(1941-43, BFI, E)
Created in 1930 by John Grierson, the British documentary movement reached its apotheosis during the second world war as the Crown Film Unit.
Its dominant figure was Humphrey Jennings, "the only real poet the British cinema has yet produced", as Lindsay Anderson put it in the influential 1954 Sight & Sound essay reprinted in the excellent booklet accompanying this outstanding second part of the BFI's three-volume collection of Jennings's work.
The war transformed the Cambridge literary scholar and surrealist painter into a great artist, his heart beating with that of the nation in five masterly movies.
First came two 10-minute patriotic-propagandistic films: The Heart of Britain (1941) (narrated for its American audience by Ed Murrow) and Words for Battle (1941), where Laurence Oliver reads from Milton, Blake, Browning, Kipling, Churchill and Lincoln.
These were followed by the near flawless Listen to Britain (1942), a paean to communal music-making; Fires Were Started (1943), a feature-length docudrama on the work during the blitz of the London fire brigade; and The Silent Village (1943), his eloquent reconstruction in a Welsh mining village of the Nazi massacre at Lidice in Czechoslovakia, a flick much admired by George Orwell.
There'll be no better, more essential disc this year.
DocumentaryDVD and video reviewsPhilip Frenchguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.
All rights reserved.
| Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds... See Complete Article @ Guardian