Fine Hour: Short Films by Humphrey Jennings

This Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s program shows a complex British filmmaker from multiple angles

“Pioneer,” “poet” and “propagandist” are all terms that apply to Humphrey Jennings. The early British filmmaker made stirring shorts that put together images and music more cohesively than previous directors. He shot World War II propaganda films for the UK’s Ministry of Information, and he was also involved in the “mass observation” research program, in which volunteers recorded their own and friends’ daily lives and conversations for scholarly reports (a program both criticized as invasive and applauded as a useful look at the average Brit).

Finest Hour: Short Films by Humphrey Jennings, screening today the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, pulls together many strands of Jennings’s complex character. Words for Battle (1941) consists of eight minutes of footage of wartime Britain, from unsoiled countryside to blitzkrieged cities, set to a poetry reading by actor Laurence Olivier. Listen to Britain (1942) is in the same vein as Words for Battle, sprawling across England, but this time using more scenes of a thriving metropolis and a lush classical score. And 1943’s The Silent Village utilizes the scenery and nonprofessional actors of a Welsh mining town to re-create the Nazi bombardment of a Czech village. Come see the work of the most convoluted Brit outside the Royal Family today at 7 p.m. 1001 Bissonnet. For tickets and information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $6 to $7.
Sun., May 18, 7 p.m., 2008

 
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