Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Story of Film is on box of broadcasts...

It's a shame that Mark Cousins' narration of his fifteen-part documentary, The Story of Film: An Odyssey, which he also wrote and shot, is quite so laid-back (some might say monotonous/dreary/irritating) because behind the drone is an extraordinary document, which should be of interest to anyone studying film, and quite a few people who aren't.

The range of films shown in extracts is one of its principal delights - everything from 'Traffic crossing a Leeds Bridge' (1888) to 'Inception' (2010).  And what is also extraordinary, is the range of nations covered: is there a film culture left unexplored?  No wonder he sounds weary.

I also liked the way that scenes from one film were shown to have influenced another - for example the famous shot in 'The Seven Year Itch,' of Marily Monroe standing over an air vent, turns out to have had an earlier precedent.

The series was originally broadcast in 2011, and released on DVD this year.  There are fifteen episodes, and a total running time of 915 minutes - roughly one hour per episode.  We have a couple of copies of the DVD in the library, but you can also view the whole series on Box of Broadcasts.  Something to watch over the Christmas holiday perhaps?

It's heavy going, so my advice is to start the wrong way round - with the more recent episodes, and the films you know; and work backwards.  A lot of ground is covered, so watching it linearly is I think unnecessary (although Sheffield Doc/Fest are inviting you to ingest it all in one go).

You can also find lots of the films mentioned on Box of Broadcasts.  Some of these were broadcast as part of a Story of Film Season on Film4 and others like 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' have been broadcast at other times.  If there is anything that you can't find on either Box of Broadcasts or in the library's DVD collection, why not let me know?

In contrast to Cousins' recumbant delivery, Mark Kermode - the bastard son of Richard Nixon and Buddy Holly - has a livlier style, which is occassionally witty.  His interview with Cronenberg and members of the cast of Cosmopolis in the back of a limousine is a case in point.  This and other highlights of his year in film are available in episode 23 of The Culture Show (or here on iplayer).