Thursday 05 Dec 2013
One man's luxury is another man's poverty – what is luxury is one of society's most telling things. BBC Four's Luxury Season uncovers the fascination people have with the comfort, design, service and glamour that is associated with luxury products, and why these items are valued in everyday life.
From the perfect male suit to the world of perfume and exotic hotels, this season of documentaries explores what luxury says about us socially and historically, dating back to the Medieval and Classical worlds. Documentaries in the season include: The Perfect Suit, A History Of Luxury, Perfume, Timeshift – Hotel Deluxe and Teenage Luxury.
If you want to understand what got the Greeks out of bed, look at their luxuries... not gold, but fish. This two-part documentary, written and presented by historian and author Dr Michael Scott, looks at the items valued or desired by men and women over the centuries, focusing particularly on the Classical and Medieval periods. Whether kings and queens, warriors and merchants or peasants and slaves, A History Of Luxury provides a unique insight into the worlds in which these people lived through the luxury items they have coveted. Scott argues that it is the most surprising "luxuries" of history which allow us to unlock the extraordinary cultures and civilisations that cherished them.
The Perfect Suit is a witty exploration of the evolution of the gentleman's suit. Presenter and journalist Alastair Sooke only owns one suit but he is fascinated by how the matching jacket and trousers has become a uniform for men. Over the last 100 years the suit has evolved from working man's Sunday best to the casual wear of Royalty. But, for many, "the suit" is synonymous with all that is dull. So tailor Charlie Allen, Gordon Richardson, chief designer at a leading high street menswear brand, and Sir Paul Smith all show Alastair how the suit can be a cutting-edge fashion item and "armour" to face the world.
Perfume explores the astonishing creativity behind an invisible commodity that uses single molecules to whisper to one of our most sophisticated senses – smell.
Filmed across a year inside the multi-million dollar perfume industry, this three-part series tells the story of an ancient French perfume house and a mass-market fashion brand. We also follow master perfumers or 'noses' as they mix ingredients and meddle with our scent memories and observe the dwindling influence of Paris and New York as the tastes of the emerging markets begin to define the fragrances of the future.
Selling a dream has always been an art form and no one was more susceptible to the impossible than the teenager. In Teenage Kicks, the famous and not-so-famous line up to tell the stories of their search for adolescent sophistication through the "luxury" products that seemed to hold the keys to an adult world.
Ad men tell the secrets of selling dreams, while consumer historians reveal the stories behind these much-loved, if somewhat overrated, products. And through it all, those people who were suckered enough to want these things lay bare their souls.
JL (A History Of Luxury, The Perfect Suit, Perfume)
Front Desk (Teenage Kicks)
BBC Four explores how Britain has taken a mirror to itself through its documentaries. From the earliest pioneers who first filmed Britain, it's an extraordinary record of a nation growing up in the 20th century.
The summer of 1960 heralded a critical period in the history of film – the birth of the fly-on-the-wall documentary. The Camera That Changed The World tells the story of the bloody-minded film-makers and ingenious engineers who built and wielded the hand-held cameras which made it possible to record real life as it happened.
Harold Baim On Film recalls the strange Britain of this remarkable film-maker. Working from the Forties to the Eighties, Baim only filmed on sunny days and used the voices of baffled actors, Telly Savalas among them. Despite their weirdness, Baim's films record a Britain that's gone for ever.
Britain Through A Lens explores the enigmatic Documentary Movement which, between 1929 and 1950, created one of the most influential moments in the history of British film. Consisting mainly of civil servants in sensible shoes they were idealists held together by a then radical idea – to make films about real people doing real things. In the process they created a very British cultural export: the documentary.
The Highlands On Film tells the story of the Scottish Highlands through the eyes of the film-makers who filmed there. Many's the Blue Peter presenter who's tossed a caber or trudged up Ben Nevis. But the cameras also record a lost way of life among the crofters and a vast ossuary of antlers from the hunted Scottish deer.
The Camera That Changed The World and Britain Through A Lens: Lambent Productions
Harold Baim On Film and The Highlands On Film: BBC Productions
Hundreds of years ago in faraway Iceland, the Vikings began to write down dozens of stories – called sagas. These sagas are great works of art; sweeping narratives based on real people and real events.
But, as Oxford University's Janina Ramirez discovers, these sagas are not just great works of art. They're also priceless historical documents which bring to life the Viking world.
Dr Ramirez travels across glaciers and through the lava fields of Iceland to the far north-west of the country to find out about one of the most compelling of these stories – the Laxdaela Saga.
