This is probably one of the most entertaining documentary series out at the moment. As I am writing this the series is still being shown on BBC and judging by the audience's responses I'm reading everywhere, everyone seems to love it. And how can you not love it? Francesco da mosto, despite his "posh" background, which on paper could very well be a turn-off, seems one of the most approachable and down-to-earth presenter around these days. He even makes the now tired Michael Palin, look stiff. His charm is undeniable! His voice makes you melt and every "ciao". Everything about his is just infectious: the way he winks at the camera, the way he smiles at people, the way he passionately talks about art and history, about his wonderful city, about the things he loves. And this series is about art and history as much as Da Mosto himself: it's a personal journey, sailing on a beautiful boat, the Black Swan, from Venice to Istanbul, following along the footsteps of his ancestors, retracing the routes of the Venetian Empire. Hence we are given little snips of his life at every corner, which makes it all more entertaining and somehow you end up caring a lot more for everything else you are seeing. But Da Mosto, actually Francesco (as we all like to call him now) is not alone. He's accompanied by the most beautiful Italian crew one could ever dream of assembling together: a handsome captain, who plays the hard and grumpy one, but actually (as we've seen recently in a little church by the Montenegran coast) has a sweet and tender side to him too (and I'm sure we'll see more of that in the episodes to come). All the other young sailors seem to be in their twenties and they en capsule the image we all have of friendly, good looking Italians. They play their parts too, giving us wonderful little moments of comic relief or sometimes just real life on the boat. Their presence add an extra dimension to the journey, making it feel fresh, funny and even though some might be staged, it has a strange real feel to it. We are constantly treated by great sailing sequences in between the various episodes, accompanied by the most emotional soundtrack which for once (unlike many documentaries these days) doesn't feel overpowering the images, but actually it enhance them. Not that those pictures need any more enhancement. This is a truly a visual feast, and I'll be surprise if the series doesn't win some award by the end of its run. Everything look amazing and it all seems to be perfectly balance and paced, including what some may seem preposterous and cheesy interludes, which actually happen to be carefully placed between more serious, cultural/historical segments. It's not always easy stuff. The Albanian landscapes and cities are not the most beautiful, and yet, the way Francesco takes us around those places makes it all a compelling viewing experience and at the same time a relaxing and enjoyable one too!
A double DVD is coming out in August (I guess while the series will still be running: a weird choice). I'm sure I'll be rushing out to buy it straight away.
Please BBC, make more of this stuff!!!
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