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Paul Merton On Hitchcock
Paul Merton On Hitchcock

BBC Four puts science at the heart of its Autumn/Winter schedule



Documentaries


Paul Merton On Hitchcock

 

Paul Merton continues his love affair with silent cinema by looking at Alfred Hitchcock's British films - 10 of which were silent.

 

Paul, who presents and directs the film, regards the master of suspense as a man immersed in the visual language of cinema and who understood how to use camera movement and lighting for dramatic effect.

 

For Hitchcock, heavily influenced by German Expressionist cinema, the pictures would always be more important than the dialogue.

 

Combining innovative visual vignettes, stunning clips and archive, Paul weaves together a fascinating narrative of the early career and macabre world of Alfred Hitchcock, revealing a man with a great sense of humour.

 

Paul talks to those who knew and worked with him, including director Roy Ward Baker (A Night To Remember); Hitchcock's official biographer, John Russell Taylor; and cinematographer Gil Taylor (Dr Strangelove, Star Wars) about working on two Hitchcock films at either end of his career Number Seventeen in 1932 and Frenzy in 1972.

 

TM

 

Picture Book

 

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin...

 

This autumn, Picture Book tells the story of children's fiction through the pictures, comic strips and illustrations that have been the secret of the genre's success.

 

In the company of the fictional characters many of us as adults still love, the series takes in the earliest picture books such as Noddy and Thomas The Tank Engine, moving through to the more grown-up writing of JRR Tolkien and Philip Pullman.

 

With contributors from the literary world, including Raymond Briggs, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson, Lauren Child and Quentin Blake, each of the three episodes explores a different stage of childhood.

 

Starting with babies and pre-school children, continuing through to infants who begin to read alone and on to early adolescence and the growing pains of teens, Picture Book examines the gateway through which young readers tap into the awesome power of imaginary worlds.

 

LK

 

Just Read

 

Michael Rosen, the Children's Laureate, believes that all children have the right to love reading - and it doesn't take money but vision.

 

In this inspirational documentary Michael takes up the challenge of turning reluctant readers into young people who are truly passionate about books.

 

For eight weeks he works with teachers, governors, caretakers, dinner ladies and parents to start a reading revolution.

 

It's an experience of discovery and delight for 200 lucky children aged five to 11 and for the adults around them.

 

Just Read reminds us all why reading and books matter; it's about transforming children's lives through the power of the written word no more, no less.

 

LK

 

Why Reading Matters

 

Advances in brain scanning enable this science documentary to demonstrate the profound way that reading rearranges the very organisation of the brain.

 

With expert testimony and contributions from writers and readers, the programme enters the silent world of reading.

 

It includes practical demonstrations and recreations of key experiments to explain why reading matters.

 

LK

 

How Reading Made Us Modern

 

Clues to how Britain became a modern country lie in an understanding of when Britain began to read en masse, how people read and what kind of material they were reading.

 

Professor John Mullan discovers how reading went from being a pursuit that was feared and controlled, to being the cornerstone of self-improvement.

 

By the end of the 18th century, being "modern" meant, above all, being a reader.

 

LK

 

The Lost Libraries Of Timbuktu

 

Timbuktu was never the capital of any empire, but its fame and wealth were legendary in the West, where it became a byword for the unreachable goal.

 

Five times the size of London, from the 13th to the 16th centuries it was a seat of learning and its black African scholars were revered throughout the Islamic world for their erudition.

 

In Timbuktu, their legacy survives in the hundreds of thousands of manuscripts that have come to light in recent years.

 

Nineteenth-century colonialism dismissed Africa's history and replaced it with Western preconceptions, but black Africa's literary tradition alongside song and dance is revealed in this absorbing documentary.

 

LK

 

The Golden Age Of Steam Season

 

Ian Hislop Goes Off The Rails to launch The Golden Age Of Steam season.

 

Ian appraises the impact of the notorious Beeching Report of 1963, which led to the closure of many of Britain's rural railway lines and stations.

 

Was Dr Richard Beeching a kind of Genghis Khan with a slide rule, ruthlessly axing any bits of our rail network he deemed unprofitable, or was he simply the fall guy for something that had to happen?

 

Time Shift observes two very different aspects of the railways.

 

The Last Days Of Steam asks why, when the rest of the world was committing to diesel trains, Britain was building hundreds of steam-powered locomotives.

 

In Between The Lines: Railways In Fiction And Film, novelist Andrew Martin finds out how the train came to shape the works of writers.

 

With lovers parting at the station, runaway carriages and secret assignations in confined compartments, railways have long been a staple of romance, mystery and period drama.

