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Portrait or Bust (1994)

Alan Bennett's personal overview of art, filmed in the atmospheric location of a Leeds art gallery.


Jonathan Stedall


Alan Bennett


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Credited cast:
Alan Bennett ... Himself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Lily Bennett Lily Bennett ... Herself (in photo)
Walter Bennett Walter Bennett ... Himself (in photo)
Tom Wood Tom Wood ... Himself - Artist


Alan Bennett's personal overview of art, filmed in the atmospheric location of a Leeds art gallery.

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Release Date:

4 April 1994 (UK) See more »

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Scorer Associates See more »
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User Reviews

Bennett's droll humor conquers all
21 November 2017 | by lor_See all my reviews

This highly idiosyncratic documentary of writer Alan Bennett's visit to the art museum in his home town of Leeds is a BBC effort, but reminds me of the Free Cinema movement of Britain's 1950s, when Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz, et al, went on location and gave unusual peeks at British life.

Dominating is Alan's asides to the viewer, with very humorous anecdotes that sneak up on you with both insight and the author's peculiar sense of irony. Some have a political tinge that is quite forceful, then as now, as he recalls opposing the Right Wing's fanatical desire for privatization back in the Thatcher Era, a programme that is alive and well today not only in Britain but here in the U.S. of A. It is relevant in regard to free museums, as opposed to turning over art works and their exhibition to the private sector (he chimes in on the same issue re: public education, though the terminology of public vs. private is reversed in U.S. vs. U.K.

Listening to ordinary local folk reacting to works of art is humorous if a tad bit condescending, while Alan's "I'm just an amateur" status on the subject helps keep the show from being high-brow in the slightest.

He ends it all appropriately with delightful self-deprecating humor, recalling how he was elegantly brought back to earth by a fan mistaking him for David Hockney.

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