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33 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Lovely, magical, suspenseful, whimsically amusing... just plain great, folks!

Author: Tom May ( from United Kingdom
14 April 2002

I will unreservedly add my name to the unanimous chorus of approval this TV mini-series has received below. It more than deserves. It is up to that very highest standard of authorial British TV drama penned by the likes of Alan Bleasdale, Dennis Potter, Mike Leigh, Troy Kennedy Martin and numerous others. This is the first Poliakoff show I have seen, and I must say it's great to discover a great TV writing talent *current* to these times (Bleasdale seemingly having peaked with "GBH", Leigh being a national treasure in film, most recently shown by the delightful "Topsy-Turvy"), and I will check out "Perfect Strangers" soon.

Poliakoff indeed directs as well, and does a better job (albeit with much more cohesive, fully-formed script material) with his own script than Dennis Potter did with his direction of his own "Blackeyes". Whereas "Blackeyes" had some beautiful dialogue and usual use of music to great emotional effect, it is a threadbare, over-stretched series in comparison to "Shooting the Past", which has economy (though I could have happily watched hours more), precision and great emotion and humanism in its writing.

Suffice to say, performances are top notch. Timothy Spall magnificent in bringing to life this oddball, yet formidable, unpredictable *and* very endearing character of Oswald. Lindsay Duncan is astonishing really, thoroughly convincing and wonderfully expressive physically and vocally. Liam Cunningham is marvelous also as the American magnate type figure, who turns out not to be quite the archetype we suspect him to be. Billie Whitelaw I liked in a more minor role, this other worker in the museum who can only "beaver away" in her words...! My, Emilia Fox was enchanting as the modish, but inscrutable and otherworldly Spig... The video I have of this series has these two monologues at the end which are a very nice bonus, showing just how much can be done with photographs and storytelling.

Of course, the aural and visual still set pieces, composed of stills and Lindsay Duncan's narrations are absolutely engaging and enchanting. Liam Cunningham's acting all the way through these, is superlative. Overall, I don't think a mere precis of mine can truly be adequate; suffice it to say, a labour of love, an encapsulation of the saddest and finest emotions and an argument for eccentricity and intelligence and even hope in humanity...

Rating:- *****/*****

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29 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

If you love film, you'll love this film!

Author: thisisnowhere from london
4 February 2000

This production is a work of profound beauty and intelligence. The dynamics of this film take you on a wonderful journey from the edge of your seat to the back of your mind. The actors fully inhabit their roles with all the humour and tragedy that involves, as the story unfolds. The success of the actors was to convey so much with such minimal, yet superb, dialogue.

The action unfolds in the almost wordless present (more usually suited to "action genre"), yet the film's major theme can only be resolved by the characters understanding of a broader present context that reaches back to the past and forward to their future. The characters dilemma is specific to the plot yet generalises to us all.

The subtlety and scope of this production grows with each viewing, as does the admiration for the casting, acting, directing, editing and musical scoring. If any of the components were less than exceptional, then it wouldn't be THIS film. If your looking for a film with timeless grace and immediate relevance, this will always be it.

....I cannot think of any other films quite like it, and think it draws more from theater, classical painting, photography, and great literature. However I would liken it most to a very visual feature length piece of music with superb production value - perhaps Roger Waters's "Amused to Death".

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18 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Extraordinary Television!

Author: Ken Lawson ( from California
9 December 1999

For all the talk these days that the BBC isn't what it used to be, it would be hard to prove by this exceptional film. A brilliant examination of the power of photographs to chronicle, the mysteries and stories captured within their still frames, and the mystical and evocative powers moments frozen in time can manifest.

A superb creation from a writer-director whom I shall certainly seek out in the future. The entire ensemble is letter perfect, and the film does a wonderful job of alternately moving one to tears, then later creating tension that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. Is it any wonder that US television films come off as hackneyed when compared to superlative efforts such as this. One of the best films I have seen this year in any medium.

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16 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

A gem of a movie.

Author: lkoler from United States
21 April 2005

This movie crept up on me. Timothy Spall is simply riveting and slowly charms you into his viewpoint. He seems at first to be a shabby cynic, but as time goes on you see that he is also a nerdy genius. Though slow at first, it is an example of very good story-telling and ends up making you feel very good about mankind and really aware of how diverse are the circumstances of life and the souls who step up to the challenges they present. The title has two meanings in that we are dealing with photos collected and arranged in categories that only Spall's character can really navigate expertly. Also, we find, in following his character (Oswald Bates) through the archive -- intent on following a thread -- that we are traveling in a viscous medium and find ourselves shooting the rapids of accumulating facts, inferences and dates.

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14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

An undervalued masterpiece of British TV Drama

Author: radiator4612 from Hull, United Kingdom
27 April 2005

Poliakoff's greatest achievement (so far) works perfectly as a thought-provoking and intensely satisfying meditation on the price of progress. The hard-headed, unscrupulous world of big-business is set in stark contrast to the quintessentially English, eccentric and old-fashioned central characters battling against the odds to preserve the collection. With sublime casting, atmospheric use of lighting and a haunting, beautiful soundtrack the production values are magnificent. However, the real stars of the show are the photos from the collection itself - used to relay fascinating, quirky and heart-rending stories from history that would have otherwise been forgotten. The way these stories unfurl are spell-bindingly atmospheric and paced to perfection.

