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'Civilization," Narrated by Kenneth Clark

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Garrell Hughes
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« on: March 01, 2010, 08:50:37 am »

BBC: The Original, Classic 'Civilization," Narrated by Kenneth Clark. Re-released on March 9., 2010. 4 DVDs, 670 Minutes.
BBC
BuzzFlash.com's Review (excerpt)

"Civilisation, A Personal View by Lord Clark, may be the definitive documentary series of the past 50 years. Aired in 1969, this ambitious British undertaking which spanned an "80,000 mile journey visiting 13 countries, 117 locations, 18 libraries, and 118 museums," not only reconfigured the public view of documentary style, but also cemented BBC Two and its new Controller, David Attenborough, in history. In watching this thirteen-episode series, one clearly sees how Attenborough, as well as narrator Kenneth Clark, pioneered the direct-gaze speaking style of the narrator along with the concept of placing the narrator in the setting he refers to. In episode one, The Skin of Our Teeth, Clark stands in front of Notre Dame to question first, if civilization worth preserving, and secondly, what the difference between art and culture is. Heavy. In subsequent episodes, cultural history is viewed through an art historical lens. Especially wonderful is The Worship of Nature, discussing 18th century England's obsession with landscape painting in relation to religious beliefs of the period. Deep philosophy colors each 50-minute segment. This DVD set includes an interview with Attenborough. Undeniably educational, Civilisation feels eternally significant, and improves with repeated viewing."

"If you have never seen this series before and are interested in art history, you just landed in a honey jar. Clark takes us on a 1,500 year journey through Western Civilization starting roughly at the end of the Roman Empire and ending in mid 20th century. He tells us straight out that his aim was to follow the history of Western European civilization as seen through the eyes of its artists. Why the limitation to only Western European civilization? Apparently, Lord Clark wanted to keep the series to a manageable length. The series is over 13 hours long as it is, and one can only wonder what it would have gone on to become had he included the Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Asian, African and Pre-Columbian cultures. The mind boggles. With Civilisation, Clark has done an incredible job of showing us the amazing cultural legacy left by our European forebears. And at the end he reminds us that this is only a fraction of what was actually achieved. You will recognize many of these works. Others will not be so familiar. But they carry the weight of historical significance, and everyone with at least a four year college education should be aware of the general drift of Clark's presentation. He finished this program for the BBC in 1969. It was an immediate success and you can also find the book of the same name which was a popular spinoff of the series. I recommend it also. The series came along in the midst of some of the most tumultuous scenes of civic strife of the last 50 years. Against this background, Clark laid out his thesis that Western civilization has consisted of a series of catastrophes and rebirths. He indicates that our depression over the events of the twentieth century should not lead us into abandoning the cultural legacy which has been bequeathed to us. For example, if the Black Plague of the 14th century were to strike us with the same force it did before, over a hundred million Americans would die. The Thirty Years war devastated parts of Europe even worse than World War 2. And yet, the will to survive and rebuild society was always there. It is a prescient reminder for the current generation of thoughtful people."

*****

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