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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 2 December 2016
I've been revisiting my affection for all things Sewell recently. This 2003 TV series documents his
"pilgrimage" to Santiago de Compostela for the feast day of St James; a journey he made once
before 40 years ago. Travelling not on foot, as the rules of proper pilgrimage decree, but in his
beloved two-decade-old Mercedes, Mr Sewell retraces the route from Paris to Santiago taken
by many believers each year (going back centuries), for a little spiritual refreshment and cleansing.

As in his marvellous 'Grand Tour' series, made in 2006, he stops off along the way, to take in some
beautiful churches and cathedrals. Notre Dame, Chartres and Orleans come off rather well but poor
Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre gets a sound (and thoroughly deserved) pasting. At the heart of the
matter, however, is the somewhat unexpected challenge to Mr Sewell's agnosticism. His jaundiced
view of the tourist industry which has grown up around the town of Lourdes is rather tipped head
over heels by a couple of very jolly ladies from Hartlepool and he is visibly moved by the tangible
and simple faith demonstrated by a couple of unaffected students on his arrival at Santiago. He
is visibly moved by the belief of others, whilst struggling deeply with his own lapsed Catholicism.

The final scene of our hero burning (as tradition decrees) the clothes in which he made his journey
on the beach and walking out naked into the waves is a touching coda to this redemptive enterprise.

