Screen One: Season 3, Episode 8

A Question of Attribution (4 Oct. 1992)

TV Episode  -   -  Comedy | Crime | Drama
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 165 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 2 critic

Sir Anthony Blunt, who was a Soviet agent for 25 years, is routinely questioned and gives no answers, but is knighted and works as Director of the Courtauld Institute, and presents his ... See full summary »

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Title: A Question of Attribution (04 Oct 1992)

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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
...
...
Chubb
...
Donleavy
...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ann Beach ...
Mrs. Chubb
Richard Bebb ...
Consultant
John Cater ...
Restorer (Robertson)
Edward de Souza ...
Collins
...
Colin
Gregory Floy ...
Radiologist
Barbara Hicks ...
Lady at National Gallery
Anne Jameson ...
Blunt's Secretary
Mark Payton ...
Phillips
Julia St John ...
Receptionist
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Storyline

Sir Anthony Blunt, who was a Soviet agent for 25 years, is routinely questioned and gives no answers, but is knighted and works as Director of the Courtauld Institute, and presents his interrogator with a puzzle in the shape of a doubtful Titian painting. He also does art restoration work in Buckingham Palace, where he gets into an interesting conversation with HMQ. Written by Kathy Li

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4 October 1992 (USA)  »

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Quotes

[the Queen knows that Sir Anthony Blunt is a traitor and Blunt knows that the Queen knows this, but both maintain a facade of innocence as they discuss the Queen's art collection, amid many coded references]
H.M.Q.: Portraits are supposed to be frightfully self-revealing, aren't they? Show what one's really like - the secret self. Either that or else the eyes are supposed to follow you round the room. Have you had your portrait painted?
Sir Anthony Blunt: No, Ma'am.
H.M.Q.: So we don't know whether you have a secret self?
[later]
H.M.Q.: ...
[...]
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Featured in Alan Bennett at 80: Bennett Meets Hytner (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A strong, witty, well written piece about a hidden self
18 February 2013 | by (US) – See all my reviews

A sort of follow up to Alan Bennet's "An Englishman Abroad", (also directed by John Schlesinger) which was about the spy Guy Burgess living in Moscow in 1951, I enjoyed this piece even more.

This piece of speculative fiction based in fact is also about an upper-class Englishman turned spy, Sir Anthony Blunt. James Fox is wonderful as Blunt, now returned to England, living with the promise of immunity, in exchange for being constantly, if not humorlessly badgered for information by the Secret Service.

Blunt is an art expert, professor and historian. At the same time he is being investigated by the government, who are trying to figure out who he really is underneath his mask, Blunt is doing the same to a painting, finding new faces that have been covered up in a renaissance work.

This might seem a very heavy handed symbol, but because Bennet's writing is so witty and deft, and because both the piece and the character acknowledge the obvious irony irony, it's actually quite effective.

The best section is when Blunt finds himself suddenly and surprisingly alone with the Queen herself (a terrific turn in a tough role by Prunella Scales), and the two have a chat about art, facts and other things that could indeed be an innocent talk, but seems more a very subtle game of cat and mouse between two very clever people. A very strong study of a fascinatingly ambiguous, often haughty, but somehow still likable man.


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