns effect" slowly panning across photographs, zooming in, each and every picture is given maximum impact just from a single still image. Narrated by David McCullough, who has a voice that grips you with every word and phrase, there are also some wonderful additions by many others including:
Jeremy Irons and many others
Narration is flawless from the entire cast
A special mention must go to the historian Shelby Foote, his well thought out and often witty sections add greatly to the impact of the series. His intelligent and yet sometimes touched responses sweep past any of the usual rhetoric you might expect from some historians, and he's well grounded and down to earth, with an expert knowledge of the conflict. All wrapped up in a wonderful and soft Tennessee accent. You could listen to Shelby all day long
Structure is excellent, starting off in the pre conflict stage, moving along to many of the well known battles and giving a good coverage of the political struggles of the era right up the conclusion and aftermath. This is an in depth documentary that covers the conflict in nice bite sized episodes.
At 11 hours 30 minutes running time this is a beast in terms of watching hours.
What stands out above all else is the ability of Burns, and the narrators to bring the individual stories to life. Letters are frequently read out by the cast, images and stories of ordinary people, soldiers, slaves. Not just Lincoln, Lee, Grant and the big headline people. It would have been very easy to make a film that covered events purely on a grand scale, and with less details or without the personal stories that go with the conflict. Burns manages to make this a touching and thoughtful documentary, and yet whilst it is detailed, it never bogs you down; accurate and with counter viewpoints helping the viewer form their own opinion.
Rarely is such a film easy to do, clearly a labour of love of Burns this has achieved a near faultless account of the conflict. If you have even a mild interest in the Civil War it's an essential purchase, even if you don't it's a compelling watch for just about everyone.
One of the few documentary films that really does achieve epic status
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