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Venice Revealed

Peter Ackroyd    Unrated   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product Description

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Based on travel writer Peter Ackroyd's book Venice, Pure City, this four-episode documentary series about Venice, Italy, far surpasses the average dull DVD glimpse at the real place. Tourists preparing to travel to this ancient European city, or even art history students, will find Venice Revealed informative and semi-entertaining. In this BBC hit, Peter Ackroyd narrates episodes organized thematically by artistic genre: architecture, art, music, and theater are the areas he lends his expertise to. Instead of hitting tourist neighborhoods with his camera in hand, Ackroyd strategically wanders the city, musing about buildings, works of art, festivals, classical songs, and the men who invented them. Indeed, Venice Revealed, with Ackroyd pontificating about masterpieces galore, does feel like a men's club, but the influential work that has been inspired by Venice is unassailable. Therefore, one is left to sit back and wonder what it is about this city of canals that enabled so many men to make so much over the centuries. The "Architecture" episode, for example, highlights several architectural elements and structures found throughout Venice, including those made in the Romanesque, Venetian Gothic, rococo, and Renaissance styles. One professor Ackroyd interviews rightly calls Venice a "multilayered cake," and from there the viewer gets a heavy dose of biography about 19th-century art and architecture critic John Ruskin, who chronicled Venice's rich architectural variety. The "Art" episode dwells on the Renaissance but covers the 14th through 19th centuries, discussing Tiepolo, Tintoretto, Giorgio, Canaletto, and Titian, to name a few. In "Music," one learns almost too much about Antonio Vivaldi, that 17th-century classical genius. In the "Theater" episode, Ackroyd visits the world-famous La Fenice opera house and the Carnival, renowned for its lurid costuming and masquerade balls. While all of this feels rather stock for a historical treatment of Venice, what distinguishes this series from others is Ackroyd's commentaries that conceptually link all the arts. In these intelligent summations, Ackroyd notes a Venetian love of improvisation, the Venetian desire to keep up appearances, and the Italian importance of the family unit. In all, one comes away with a decent understanding of not only this city's surface, but the human motivations that have built it. --Trinie Dalton

Product Description

For centuries, Venice has fired the imaginations of painters, poets, composers-and millions of visitors. Join writer and historian Peter Ackroyd for an in-depth tour of the art, architecture, music, and theatre of Europe's most mysterious and seductive city.

Here, the pale Mediterranean light reveals cityscapes as painted by Canaletto and Guardi, modern voices revive the soaring spirituality of Vivaldi's hymns, and Venetians still don disguises to revel and role-play at Carnival. Exploring private palazzos, magnificent churches, and winding alleyways, Ackroyd also discovers the truth beneath the artifice, where beauty masks terminal decay. He interviews preservationists now working desperately to rescue the city's treasures from the ravages of time and the sea. Always a perceptive critic and spellbinding storyteller, Ackroyd serves as the perfect guide for an unforgettable journey.

An award-winning novelist and bestselling historian, Peter Ackroyd (London: The Biography) has written over 30 books and presented many TV documentaries. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Marcia TOP 100 REVIEWER
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Story: documentary presented by famed author, Peter Ackroyd based on his book. As Venice slips into the ocean Ackroyd documents it's historic roots from Byzantine influences up to date in 4 episodes: 1. the city as architecture. 2. the city as art. 3. the city as music. 4. the city as theatre.

From the box: "Exploring private palazzos, magnificent churches, and winding alleyways, Ackroyd also discovers the truth behind artiface, where beauty masks decay. He interviews preservations now working desperately to rescue the city's treasures from the ravages of time and the sea."

This is not a travel guide like Rick Steve's or Rudy Maxima's dvd's. It's a critical and insightful journey into Venice of the past and present featuring the music of Vivaldi, the 17th century classical musician who resided here, altho it could be used as a prelude to travel. Most tours offer one day in Venice. Even the art history tour I took barely scratched the surface of this unique Italian province. I only had time for a visit to the magnificent Byzantime church and the Rennaisance palace of the Doges plus a cappaccinno in the cafe in St. Marks Square in remembrance of Katherine Hepburn's remarkable movie "Summertime". After watching this DVD i feel like i need to return and see Venice with 'new eyes'. I thought i knew the history of Venice as a political, artistic and economic entity from my art history courses, but Ackroyd explains the motivations of the residents and displays parts of the city the average tourist would never expeience. This is an indepth exploration of Venice the city and it's inhabitants.

