The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011– )

TV Series  -   -  Documentary | History
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Series cast summary:
Mark Cousins ...
 Himself - Presenter / ... (15 episodes, 2011)


Film critic and historian 'Mark Cousins' uses film clips, interviews with filmmakers, and illustrative footage of locations around the world to take viewers through film and filmmaking history, from the late 19th century to today, with a particular emphasis on world cinema. Written by agentstinky

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Release Date:

3 September 2011 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Elokuvan tarina  »

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(15 episodes)


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Himself - Presenter: Hollywood's cinema, the bauble, is brilliant at the anticipation of seeing. The desire to see. The pleasure of seeing.
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Swinging at Windmills
14 January 2013 | by (Santa Monica, California) – See all my reviews

Mark Cousins stated the objective of his series in the first few minutes: "It's time to redraw the map of movie history that we have in our heads", and then he loosely outlines some unexpected surprises, including redefining "classical" to not include Hollywood movies at all, like Casablanca, but to replace everything wholesale with, yep, Japanese movies. ("Casablanca is too romantic to be classical in the true sense; instead Japanese movies like this are the real classical movies.", "So Hollywood's not classical - Japan is.") And then he states that the entire 1970's American New Wave of cinema is a moot point as well in the history of cinema, because something "just as exciting" was happening in Senegal. Who knew?

So the whole series is an intentionally revisionist Don Quixote quest to try and rewrite history to steal mojo from American cinema. (Classy with a capital "K" right there.) He justifies it with the line from the opening, talking about having to "lie to tell the truth" in movies. Indeed. Just the right note to open a revisionist documentary.

I'd say that the entire series is hostile to America cinema, but I can't, because I quit the first episode early on and only barely made it through the second and third. From what I saw, the lady doth protest too much, as every opportunity was taken to deride any notion that America did anything unique or original in cinema. So much energy was put into deconstructing, couching, manipulating, "organizing", and slighting to achieve the stated goal. (e.g. only mentioning the American movie Taxi within the context of it being derivative twice removed. (The term for the bubble thing is, a "quote", or homage if not a direct quote, but sharing that bit of terminology won't serve the purpose; doesn't fit the bill.) Just a few such examples are of course acceptable, but umpteen in a row is not. Seeing how biased Mark Cousins is, the series is unpalatable – and it makes him a fraud. He's taking on the role of a "shock-jock", or a Michael Moore, or a Fox News. What they do, and what he does, is atrocious but entirely valid in a free society – kind of like a skanky whore in Denmark. The audience simply has to step it up a notch to pick out any valid kernels of corn from his shat. (When I turned it off it felt like my escape through the sewer pipe in Shawshank Redemption!)

We all want more information about various nations' contributions to film history, but it's a challenge to hear that information when the peevish axe-grinding is so loud; and when so many things are pitted as nationalist and combative: "Rebels challenging conventional Hollywood", and "The third assault on the conventions of Twenties American cinema." (A man from Eire seeing things blood red with nationalism? *How can this be?*) At least he is forthright and upfront about the revisionist intentions. I'll give him that.

The funny thing is that not one idea of the content was truly original (not even the irreverent spin.) Someone got there first, in many cases 60 years before, and there are entire books on most of the ideas presented. I just feel sorry for the young innocent and uneducated viewer. They are being manipulated. Nor was there talk of an overall movie experience - the magic. Just hand-picked selective bits to further a political agenda. When you look at it, the series has less to do with movie history, and much more to do with Mark Cousins's personal peeves and admonishments.

But all that is just politics; that people get outside themselves in hatred of America is old hat at this point. What really got me was his ridiculous lilted brogue in the narration. Speak English son! At times it is so bad - like a Saturday Night Live spoof of an Irishman talking in the blackest of doom, and also in monotone uptalk Valley Girl, while pretending to be 19th century prose. (Were the various subjects really that dramatic to you?) On top of that were countless vocabulary misuses and illogical statements and non sequiturs that reminded me of feminine poetic-logic and seriously contemplating the possibility of Irish Ebonics and small buses in Belfast.

Also, Skippy and his ADD really had me on the ropes with the inane use of random building facades as pillow-shots, and the flip dizzy illogical selection of off point examples, rag-dolling a viewer like some kind of Memento game to try and figure out what in hell was the new point. The overall production coherence comes off more like family slides at Christmas, mostly unsorted and chaotic, vs. a well crafted and tight documentary that has a point or two to make. Anything but seamless this one. (But seamless is too American. That won't do.)

Finally, the production is full of sloppy stupidities: like saying "...this place: Hollywood." then cutting to a famous theater in downtown Los Angeles. (That's like saying, "…this place: Brighton", then cutting to a famous facade in London's East End.) It's hard to take someone seriously when they're making so many lesser mistakes in a professional production. It's the cinematic equivalent of dyslexia and bad spelling (takes one to know one); all the while being shrouded in politics by omission and that bloody affected doom lilt. Looks like I don't have enough room for more examples. There are plenty to be had.

BUT, if you've not seen any of the subject movies, and do not have the ability to see the terrible and manipulative movie making style by Mark Cousins (politics aside), and don't realize that there is probably not a single new thought or idea in his entire series – then I can see how someone might be into it – if you can stomach the ridiculous lilted uptalk narration and minuscule coherence.

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His accent? Jake-46
Why did he narrate himself? bsalar2004
so many great directors are missing aysesezer
List of movies referenced by Cousins? Jeff_Laxley
Mark that is Kyuzo NOT Katsushiro mad19571
Which film was this? LovettTodd
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