The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)

15-Part Television Documentary Serial | UK | English | 15h45m
Dir: Mark Cousins | Scr: Mark Cousins | Book: Mark Cousins | Ph: Mark Cousins | Prod: John Archer | Ed: Timo Langer | Narrator: Mark Cousins
From (before) the birth of cinema in 1895 right up to the present day and beyond, speculatively to 2046, Mark Cousins has eloquently set before us his ambitious, romantic, and decidedly personal interpretation of the story of film, taking as his focus the sixth art’s great innovators – the usual suspects and not-so-usual suspects, both – from the Lumière brothers and Méliès, through Ozu and Welles, to Kiarostami and Sokurov. Though many have found fault with it – sometimes justifiably, other times not – with its wealth of well-chosen clips and thoughtful interview footage, it is a documentary that no self-respecting cinephile’s life should be without. Admittedly, Cousins’s approach is a somewhat idiosyncratic one, with his distinctive narrating style proving lyrically intoxicating to some (the learned), whilst soporifically annoying to others (the pitied); plus, the way that he frames his interview subjects can also prove a little distracting at times, cutting off an ear here, obscuring a forehead there; and his use of metaphor is, to say the least, also all his own. Still, if a little quirkiness is the price that must be paid in order to avoid the staid, faux-objectivity of most historical examinations, then so be it. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, there are one or two factual captioning errors dotted throughout its 15 parts (which would hopefully be corrected before any potential DVD release) and more spoilers than one would ideally hope for. But these are but minor quibbles for what has proven to be such a wonderful, inspiring journey through celluloidal history.