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4.7 out of 5 stars96
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 14 February 2005
A unique library of old and modern photographs are put under threat when the building they are housed in is suddenly sold. The new owner of the property, Liam Cunningham played by the able Christopher Anderson, has no interest in the photos and doesn't care what happens to them. In fact most of the photos will be destroyed with the crème de la crème of the collection being sold on. All Liam is interested in is renovating the building and making a hefty profit for the business he represents.
However the library's many eccentric employees won't give up without a fight and from then on a war of wits and determination is played out among a wonderful array of black and white photographs that represent the past, the present and even the future.
The characters in this film are truly delightful, especially Timothy Spall who plays the oddball Oswald Bates, a man with a memory for faces so attuned that he can see resemblances between a person he has only seen once and those whose pictures are imprinted upon photographic paper.
However the battle to save the collection seems doomed, with every attempt the Library staff makes being thwarted but fate has something wonderful in store for Liam Cunningham and it is this wonderful twist in the story that ultimately will save the collection for future generations.
This is a fabulous film, originally a three part series for the BBC in the late 1990s I think it would have been a success if it had been released in Art House Cinemas all over the World.
A final pointer, watch (and listen) out for the superb Lindsay Duncan who plays the diminutive Marilyn Truman, the Head Librarian in the story, she has the most amazing voice and when telling Liam Cunningham stories around certain photographs, she captivates her audience to the point that you think that you are in the same room as her and Liam.
A good musical score, a sound cast, wonderful photography and camera work, "Shooting the Past" is a classic of a film that Stephen Poliakoff has every reason to be proud off. Look out for Poliakoff's other masterpiece, "The Lost Prince" both are worth having in any DVD/Video collection.
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on 19 August 2006
if i could choose one tv series to watch over and over again until my dying day it would be Shooting the Past. Poliakoff is an absolute master of beauty and atmospheric tension and i adore this series to death. it combines all my favourite things - photos, old paris, murders (you'll know what i mean),memories and the stories that go with fotos. The music is absolutely beautiful and sends shivers down my spine just thinking of it. It is so perectly in time with the story that you would think it was magic. i have not one bad word to say about this film, and it wil be a treasure that will stay with me for always, inspiring me to never give up, no matter how bad the situation seems.
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on 7 February 2004
I saw the series upon transmission and I was utterly captivated. This is writing and direction at its best (by Stephen Poliakov), with performances being absolutely second to none. The atmoshere conveyed by the wonderful cast who manage this time-warp photographic collection is a mixture of sadness, tension, irony and amusement as those consider their stand against the dark external forces that arrive in the form of the brash American businessman who appears hell-bent on breaking up the collection for profit and destroying everything that those within have known for so long.
Timothy Spall (Auf Weidersehn Pet's Barry), as the archivist, gives what could be described as his best ever screen performance. This is classic British TV drama and an absolute must for every self-respecting DVD collection - and should be viewed by anyone who questions whether British television is still capable of producing drama of the highest quality.
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on 26 December 2000
I was lying on the couch one night watching TV looking for something to watch. I flicked onto BBC2 and heard that Shooting The Past was about to start. As there was nothing else on (and as i thought it was a history documentary) I started to watch.
Within a few seconds I was engrossed. Firstly by the sound-track and then by the amazing quality of story and acting. Timothy Spall is perfect in the role of Oswald. All the other actors are perfectly suited to thier charachters.
The story is hard to describe so i wont bother trying. Its something you have to watch and experience.
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on 23 July 2003
This is an enthralling story of a London Photo Library under threat of demolition. A strange subject I know, but well worth a watch.
Aside from the likeable characters and the gorgeous soundtrack, this is British Drama at its best. I was moved to tears on several occassions and relished the one factor that is so frequently lacking in television dramas, I had no absolutely no idea how the tale would be resolved. I defy any first time viewer to guess!
It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end! I cannot impart how enjoyable this programme is, and urge anyone with a love of photograghy, drama, comedy or music to give it a go. You will be pleased that you did.
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on 3 May 2001
Shooting the Past is an unusual story full of eccentric characters who have one thing in common - the collection of photographs they are trying to save. They are all passionate and determind, gradually getting through the closed mind of the American buyer who wants to turn the building where the photographs are housed into a business school. The story told to him through the photographs, of his own family history is atmospheric, sending shivers down ones spine. This film has to be seen to be truly appreciated, I would advise anyone to buy the video, they won't regret it.
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on 30 August 2006
I have just one thing to add to these thoroughly deserved unanimously glowing reports and it is an important piece of practical advice. Do not start watching this DVD if you do not have a clear three hours or so in front of you. Once you start watching you will have to finish!

Absolutely compelling and highly recommended. A beautiful film.
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on 28 March 2004
Shooting the Past was my introduction to the genius of Poliakoff. I have since bought both Perfect Strangers and The Lost Prince which are equally breathtaking.
With this wonderful piece of drama, Poliakoff experiments with long scenes and manages to bring the drama to the still image. In terms of our lack of attention in this technological age you would think that this approach would be doomed; but for me it drew me into the narrative and kept me in a state of blissful interest and a place of calm serenity. Too much? See for yourself.
The cast are all absolutely brilliant in their roles (Tim Spall, Lyndsey Duncan, Liam Cunningham and Emilia Fox) making it even more of a televisual treat for the senses. It made me want to get my camera out and take wonderful pictures too...
A beautiful, haunting, messmerising production that I can watch again and again.
Genius and sublime!
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on 13 August 2006
Stephen Poliakoff does what some writers are now afraid to do -

just let a story unfold and go at a slow pace. In doing this he engages the audience and gives us the benefit that we are as intelligent as he is and deserve a really good drama. The scale is marvellous - a great intimacy in an invaluable collection of photographs - unforgettable memories, related and cared for dedicated and eccentric staff. Beautifully acted, beautifully paced and marvellous to look at. A terrific drama.
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on 3 November 2007
As television dramas go, this is the pinnacle. There are only two genii of television writing who have been active in the UK in the last twenty years. They are Alan Bennet and Stephen Poliakoff.

Shooting the past is mesmerising for every second of its production. If you have seen Timothy Spall in Secrets and Lies, prepare yourself to see his best performance in any medium at any time.

I could watch this over and over again for its acting, cinematography, music or just the sheer beauty of the black and white photographs that are used to bracket the steady pace of the drama.

This is a gorgeous piece of television - and it is exactly that, television. This would not work in the same way in the cinema or on stage.
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