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

hugely emotional TV series

Author: didi-5 from United Kingdom
2 August 2004

This gem from writer-director Stephen Poliakoff aired on the BBC to popular and critical acclaim, and was a surprise hit of a drama-lite year. Using the setting of a photograph library, and the plot that the collection needs to broken up and sold off to satisfy the greed of an American property developer, it says a lot about the associative process of memory, the sequencial nature of small details, and about ourselves as viewers of the drama within a drama.

Of the excellent cast, four stand out - Lindsay Duncan, Timothy Spall, Billie Whitelaw, and Liam Cunningham. The images really provide the crux of the series though, as we see a path through time and follow one character through from one reality to the next. The fabulous music also helps the process, and all things combined make this a really superior piece of small-screen drama.

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

My favourite Poliakoff drama

Author: jhsteel from London, England
20 February 2006

The atmosphere created in Shooting the Past is so compelling that it draws the viewer into its improbable world, and we accept that it could happen. The music is hypnotic, the photographs are fascinating, but most of all, the performances are wonderful. Lindsay Duncan is passionate and controlled at the same time - her dedication to her job is absolute. The sexual tension between her character and Liam Cunningham's is another factor that made it impossible to stop watching. All the English characters seem eccentric in some way, as you might expect from people who work in a photo library, but they are all 3-dimensional and I felt that I knew them by the end. As usual, Poliakoff has created a fantasy world which seems like the real world, but unexpected things happen and it's difficult to predict what the outcome will be. It gives us hope that we can do unexpected things ourselves. It is a drama of astonishing depth and must be seen - preferably several times.

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Fine stuff

Author: ian_harris from London, England
3 February 2003

Shooting the Past is a fine piece of work. It entertains, it makes you think, it deals with issues and you end up discussing it and thinking about it at length afterwards.

The scenario is somewhat far-fetched - it is inconceivable that most of the staff at the archive would be unaware of the plans to chuck them out of a listed building - the place would have been swarming with bureaucrats for months before the bulldozers arrived, if indeed anything that requires bulldozers would have been permitted. Further, it also seems inconceivable that a man with a passion for his new business school and with mission-critical deadlines would visit the place for the first time without having verified that the archivists were moving out.

But we forgive Poliakoff his fanciful scenario because it sets up a terrific and taught drama.

Lindsay Duncan is simply superb, as is Timothy Spall as the "borderline autistic, photo-savant" Oswald.

Some of the cinematography (if you call it that in made for TV films) is superb - in particular the long shots of Liam Cunningham walking through the archive and the film shots of still photos.

This is fine stuff and highly recommended.

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15 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely Superb a must for anyone with brain left to think with

Author: mars-53 from United Kingdom
15 June 2005

I am not a film buff, nor artistic to any degree, and I like action adventures just as much as the next brainless idiot. But this film is so generally superb that it even enticed me to make comment on this database. I am old, and British, and therefore have an affinity with the surroundings and the characters portrayed, as over my lifetime I have met similar similar doing all sorts of differing jobs. The type of eccentric played by Timothy Spall (superbly, but then we British would not have expected anything less of him) occurs more often than one would think. The diffident librarian captured perfectly by Billy Holiday. The Lady boss whom over time has lost nearly all of her self-consciousness at being put in charge of people whom display more knowledge and intelligence than she first gave them credit for, was played by Lindsay Duncan and was Brilliant. The unfortunate tycoon who found himself as the unwilling villain of the piece, is most sensitively played by Liam Cunninham. All the supporting cast played their characters extremely well. I recognised even the junior tea lady from the stance I remember from the past. There is just no criticism I can make of this production the direction , photography, music all blends into a seamless story of the fairly recent past.

I am not given to undue praise, but this film you may show to any member of family without offence. Although the Americans get slightly cast as villains, I can assure them all that Big business in Britain could equally be so cast, but would unlikely to have come out so well thought of.

Get this film and loose yourself in 2/3 hours of unadulterated thought provoking entertainment

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Truly the best of British television.

Author: clarewashbrook from United Kingdom
22 February 2006

Poliakoff classically explores the individual's response to change. Again he showcases the value of the eccentric and individual in a world consumed by finance and transitory values.

Here the focus is a photograph collection, an access point to the history of the individual. It is the people who matter. The guardians of the visual history of our hearts and journeys, defending the right for it to exist in the wake of the number cruncher tsunami and also the deceased souls whose journeys are chronicled in the photographs.

This is an exploration and expose of modern values facing off against history. An allegory of America versus England, where each take off their masks and stand for what they value - money versus history, profit versus story, power versus texture.

Unbeatable by any other writer. Valuable beyond the merit of all other television writers. This is more than a must see; it is imperative that you learn from it! A disguised moral tale, if you will and if you are willing to listen.

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