 

British Transport Films A Nation On Film Special reviews the work of Edgar Anstey and his team of film-makers in the state-owned British Transport Films Unit after the Second World War.

 

The archive features beautiful documentaries and travelogues, but did they strike the right balance between truth and propaganda?

 

Finally, Julia Bradbury sets out along old tracks, through overgrown cuttings and across ancient viaducts, in Railway Walks.

 

In doing so she discovers Britain's lost Rail Empire, a symbol of Britain's industrial might, Victorian ambition and the rise and fall of entire communities.

 

LK

 

Storyville

 

With a track record of more than 10 years of film-making excellence, BBC Four's international documentary strand Storyville continues to enthral and entertain with a season of definitive stories from around the world.

 

Three of Storyville's films are cinema-related, telling very different and remarkable tales.

 

Thirty years after Roman Polanski's public conviction for having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired offers an insightful re-opening of the infamous case.

 

In an amusing clash of cultures, When Borat Came To Town charts the progress of high-flying American lawyers encouraging the small Romanian village of Glod, famous for being the spoof home of Sacha Baron Cohen's Kazakh character Borat, to sue the movie-makers for $38m.

 

Shot In Bombay is a tale of glamour and chaos behind the scenes of a Bollywood gangster picture.

 

The film's police hero is played by mega-star Sanjay Dutt, whose ongoing trial for firearm offences puts the production in jeopardy.

 

In Blast! a team of astrophysicists venture on to the ice caps in a risky bid to discover the meaning of the universe.

 

Other films in the season include: Prodigal Sons, the story of Paul, an American high school football star who becomes Kimberly, and Operation Iraqi Filmmaker, recounting the misadventures in the west of Muthana of a budding Iraqi film student, given a big break by Hollywood film director Liev Schreiber.

 

EF

 

Armistice

 

David Reynolds, Professor of International History at Cambridge University, takes a fresh look at the events and personalities that brought about the Armistice of 1918.

 

Unravelling the First World War's bitter end game, Reynolds tells the story of wounded egos behind the lines, political scheming and revolution and, at the front, sustained brutality, with half a million men killed or wounded, even as peace was negotiated.

 

He argues that these momentous last months of the "war to end all wars" tragically sowed the seeds of even more appalling conflict to come.

 

Armistice is part of Remembrance 90, the BBC's commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

 

Leading up to Armistice Day on 11 November 2008, the BBC will feature documentaries, dramas and live events on television, plus coverage on national and regional radio, online and on the BBC big screens as well as a learning campaign.

 

Front Desk

 

The Joy Of Motoring

 

BBC Four gets behind the wheel for a season of films dedicated to the British love of driving.

 

In The Joy Of Motoring Tristram Hunt explores our love affair with the car, from the post-war golden age to the contemporary disillusionment of today, while actor Richard Wilson rediscovers a motoring history as he drives a range of classic Fifties cars on some of the most beautiful routes in the country in Britain's Best Drives.

 

The season also pays homage to Caravans.

 

For more than 100 years they have been British icons: built in Britain and at the heart of the nation's recreational life. Love or hate them there's no denying their popularity.

 

In The Fast Lady Penelope Keith retraces a journey from London to Liverpool in 1905 by Dorothy Levitt, pioneering Edwardian motoring "It" girl and author of a popular guide for female motorists.

 

Twenty-first-century British life is inconceivable without cars. In Michael Smith's Drivetime the writer and broadcaster asks the fundamental question, how has driving changed us?

 

Other programmes in the season explore how Ford Of Dagenham sold Britain the American dream; and tell the extraordinary story of Rolls-Royce in India in The Maharajah's Cars.

 

Front Desk

 

The Department Store

 

Years ago, every town had its own charming version of Grace Brothers, the shop made famous in the sitcom Are You Being Served?

 

But now many are being driven to the brink of extinction by large out-of-town retail parks and big-name chains.

 

Film-maker Richard Macer wants to know if the great independent British department store is still relevant in the modern dog-eat-dog world of the high street.

 

His quest takes him to the oldest and most famous department store in Wales; and a family-run establishment in the Yorkshire Dales where the patriarch's impending retirement is causing turmoil on all floors.

 

What he discovers is a world of eccentric and passionate shopkeepers serving older and very loyal customers, who are often on first name terms with the staff and where woolly knickers are still one of the most successful lines.

 

Front Desk

 

BBC FOUR AUTUMN/WINTER 2008 PRESS PACK:

DOCUMENTARIES:

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