Complementing this focus on Icelandic culture, Julia Bradbury heads for Iceland to embark on the toughest walk of her life in Icelandic Walks. Her challenge is to walk the 60 kilometres of Iceland's most famous hiking route, a trail that just happens to end at the unpronounceable volcano that brought air traffic across Europe to a standstill.
With the help of Icelandic mountain guide Hanna, Julia faces daunting mountain climbs, red hot lava fields, freezing river crossings, deadly clouds of sulphuric gas, swirling ash deserts and sinister Nordic ghost stories as she attempts to reach the huge volcanic crater at the centre of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier.
These programmes will be part of a week-long focus on Iceland.
The Viking Sagas: A Century Films Production
Icelandic Walks: A Skyworks Ltd production
BBC Four's exploration of the state of justice in Britain and the world today continues in the spring, with its focus initially on issues with a British perspective.
It's almost 30 years since the BBC's Rough Justice team began investigating miscarriages of justice. Re-Trial By Television – The Rise And Fall Of Rough Justice looks at the creation of this extraordinary series and reveals what a shock it was to the system.
The programme, which continued for 25 years until 2007, can claim to have achieved the overturning of the convictions of 18 people in 13 separate cases.
Featuring contributions from many of those involved, it asks how a TV programme took it upon itself to question one of the oldest judicial systems in the world.
Crime And Punishment – The Story Of Capital Punishment traces the extraordinary story of the ultimate sanction.
At the beginning of the 19th century it was still possible to be hanged in Britain for offences such as stealing a sheep or shooting a rabbit. Even children as young as seven were sent to the gallows. The last hanging in this country took place as recently as 1964.
By opting for a dispassionate history, rather than staging the usual polarised debate, the programme breaks new ground with its attention to detail, such as the protocols of the public execution and the "science" of hanging.
Crime And Punishment – The Story Of Corporal Punishment lifts the veil on the taboo that is corporal punishment, revealing a fascinating history spanning religion, the justice system, sex and education.
Today it is rarely discussed in public, but it's not that long since corporal punishment was seen as routine.
The programme invites viewers to better understand how corporal punishment came to be a part of everyday life for so long.
BBC Productions, Bristol
Produced in partnership with The Open University
BBC Storyville continues BBC Four's year-long exploration of the state of justice in the world today with a new season of programmes in the summer, broadening the focus onto stories from around the world.
Amnesty! When They Are All Free takes an inside look at Amnesty International 50 years after its foundation. This timely documentary brings together Amnesty workers, released prisoners, former presidents and celebrities to shed their light on how Amnesty International has changed the world, and how the world has changed Amnesty International.
Fight To Save The World – Sérgio provides a portrait of Brazilian UN diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the man who could descend into the most dangerous places, charm the worst war criminals and somehow protect the ordinary people to whom he devoted his life. Based on Samantha Power's biography Chasing The Flame: Sérgio Vieira de Mello And The Fight To Save The World, it revolves around the gripping, inspiring story of his most treacherous mission ever.
Khmer Rouge's Executioner – Comrade Duch is the story of the Cambodian maths teacher turned Khmer Rouge commandant. In the four years that this brutal regime ruled Cambodia it was responsible for one of the worst mass killings of the 20th century, claiming the lives of up to two million people. In 2009 Kang Kek Lew, alias Duch, went on trial accused of crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder. He was found guilty and sentenced to 19 years in prison.
Award-winning film-maker Weijun Chen offers a rare insight into the lives of China's rural poor, seen through the prism of its legal system, in a new four-part series, Judge Chen's Court. The series takes a fresh look at this vast and culturally rich country, examining how justice is served in rural areas so remote and isolated that the villagers have almost no contact with, and are deeply mistrustful of, the central government.
Last April, Timothy Spall and his wife Shane left Cardiff to continue their mini-odyssey around Britain in their barge, The Princess Matilda. His ambition was to reach Scotland, almost 500 nautical miles away. This would be the furthest they've travelled in any one year and the Irish Sea is no easy ride – plus it's the first time in six months that Tim's been to sea.
Fighting Force 5 gales which see Matilda thrown around like a rag doll, the couple navigate their way up Wales – stopping for Shane to make an emotional return to Aberystwyth – to take in the delights of Liverpool, Blackpool and Whitehaven before setting off across the treacherous Irish Sea to Belfast, via the Isle of Man, and on to their destination, Clydebank.
Each port brings new characters, new problems, passion and trepidation, coated with Timothy Spall's natural sense of drama and drollery.
A Steadfast Television in association with V22 Films production
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