Spread over six episodes (each between 20-25 minutes in length) the series is unmissable.
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on 8 June 2017
I had given away a copy of this series and really wanted to see it again so bought another copy.
It has been fun and quite emotional to travel on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with late Brian Sewell who had made the journey as a young man and was retracing his footsteps all be it in his beloved old Mercedes. He confesses to being a lapsed Catholic who, by the end of the journey has become a lapsed sceptic.
The people he meets and their simple faith moves him to tears at times.
Well worth watching.
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on 28 July 2014
By one of those strange coincidences which haunt pilgrimage, I happened to watch this DVD on 25th July. Only on getting to the last episode did I learn that 25th July is the Feast Day of Santiago.
This is a candid and moving exploration into the nature of pilgrimage, and Brian Sewell's emotional integrity does full service to the subject. It isn't an easy thing to do: going on pilgrimage. Whether one is a religious believer or not, the implacable nature of any pilgrimage is that it turns one inside out. Springs bubble up, lids won't remain shut. Whatever one imagines one is undertaking is almost certainly not what's going to happen. What does happen is whatever is needed to effect a transformation. Setting out always counts as assent, though reaching the place of pilgrimage is often not the end of the journey: change needs time afterwards, to ripen.
It seemed to me that despite setting out on what he'd hoped would be a bit of a jaunt, Brian Sewell was fully aware that this pilgrimage was more than that. Yet though emotionally buffeted, he was able to face his sense of being 'nothing' (as he described it) without the comfort of self-delusion. Personally shorn of belief, he started out with the observer's protective carapace, yet became drawn towards the honesty of other pilgrims on the Way, despite their religious fervour. He describes his discomfort at feeling tearful, but dissolving and resolving are the necessary ebb and flowtide of the process; the gift here is that he neither hides nor dramatises his feelings.
It soon becomes clear that though interesting, the architecture is simply not the point. Despite Brian's erudition his heart isn't in it, and the buildings become mere backdrops to the real journey. The most tranquil stage is the last, where he completes his journey to Compostela on a gentle mare and can finally adopt the pace most appropriate to pilgrimage.
If I have any criticism at all, it is that sometimes the narrative seems sketchy and the scenes jumpily unconnected. I wonder how much had to be edited out so as to fit the broadcasting time? Perhaps fewer shots of Brian driving, and more of him discussing his experiences with fellow pilgrims would have added depth. I was also astonished that he could stand in Chartres Cathedral and not once look down at the labyrinth! Although this does seem a fitting metaphor for a pilgrimage which was going on under his nose, unremarked.
The final scene, in which he burns the clothes he's travelled in and wades naked into the sea, moved me and has since left me tugged around by the undertow of this journey. Not for the first time I have been wondering about pilgrimages: why we need to make them, and even whether we can go on pilgrimage without leaving our home? Certainly there is no requirement for religious belief, yet perhaps every need for faith of a different kind: faith in meaning.
'The Naked Pilgrim' is so much more than a tour of cathedrals, or a look at why bits of dead people should be revered and mounted in kitsch boxes. Like the best music, not everything is articulated: there are silent spaces, and the inexpressible is allowed to linger, unworded.
I'd love to spend an evening with Brian Sewell talking about all the roads we take and why we take them. I'd even buy the wine.
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on 10 January 2018
I bought this as I am delivering coach tours of the Camino and thought this was a frank and interesting look at stages on "The Way" with an interesting insight into Sewell being challenged and challenging his own lapsed beliefs by fellow pilgrims - I thught it was really interestingf and worth it just for the bar bum shot at the end.It inspired me to drive then walk down to Finisterre (Worlds/Lans End) in te North West Coast of the Iberian Peninsular
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on 19 November 2013
Brian Sewell's sardonic wit comes across well in this documentary. I've always liked his approach to 'art' and the way in which is never prepared to praise the mediocre merely because a particular style is 'fashionable'. He also know what he is talking about, which can be a pleasant change! Brian follows the pilgrims way from Paris to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, a journey of well over 1000Km and one which is made, for all kinds of reasons (by no means all religious) by tens of thousands of people every year. Brian stops off at some of the main points along the way and finds his lapsed-catholic cynicism being eroded by some of the experiences he has. My only real disappointment was the makers' occasional tendency to move away from the main theme into side matters. I'd have been far more interested in hearing Brian Sewell's views on Leon's architecture than its chorizo.
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on 15 September 2014
Brian Sewell makes an engaging guide, and his journey to Compostela and the buildings and sites he visits on the road are always fascinating and his own comments and reflections on the experience of pilgrims in the past and his feelings about his own loss of relgious faith are always diverting and worth hearing. The programmes are quite short at about 25 minutes and one can watch the whole series in three hours without experiencing ennui or ennervation, even if he declares that he found the journey slightly boring and wearying at times (it does not show here), and his naked strip on the beach at the end having burned the clothes he had made the journey in makes for an unusual ending!
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on 3 January 2013
It is almost a guide to a fascinating holiday. Brian Sewell has his particular way of presenting things and may not be everyone's cup of tea but throughout the series he is able to present it all in a very enjoyable fashion, with funny moments too. If you watch several episodes at once the intro can be a bit tedious. He has certainly stimulated our family and friends to want to make this journey ourselves. Just wondering where to make our starting point! A cousin of mine cycled from Holland to Santiago de Compostella last year and loved every moment. I have bought this dvd several times so it can't be bad!
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on 20 May 2013
Having watched Martin Sheen's ( Emilio Esteves') 'The Way' the inspiration demanded I seek more. And who to turn to but the unreal Brian Sewell. It isn't quite the brilliance I expected but none could watch this and not marvel. The scenery and history is thrilling, but to see Brian in the spotlight is a joy. If you think Oscar Wilde or Quentin Crisp had charisma you will enjoy basking in this glow. Expect little and find the essence of belief.
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on 26 August 2014
It's good to have a presenter who comes to his subject in a subjective manner and this Brian Sewell does to perfection. If doesn't matter if you don't agree with him. And also it's good that it is a personal journey so that we have a portrait of a human being on a pilgrimage, not just a typical presenter being charming. We have Sewell, warts and all. The visits he make and the landscapes and architecture that are displayed are food for the spirit. Very few documentaries engage your heart and mind so completely. It deserves all the accolades it has received.
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on 30 April 2018
Brian Sewell was much more sympathetic than I thought he would be. Came over rather well.
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