DVD: 2 thin boxed discs containing 2 episodes each set in a cardboard box. approx. 164 minutes. pristine quality. color and stereo documentary.
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3.0 out of 5 stars very traditional script Dec 11 2011
I have recently bought this video to get a better understanding of Venice, which I will be visiting for a very short 4 days. My intent was to have a good background on what to look for and an understanding of what I was looking at. It has basically fullfilled that desire but it was a bit Victoria/Edwardian in its monologue. A bit pompous actually. I normally enjoy fully developed, flowery scripts but this was very hard to get through. If your heart is modern with an appreciation of the beauty of the old world and its history you will likely be able to get through this and have a solid take away. Otherwise it could be a walk through thick mud. It is definitely not a Travel video but an indepth analysis of the artistic offerings of the City, from art to architechure.
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BBC AIRED IN 2009--NOT AIRED IN THE U.S. May 21 2010
By Harold Wolf - Published on Amazon.com
It would be impossible to learn more, see more, experience more of Venice even if you lived in the city for a month. Peter Ackroyd does an excellent job as narrator, and writer, for "VENICE REVEALED." It is based on his own book, "Venice Pure City", and this in-depth, entertaining, but also educational experience leaves the viewer as enchanted as if you actually were there in person. You will feel the passion and seduction of this romantic city by way of the visuals and Ackroyd's tutorial guiding through the 4 distinctively different episodes of Venice.

I wish I'd seen this DVD set, 'VENICE REVEALED', prior to my own visit of the city. This set offers subtitles which I found helpful for location names. It also subtitled when an interview was conducted with a Italian-speaking individual. About the only thing visible in person, but not shown on this documentary, is the trash floating on the water, left behind by inconsiderate tourists. This DVD is powerful, both audibly as well as visually. Wonderful music accompaniment.

Episode details:
1 THE CITY AS ARCHITECTURE-Arrival is by boat taxi. Buildings were built in this city on water. Venice is like no other earthly city. The visual is so captivating that listening closely to the historical accounts is a trial. John Ruskin's, "The Stones of Venice", highlights the masonry architecture of 5 styles. Venice is architecturally a mask: facade over decaying brick. Yet, underwater wood piles support the unique aesthetic structures.

2 THE CITY AS ART-There is not a parcel of Venice that has not been featured in fine visual art. The city itself is so powerfully ready for the artist, it's like the master painter arranged buildings, canals, bridges, and water as he did fruits for his still-life works. Old masterpieces show the history of Venice as well as how little has changed. Of course, Tintoretto, a life-long Venice artist, is a focus. Also highlighted is the city's own artistic style: prestezza.

3 THE CITY AS MUSIC-Music describes life in Venice as much as any other facet. Gondoliers and working women sing constantly. In Venice the madrigal was born; Venice was opera's capitol; and it was birthplace of Vivaldi and his spirited, fiery, music; including the orphan girls' choir. "The texture of Venetian music is the texture of the Venetian soul."

4 THE CITY AS THEATRE-Venice is full of small and large theatres and is itself a stage, a set, with the town folk, the gondoliers, each a player on its stage. It happens constantly from street pantomime to great productions--and of course the opera. Even religious ritual and pageantry is elaborately staged. In Venice, theatre is life.

Bonus material includes a helpful booklet, written bios of 2 architects, 6 artists, Ackroyd, 2 composers, 2 theatres, and a filmography list of 26 feature films shot in Venice since 1954. A well done companion DVD, that I'd recommend watching with this ground-level vista, is the aerial footage in "Visions of Italy/The Great Cities".

