Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Burke's Connections

I am not a fan of documentaries which involve a lot of talking heads repeating the phrases or points that other talking heads have just made, which is the recent pattern of most documentaries.  Nor I'm I a fan of films that try to make history "exciting" or some other nonsense, with excessive dramatization and the like.  I don't mind a little set design, but it shouldn't venture into the ridiculous, with actors portraying people in bad form.  I've seen too much of that, too.

I like a  doc where one person presents one flow of narrative, particularly if that flow is intended to make a point.  An early master of this was James Burke.

In the 70s, conveying scale was everything.

His first major series was Connections, a ten-episode series accounting for development of major technologies through history.  It's getting a bit dated now, since it was done in '78, and occasionally Burke is clearly trying to get his point across to the stupid people (particularly in the tenth episode), but overall its very accessible and interesting.  The fact that Burke goes hither and yon to present the show is a huge selling feature, as is his journalistic sense of timing (particularly evident at the end of episode 8).  But James Burke began as a science reporter, so it falls into line he would know how to communicate ideas.

You can find all ten episodes of Connections on youtube, starting here.

3 comments:

Butch said...

I had a teacher in middle school who would occasionally show snippets from Connections, and I always liked it. There later was a Connections 2 and a Connections 3, and The Day The Universe Changed. Love his stuff.

Dave said...

Connections was a fascinating series... thanks for the link!

Matthew Mantel said...

I'm glad someone mentioned The Day the Universe Changed. Connections focused on invention; "The Day" focused on ideas.