Story Of Film: An Odyssey (The)

  • Story Of Film: An Odyssey (The)
Genre : Historical
Type : Documentary series
Original title :
Principal country concerned : Column : Cinema/tv
Year of production : 2011
Format : Feature
Running time : 65 (in minutes)

"The Story of Film" will be a feast for cinema lovers. Mark Cousins adapts his celebrated book of the same title, where he traces the entire history of film, concentrating on artistic vision (rather than business or celebrities) from the silent era to the digital age. Unlike historians who place an emphasis on Western cinema, Cousins takes a more global approach. He showcases iconic film clips from Asia, Africa, India, the Middle East and South America - woven into the more familiar legacy of Europe and North America. His treatment succeeds at being both erudite and accessible.

Often this kind of ambitious project requires the backing of an institution, which can result in a bland sensibility. But Cousins' approach is more individualistic. Based in Scotland, he earned his expertise from an eclectic background of festival programming, filmmaking and teaching. For his popular BBC program and eponymous book Scene by Scene, he interviewed the likes of Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski and Bernardo Bertolucci. Now he marshals that wealth of knowledge to narrate The Story of Film in his endearing brogue. He supplements his commentary by interviewing cinematic history makers such as Wim Wenders, Claire Denis and Alexander Sokurov. The conversations are shot with the idiosyncratic style of a one-person crew in locales around the world.

By taking a DIY approach, Cousins preserves an editorial independence that normally gets lost with a bigger budget and committee decision-making. His achievement represents a breakthrough for the multi-part documentary. After experiencing this history from such a distinctive viewpoint, you may crave similar treatments for music, literature, politics or whatever compels you. Of course, Cousins has the advantage of drawing upon image makers who take our breath away: Buster Keaton, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Fritz Lang, Yasujiro Ozu, Satyajit Ray, Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Youssef Chahine, Agnes Varda, Nicholas Roeg, Ousmane Sembene, Abbas Kiarostami - to name only a few. In The Story of Film, you'll drink their visions and walk away thirsty for more.

United Kingdom. 2011. Original English version. Digital Projection.
Dir.: Mark Cousins.

The first episode in Mark Cousins' epic history of cinema reveals how this art form was born. Filmed in the buildings where the first movies were made, it shows that ideas and passion have always driven film, more than money and marketing. The program reveals the story of the very first movie stars, close-ups and special effects, and travels to Hollywood to show how it became a myth.

This second instalment tells the fascinating story of the movies in the roaring twenties, when Hollywood became a glittering entertainment industry, and star directors such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton emerged. But the gloss and fantasy were challenged by movie makers like Robert Flaherty, Eric Von Stroheim and Carl Theodor Dreyer, who wanted films to be more serious and mature.

The 1920s were a golden age for world cinema. The program visits Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Shanghai and Tokyo to explore the places where movie makers were pushing the boundaries of the medium. German expressionism, Soviet montage, French impressionism and surrealism were passionate new film movements, but less well known are the glories of Chinese and Japanese films and the moving story of one of the great, now largely forgotten movie stars, Ruan Lingyu.

The arrival of sound in the 1930s changed everything for cinema. This episode revisits the birth of new types of film: screwball comedies, gangster pictures, horror films, westerns and musicals, and discovers the master of most of them, Howard Hawks. Far away from Hollywood, in England Alfred Hitchcock hits his stride, and French directors become masters of mood. The episode reveals what three of the great films of 1939 - The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and Ninotchka - have in common.

This episode reveals how the trauma of war made cinema more daring. The story starts in Italy, and moves to Hollywood, from Orson Welles to the darkening of American film and the drama of the McCarthy era. Screenwriters Paul Schrader and Robert Towne discuss the era, while Stanley Donen, who directed Singin' in the Rain, talks exclusively about his career. The episode also reveals how British films such as The Third Man best sum up these extraordinary years.

The story of sex and melodrama in the movies of the 50s. The program looks at James Dean, On the Waterfront and the glossy weepies of the period, but also travels to Egypt, India, China, Mexico, Britain and Japan, where movies were also full of rage and passion. There are exclusive interviews with the people who worked with Satyajit Ray; with legendary actress Kyoko Kagawa, who starred in films by Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu; and with the first great African director, Youssef Chahine.

The explosive story of film in the late 50s and 60s. The great movie star Claudia Cardinale talks exclusively about Federico Fellini. In Denmark, Lars Von Trier describes his admiration for Ingmar Bergman, and Bernardo Bertolucci remembers his work with Pier Paolo Pasolini. The programme discovers how French filmmakers planted a bomb under the movies, and sees how the new wave it caused swept across Europe.