"VENICE REVEALED" is so very much more than just another travelogue. This is sophisticated education and cultural enlightenment. Perfect for public and school libraries, as well as discerning home DVD collections. An aesthetic value.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The most interesting city on the planet but the DVD is a disappointment June 6 2011
By bookworm - Published on Amazon.com
I was eagerly looking forward to seeing Ackroyd's commentary on my favourite city but I have to say that I was very disappointed. From the opening sequence (repeated endlessly) where Ackroyd enters Venice on a water taxi to the strains of Dies Irae the whole thing appears very cliched. Don't look for original insights...there are none. But if you enjoy seeing a tiresome and pedantic 60 plus year old Englishman with a pronounced speech impediment, and an annoying habit of leaving his shirt unbuttoned, then this is the DVD for you!
He acknowledges in the jacket that in writing the book on which the DVD is based he NEVER SPOKE TO A SINGLE VENETIAN! What an amazing admission for any author.
I viewed all 4 titles in the 2 disc DVD set and the only one with any redeeming qualities was the last -Venice as Theatre.
What a disappointment! An opportunity wasted to do a good documentary on the most fascinating city on the planet.
PS Please tell us which music was used in the making of the DVD - the music is in fact the best part of the whole DVD set!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Embarrassingly bad Dec 15 2010
By P. Strayer - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Contrary to his other works on famous cities, Ackroyd's book and now, much much much worse, this DVD is among the most vapid and terrible documentaries I have ever seen.

The pictures bear no relationship to the narration about 50 percent of the time and the same footage is used in episode after episode.

Do not buy this.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Skip This One and Get "Francesco's Venice" Oct. 14 2010
By 501a - Published on Amazon.com
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Yikes, I really thought that this would be better than it was. Ackroyd has next to no original insights into Venice, its art or history. Cliche ridden drivel about Venice being a city of decay and death,a city of surfaces and illusion, etc. Very typical Anglo-centric (it was Byron who started the death myth and the Brits ate it up) misinterpretation of Venice. Ackroyd's shallowness is revealed in an interview on another website about this video when he states he loved making this video because he got to meet real Venetians, something he never did while writing the book that this series is based on!

Other annoyances: while talking about a work of art they show some work other than the one he's referring to; playing the Dies Ire from Mozart Requiem waaaay to much: barely mentioning Monteverdi in the segment on Venice and music; using the same footage of Ackroyd in a boat on a canal over and over again. Admittedly these last failings are the directors faults and not Ackroyds. I will say the segment on Venice and theater was not as bad as the other sections.

A good point is that some interesting scholars and writers get interviewed like Ruskin exponent Sarah Quill and Vivaldi researcher Micky White. One only wishes they were the focus of the series and not Ackroyd and his hackneyed observations.

I'd say skip this one and get "Francesco's Venice" a way superior look at Venice by a Venetian with better cinematography and greater depth and scope than this. I would say that but for some reason this excellent BBC series still is only available in Britain in a Region 2 version. But if you have hacked your DVD player to play all regions by all means pass on Ackroyd and go for Francesco.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The videography is beautiful, the commentary is beyond annoying Feb. 28 2013
By anonymous - Published on Amazon.com
I agree with the person who talks about this being too anglo-centric. Peter Ackroyd simply "does not get it" and is BEYOND annoying as are the other British speakers in this documentary. (Please do not misinterpret my statement. I love the British people, though not the ones on this DVD.) Better to read John Berendt's "City of Falling Angels". That book captures the essence of Venice much better than this ridiculous "film". I can't even legitimately call it a documentary. It seems more like fiction because it is so far from the truth. Venice is a work of art itself, a very precious work of art. I DID NOT see garbage floating on the water. It was totally magical. Just stay away from the Rialto Bridge area during midday on the weekends.
I resent Ackroyd's repeated criticism of the superficiality of Venice. Its history and its personality are very complex and interesting, much more so than Ackroyd could ever hope to imagine.
One wonderful thing though that I did learn about from the third episode in this series is the ensemble performing the works composed for the Ospedale della Pieta. Magnificent!
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