As a contribution to the United States commemoration of its bicentennial, the American Film Institute (AFI) releases this splendid compilation of scenes from over 80 renowned films, none of which lacks interest to cinephiles, since AFI accesses works from all studios, whereas most cinematic anthologies are limited to but one, and this standing advantage, heightened through superior production values, results in a nigh two hour feature of notable variety. Charlton Heston reads the excellent text penned by Theodore Strauss for a film that is divided into five segments - The Land: (essentially the West), concerning which, as Heston relates, "Hollywood didn't always get history right, but told the dream"; The Cities: (mainly New York); The Families; The Wars; and the best section, The Spirit, during which, as Heston affirms, "America was not just a destination, but a journey into the possible", and also "There is more truth in the dream than in the facts," Most of the clips are long enough to generate an emotional response in a viewer and the entire production is adroitly edited, giving one an overall perception of distinction surrounding the selections, intensified by the clarity and succinctness of Heston's narration. In this instance, documentary makers have it right, proving that cinema, as with the United States, "...began in the imagination".
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