"Smiley's People" - Alec Guinness

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John F
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"Smiley's People" - Alec Guinness

Post by John F » Wed Nov 09, 2016 1:21 pm

This is a six-part television serial made for TV based on John Le Carré's spy novel of that name. It showed on PBS 35 years ago, but I've just now found it on YouTube, complete. The story is the culmination of British spy George Smiley's long-distance duel with a Soviet spy chief, working name Karla. Guinness is Smiley, and others in the impeccable cast include Curd Jürgens, Eileen Atkins, and Patrick Stewart. Watching it again, I again feel it's perfect of its kind, and recommend it to any who enjoyed "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," the latter the beginning of the Karla trilogy (also on YouTube). Not the least of its excellences is the music by Patrick Gowers, based on an Eastern Orthodox chant and remarkably atmospheric and sinister.

I'm watching it not just to find out if it's as gripping as I remember - it is - but to take my mind off yesterday's disastrous election. It seems to be working.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqZTN59 ... C_rwwZPABl
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: "Smiley's People" - Alec Guinness

Post by lennygoran » Sat Nov 12, 2016 7:57 pm

John F wrote:This is a six-part television serial made for TV based on John Le Carré's spy novel of that name. It showed on PBS 35 years ago, but I've just now found it on YouTube, complete.
Thanks, that's nice to know about-I can get to youtube from our TV connection to our Roku device-wonder how this series compares to PBS Mystery Morse episodes-now there was a detective big on Mozart and Wagner! Regards, Len :)

John F
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Re: "Smiley's People" - Alec Guinness

Post by John F » Sat Nov 12, 2016 10:23 pm

There's really no comparison. "Smiley's People" amounts to a feature movie, one that's six hours long, helpfully divided into six parts but essentially continuous telling one story, with one of the great actors of a great generation of actors in the lead role. And it looks like the budget was essentially unlimited; scenes and episodes were filmed on location in Paris, Hamburg, Switzerland, and Berlin as well as in London and Oxford.
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: "Smiley's People" - Alec Guinness

Post by lennygoran » Sun Nov 13, 2016 6:17 am

John F wrote:There's really no comparison.
But there are so many more of the Morse's and then the ones from his assistant Lewis and now there's a series with a young Morse and how he got started as a detective-just think-there are enough episodes to keep your mind off the disastrous election for a month! Regards, Len :D

John F
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Re: "Smiley's People" - Alec Guinness

Post by John F » Sun Nov 13, 2016 7:53 am

lennygoran wrote:
John F wrote:There's really no comparison.
But there are so many more of the Morse's and then the ones from his assistant Lewis and now there's a series with a young Morse and how he got started as a detective.
Quantity is not the same as quality. :mrgreen:

I don't lack for TV programs to pass the time, but most of them are non-fiction, and many are on the English-language Japanese channel NHK World. All kinds of stuff, from tourism to science and technology to Kabuki Theater to "Japan Railway Journal," which is stunning.

The Japanese are so far ahead of us in passenger rail travel, for speed and comfort and reliability, that it's no contest. Besides the commuter local and bullet train (shinkansen) express lines, they have any number of tourist trains with specially designed cars and routes. You can see for yourself, here:

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/japanrailway/
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: "Smiley's People" - Alec Guinness

Post by lennygoran » Sun Nov 13, 2016 8:23 am

John F wrote: The Japanese are so far ahead of us in passenger rail travel, for speed and comfort and reliability, that it's no contest. Besides the commuter local and bullet train (shinkansen) express lines, they have any number of tourist trains with specially designed cars and routes. You can see for yourself, here:

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/japanrailway/
Wish we had trains like that from where we live into NYC-driving in gets harder and harder-well at least we got rid of out here Scott Garrett! Regards, Len :D

John F
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Re: "Smiley's People" - Alec Guinness

Post by John F » Sun Nov 13, 2016 9:35 am

And that's not even taking into account the mismanagement and incompetence that led up to the fatal NJ Transit crash in Hoboken station. The Japanese really put railroad safety first, as obviously we don't.

In addition to "Smiley's People," the BBC also filmed the first of the three Karla novels, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," also with Alec Guinness and an outstanding cast, some of whom reappear in the later film. (This is not the more recent commercial film with a different cast.) It too is in six one-hour parts as shown on PBS, though Wikipedia says that in England it was 7 parts and nearly 1/2 hour longer, and the order of some scenes was changed for the American market.

I mentioned "Smiley's People" first because it's so brilliantly right, with on-location filming in four countries; TTSS is mostly set and filmed in England, where there's a Russian spy near the top of the British intelligence HQ, called "the Circus," and Smiley has to find out who it is. Watching both series in reverse order doesn't spoil anything, but if you want to put first things first, here's the YouTube link for the American version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8nFnhC ... ldGFNtH4tc

The middle novel of this trilogy, "The Honourable Schoolboy," is a great disappointment - verbose, pretentious, without a strong story line, and unconcerned with the duel between Smiley and Karla. Indeed, Smiley is offstage throughout, while a very minor character of "Tinker Tailor," Jerry Westerby, is promoted to the leading role. Reading THS was a waste of my time and I'd say a waste of Le Carré's time too. It has never been filmed and surely won't be -
John Francis

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Re: "Smiley's People" - Alec Guinness

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Nov 13, 2016 1:36 pm

Many years ago when I worked for the Center for Applied Linguistics I went to a foreign language bookstore in Washington (when they had such a thing) and bought the boss, a former French teacher, L'espion qui venait du froid as a birthday present. If I may flatter myself, it was a great joke because, of course Le Carré is the French pseudonym chosen by the very English author of that series. I have to add, however, that I never "dug" his books because he did not like his own characters. They were, all of them, including Smiley, completely awful. Give me P.D. James any day.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: "Smiley's People" - Alec Guinness

Post by John F » Sun Nov 13, 2016 4:10 pm

If your opinion is based solely on "Der Spion, der aus der Kälte kam," then I see what you mean. It's a point that Le Carré was making about the cold war generally and the secret war of espionage particularly, that they are necessarily coldly amoral and results-oriented. But in that book Smiley plays a very minor part. In the novels whose films I've been recommending here, Smiley is a sympathetic character, again within the limits of his profession, not only because he's defending our side against our then enemies, but because he is kindly when his profession and the situation allow it. And a number of other characters in these novels are likeable enough - if that's what you require.
John Francis

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