The story of the dazzling 1960s in cinema around the world. In Hollywood, legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler reveals how documentary influenced mainstream movies. Easy Rider and 2001: A Space Odyssey begins a new era in America cinema. And at a time when the new wave in cinema was sweeping around the world, the programme examines the films of Roman Polanski, Andrei Tarkovsky and Nagisa Oshima. Black African cinema is born. And there's an exclusive interview with the Indian master director Mani Kaul.

The remarkable story of the maturing of American cinema in the late 60s and 70s. Buck Henry, who wrote The Graduate, talks exclusively about movie satire of the time. In New York, Paul Schrader reveals his thoughts on his existential screenplay for Taxi Driver. Writer Robert Towne explores the dark ideas in Chinatown, and director Charles Burnett talks about the birth of Black American cinema.

The story of the movies that tried to change the world in the 70s. The program starts in Germany with Wim Wenders, then moves to Britain, talking to Ken Loach, before travelling to Italy and seeing the birth of new Australian cinema, and finally arriving in Japan, which was making the most moving films in the world. Even bigger, bolder questions about film were being asked in Africa and South America, and the story ends with John Lennon's extraordinary and psychedelic favorite film: The Holy Mountain.

This episode reveals how, as well as creating the multiplexes, Star Wars, Jaws and The Exorcist were also innovative. The programme then travels to India, where the world's most famous movie star, Amitabh Bachchan, shows how Bollywood was doing new things in the 70s too. And there's a look at how Bruce Lee movies kick-started the kinetic films of Hong Kong, where Master Yuen Wo0-Ping talks exclusively about his action movies and his'wire fu' choreography for The Matrix.

With Ronald Reagan in the White House and Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street, the 1980s was a decade of protest in the movies. American independent director John Sayles talks exclusively about these years. In Beijing, Chinese cinema was blossoming before the Tian'anmen crackdown. In the Soviet Union, the past wells up in astonishing films, and in Poland the master director Krzysztof Kieslowski emerges.

Few saw it coming, but cinema around the world entered a golden age in the 90s. The story starts in Iran, where the program meets Abbas Kiarostami, who rethought movie making and made it more real. This episode also meets Shinji Tsukamoto, who laid the ground for the bold new Japanese horror cinema. From Tokyo, the story moves to Paris, where one of the world's greatest directors, Claire Denis, talks exclusively about her work. The story ends in Mexico with the blossoming of its new films.

The story of the brilliant, flashy, playful movies in the English-speaking world in the 90s. This episode looks at what was new in Tarantino's dialogue and the edge of the Coen brothers. The writer of Starship Troopers and Robocop talks exclusively about their irony. In Australia, Baz Luhrmann talks about Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! and the programme plunges into the digital world to see how it has changed the movies forever.

In the final episode, movies come full circle as they get more serious after 9/11, and Romanian movies come to the fore. Meanwhile, David Lynch's Mulholland Drive becomes one of the most complex dream films ever made and Inception turns film into a puzzle. In Moscow, master director Alexander Sokurov talks exclusively about his innovative films, and the program goes beyond the present, to look at film in the future.

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Premiered at CINÉMA DU PARC, Montréal (Québec), Canada - From May 26th to July 8th, 2012 -

* THE STORY OF FILM - EPISODES 1 AND 2: Saturday May 26th 2:15pm, Sunday May 27th 2:15pm
* THE STORY OF FILM - EPISODES 3 AND 4: Saturday May 26th 4:45pm, Sunday May 27th 4:45pm, Saturday June 2nd 2:15pm, Saturday June 3rd 2:15pm
* THE STORY OF FILM - EPISODES 5 AND 6: Saturday June 2nd 4:45pm, Sunday June 3rd 4:45pm, Saturday June 9th 2:15pm, Saturday June 10th 2:15pm
* THE STORY OF FILM - EPISODES 7 AND 8: Saturday June 9th 4:45pm, Sunday June 10th 4:45pm, Saturday June 16th 2:15pm, Saturday June 17th 2:15pm
* THE STORY OF FILM - EPISODES 9 AND 10: Saturday June 16th 4:45pm, Sunday June 17th 4:45pm, Saturday June 23rd 2:15pm, Saturday June 24th 2:15pm
* THE STORY OF FILM - EPISODES 11 AND 12: Saturday June 23rd 4:45pm, Sunday June 24th 4:45pm, Saturday June 30th 2:15pm, Saturday July 1st 2:15pm
* THE STORY OF FILM - EPISODES 13 AND 14: Saturday June 30th 4:45pm, Sunday July 1st 4:45pm, Saturday July 7th 2:15pm, Saturday July 8th 2:15pm
* THE STORY OF FILM - EPISODES 15 AND 1: Saturday July 7th 4:45pm, Saturday July 8th 4:45pm


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