Listen To Britain (1942)

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Listen to Britain (1942)

Listen to Britain (1942)

The work of Humphrey Jennings has been relegated to a footnote in the annals of British movie, in part because he worked inside a genre - wartime propaganda - of which numerous were subsequently suspicious. In detail he is British documentary-making's first auteur, a dedicated chronicler of everyday life who directed an artist's eye to wartime Britain, in the method making a sequence of understated, powerfully going films.

Listen To Britain from 1942 was the first in Jennings' large wartime trilogy. (I Was A Fireman, aka Fires Were Started, and A Diary For Timothy followed). It was made under the aegis of the Crown Film Unit (previously the GPO Film Unit), an administration dedicated to making morale-boosting briefs and documentaries and where Jennings, with his Cambridge learning, creative aspirations and untested tendencies, was considered as an outsider. (Georgaris, 2000, 1-5)

Just 20 minutes long, Listen To Britain takes the pattern of an unconventional travelogue. Rather than the rousing narration or rousing tally one might anticipate to escort a movie conceived to harden the nation's determination, it's escorted by artfully revised natural sound, wireless bulletins, snatches of dialogue and melodies performed by those who appear. Troops delay for a train. Dancers clear around a ballroom. Munitions employees toil in the factories. While Flanagan & Allen present 'Underneath .The Arches', the camera roves through the weary-looking assembly in seek of a smile. During a genteel lunchtime live presentation at the National Gallery the camera breaks away from the ensemble and resolves first on an empty space on the partition from which a image has been taken, then wanders down in the direction of a bucket of sand in the corner. The note is straightforward and unobtrusive: life proceeds on.

Listen to Britain is a 1942 ...
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