Precious Images (1989) 
Chuck Workman
8 Min.


Chuck Workman’s Precious Images (1989), commissioned by the Director’s Guild of America at the unofficial centenary of cinema, is made of hundreds of shot fragments collected from numerous Hollywood titles – mostly highly popular – each of which, generally, lasts for not more than half of a second. If one can get past obvious objections about a centenary film which is made of films from just one film industry and which includes works that had vehemently announced their breakup from it, Precious Images comes across as an effective if not exactly exhilarating tribute to classic Hollywood cinema. Workman assembles his material more on intuition than theory and the film moves from one genre to another, less through their external generic classification and more through the emotional impression the selected shots create. As a result, films from genres such as thriller and horror reside with each other while romance and comedy go hand in hand. Furthermore, Workman cuts his films like the finest of Hollywood films do: manipulative enough to guide our attention from one shot to another and tasteful enough to restrain from overkill.  Also typically Hollywood is the way the film employs music and sound bites, mostly culled from iconic film scores, to pull together the disintegrated structure of the film. Putting aside the lingering feeling that this is Hollywood patting its own back for everything that it’s done, Precious Images makes for a great spot-the-movie game.


By a bizarre coincidence, I came across this movie the same day I saw Joel Bocko’s uber-geeky montage that spans 60 years of world cinema. Joel’s vastly superior film plays out like the output of a malfunctioning super-projector in its final minute of operation. Essential viewing, below.