When I first began to really take notice of film as a
cultural phenomenon and an artform, there were few
good cinema shows on television. This in a time
when there were still just four terrestrial channels
and little form on the satellite channels, beyond the
cringing red carpet interviews and fawning
There was however two esteemable men; the
quintessential Barry Norman on BBC One's Film whatever
the year was and the other was much younger, but just
as knowledgable, Mark Cousins. Cousins, a young
man with a hypnotic Scottish voice, presented BBC
Two's Moviedrome - a late night showing of a rarely
screened film either Robert Siodmak'sThe Killers or
something from Japan or Iran. It opened my eyes
to the work of Akira Kurosawa and Abbas
Kiarostomi. I also remember his ability to
interview legends and get some great material, the
best being his going to Paris to inteview Roman
Polanski which touched upon his career and personal
Cousins has continued to be a writer, essayist and
curator of many film programmes and festivals.
Now he has embarked upon his largest work to date and
his own personal love letter to the art of
cinema. The Story of Film is Cousins' epic
journey around the world encompassing the art form
from all cultures, the evolution from silent cinema to
sound to the most popular of cultural formats
today. Filled with passion and researched to the
hilt, the documentary is produced by Hopscotch Films.
Originally screened on More4 last year, it is
garnering a huge DVD release on 23rd April in a five
disc, steel case limited edition for £49.99.
Whereas other critics who are more egotistical and
arrogant (Kermode maybe) would be front and centre to
any documentary, cutting back to him in front of a
global landmark talking about that countries milestone
moment. Cousins takes the approach as an
omnipresent narrator guiding us with little nuggets of
information and research to back up the classic
footage, as if it is the ultimate directors commentary
on the history of film.
The roll call of people interviewed is a who's who of
cinema - Robert Towne, Jane Campion, Stanley Donen,
Lars Von Trier, Claire Denis, Buck Henry, Kiarostami,
Paul Schneider - again there is no sight of Cousins
but like any auteur his voice is all over the work.
The best insight is reserved for the moment when
Cousins reflects on the two paths taken by Hollywood
cinema in 1939 from John Ford's Stagecoach to Orson
Welles' Citizen Kanehow these two filmed are unified
by the deep focus cinematography of Gregg Toland; and
the new film language of Italian neorealism and the
work of Rosselini, De Sica et al.
That is but my favourite piece, yet Cousins has so
much to talk about thanks to the richness and
uniqueness in the 100 plus years of film history.
The old adage of there is something for everyone has
never been truer said than in this. Whilst bound
to be consumed en masse by film students and scholars
up and down the country, it can also be treated as a
cheats guide to all those films you haven't got to see
THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY is released from Network
Releasing on 23rd April 2012 in a five disc format, 15
hours running time with a £49.99 RRP.