The Complete Humphrey Jennings Volume One: The First Days – review

(1934-40, E, BFI)

A pupil at Cambridge of the great critic I A Richards, Humphrey Jennings (1907-50) was a surrealist painter, a poet and a documentary moviemaker. He died in a freak accident while scouting locations in Greece, and in 1954 he was famously called "the only real poet the British cinema has yet produced" by his admirer Lindsay Anderson. His great period was the second world war when he directed Listen to Britain, Fires Were Started and A Diary for Timothy. This first volume of an invaluable three-volume edition of his work covers his career from joining the Gpo film unit up to his first four wartime movies, culminating in the influential classic on the 1940 blitz, London Can Take It!, co-directed by Harry Watt and narrated by the American journalist Quentin Reynolds. Most of the prewar films are fairly impersonal but all are of interest, most especially perhaps a colour film on his Cambridge contemporary,

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