John Betjeman gives a guided tour of the Metropolitan Line from Baker Street in London to Verney Junction in Buckinghamshire, and of architecture of the suburbs and villages that grew up ... See full summary »



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John Betjeman ...


John Betjeman gives a guided tour of the Metropolitan Line from Baker Street in London to Verney Junction in Buckinghamshire, and of architecture of the suburbs and villages that grew up along its length since the line was opened in the 1890s. Written by Anonymous

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26 February 1973 (UK)  »

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A Classic British Portrait of a Lost Suburban Vision
7 August 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is a magnificent classic documentary film, which should really be required viewing in British schools (but then, so much should, and none of it is). This is one of the many superb films made by Eddie Mirzoeff, who was a directorial force in the 1970s at the BBC, before he was promoted to be a series editor. This is perhaps the best of all the films written and presented by the poet and individualist, Sir John Betjeman, who was so widely admired by everyone that he became in his lifetime 'a national treasure'. He was delightfully modest, brilliant, eccentric, and sad, all at the same time. The film is a bit of 19th and 20th century British social, design, and architectural history which only Betjeman could have presented to us. What is, or was, 'Metro-Land'? It was and faintly still is a kind of a concept, a kind of a dream, a kind of a hype, a vision, a mediocrity, both boring and exciting, both bizarre and mundane at the same time. Betjeman had a genius for finding the strange and the tremulous buried beneath the deceptive calm of an apparent normality. The Metropolitan Line is an extension of the London underground railway networks which runs from Baker Street Station northwards into Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. As it was constructed and cut its way through the farms and fields of a slumbering and inert countryside, taking the tiny village of Pinner and making into 'somewhere', opening up Moor Park to golfers, and Chorley Wood and Rickmansworth to white collar workers from the City, it awakened the lands bordering its northwards thrust to a suburban dream, where men could get to work in town quickly whilst living the tranquil lives of ersatz gentlemen amongst lawns and lanes in the evenings. This region into which the Metropolitan Line had plunged was named by Betjeman, after the train line, 'Metro-Land'. It was a unique creation of a particular era, and its history is here recreated with all the odd charm of a typical Betjeman enquiry. It was above all Betjeman's deep and abiding love for his subject matter, his solicitude for ordinary people, his reverence for the hidden and abnormal secrets of the normal, his profound understanding of the deceptive nature of those things which at first sight appear uninteresting, that distinguished his unique work for television. He was the most unlikely of public personalities, as he was a man without an ego. There will never be another Betjeman, so the preservation of this wonderful film in digitally remastered form on DVD is a genuine contribution to what is unique in media culture.

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