A cross-cut of nearly 100 years of American movies. We see the most precious film sequences that we all remember: From "Citizen Kane" to "Star Wars", from "Some like it hot" to "E.T.". The ... See full summary »

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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A cross-cut of nearly 100 years of American movies. We see the most precious film sequences that we all remember: From "Citizen Kane" to "Star Wars", from "Some like it hot" to "E.T.". The incredible short cuts of roughly a second each push the audience into a kind of trance and take them on a journey into their individual memories of great films of the 20th century. Written by Julian Reischl <julianreischl@mac.com>

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Documentary | Short

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22 November 1986 (USA)  »

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Trivia

The film was updated in 1996 with more recent films up to that point. See more »

Connections

Features The Good Earth (1937) See more »

Soundtracks

As Time Goes By
From Casablanca (1942)
Written by Herman Hupfeld
Performed by Dooley Wilson
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A mesmerising and unforgettable tribute to the power of cinema
6 April 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

If you were to ask me for the reason why I love cinema so much, it would be difficult to formulate a coherent response. The film medium has the capacity to incite an entire spectrum of indescribable emotions – of joy, of sadness, of fear, of exhilaration – and only a fellow film buff could possibly identify with the awe that accompanies each viewing of '2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)' or the unending delight that is 'Singin' in the Rain (1952).' For one hundred years, American cinema has provided an extraordinary abundance of unforgettable moments, permanently imprinted in our collective memories; never to be forgotten until the day that we die. In 1986, as a tribute to almost a century of film-making, Chuck Workman compiled an eight-minute montage of cinema's most treasured images, definitively tracing almost every notable American motion picture from 'The Great Train Robbery (1903)' to 'A Passage to India (1984).'

The version of 'Precious Images' that I watched, for which IMDb does not have a separate entry, was a 1996 update – "presented to the audiences of America" in honour of the 100th anniversary of film – and it includes extra snippets from such films as 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988),' 'Schindler's List (1993)' and 'Forrest Gump (1994).' All in all, images from more than four hundred films are spliced into the montage, much too many to identify in one go, and so each repeat viewing unveils a dozen more precious memories that you hadn't noticed before. Rather than being a random assortment of images, the film unfolds in various stages, the background music setting a theme to which the film choices must adhere – for example, Gene Kelly's recital of "Singin' in the Rain" is the cue for various classic musicals, and Bernard Herrmann's main theme for 'Psycho (1960)' unleashes a sudden stream of murder and mayhem.

I suppose that only a film buff could properly appreciate the brilliance of 'Precious Images (1986).' Taken as an ordinary montage of related images, there is little that would evoke any genuine emotional response. However, every movie moment that we recognise brings forth a flood of unforgettable memories, almost-forgotten emotions; the magic of the film is momentarily resurrected for us to enjoy once again. At one point in the compilation, Workman switches clips at a rate of several a second, each actor's face flickering in our irises for only an indistinguishable instant, and, on more than one occasion, the associated emotions become almost overwhelming. The film unusually, but not undeservedly, won the 1987 Oscar for Best Short Film, Live Action, and one can only speculate on how many hours must have been dedicated to the production of the montage; not just the physical editing, but also the rights acquisition for each film. 'Precious Images' remains an indelible treasure for all fans of cinema.


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