I, Claudius / The Epic that Never Was dir. Josef von Sternberg (1936) / hosted by Dirk Bogarde (BBC, 1965) Fittingly for a piece exploring why von Sternberg’s big screen adaptation of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius was never completed, the documentary itself has a rough, unfinished feel to it. Surviving footage reveals a lavish production. Charles Laughton mesmerises as the…
Bobby Fischer Against the World dir. Liz Garbus (2011) Replete with archival footage, this layman’s documentary cogently examines and contextualises both American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer’s 1972 (cold war) world championship match against Boris Spassky, and Fischer’s unstable genius, which drove him firstly to success, then to reclusiveness and abject derangement.
Wagner & Me by Stephen Fry (BBC, 2010) Truthfully titled, this documentary is perhaps too much about Fry’s passion for Wagner’s music, too little about the more historically significant equating of Wagner with Nazi Germany, and the extent to which Wagner’s powerfully operatic Gesamtkunstwerks may have informed Hitler’s nightmarish fantasy.
Fry’s Planet Word by Stephen Fry (BBC, 2011) Across five one-hour episodes and with the prowling inquisitiveness of a deep-seated, rapacious word-lust unleashed, Stephen Fry — elegant, eloquent, ebullient — serves gallantly to inspire us with the origins and spread, the significance, the myriad uses, and above all the beauty, of language.