Top positive review
6 people found this helpful
a must-have box set
on 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.