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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
Even though I'm a longtime IMDb user, I've never written a review here. However, I felt compelled to write one after watching the 15 episodes of Mark Cousins' odyssey through film. Most of the reviews here seemed to focus only on his narration, or the reviewers didn't seem to have endured the 900 minutes of Cousins' work (which is completely understandable). My opinion on the series changed as the episodes went by.
First, the narration. Cousins' voice didn't annoy me that much. Maybe because I'm not a native English speaker (even though I was following what he was saying, cause I watched it with German subtitles - and my English is much better than my German!). But he's definitely not the best narrator around. Its not about the accent. He lacks emotion in his voice. He basically says everything with the same tone of voice. But that's far from being my main problem with his approach.
One thing can't be denied: Cousins has a tremendous knowledge of cinema. Maybe the best thing about The Story of Film is how it encompasses basically the whole globe. I'm basically ignorant about African cinema, for example; Cousins showed me a lot of stuff I didn't know (not only about African cinema). It's refreshing to see such a global approach. And the movie clips are mostly superb - they're the main reason of the six stars out of ten.
The biggest problem, however, is called Mark Cousins. Be warned, this is not "The Story of Cinema". This is "The Story of Cinema according to Mark Cousins' point of view". Fair enough, the man wrote and directed the whole thing. But his choices became more and more puzzling to me, as the episodes went by and the story entered the 1970s. I was curious about how he'd treat the classic period of horror movies, for example; how the genre produced some of the most daring (and influential) films of the past 50 years. Surprise! He only mentions "The Exorcist". No "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", no "Carrie" (hey, De Palma is only mentioned by name), not a single mention of the Italian giallos. Another example: animated films. There's one "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" here, one "Toy Story" there - and that's it. Again, not a single mention of Hayao Miyazaki, for example; or Pixar ("Toy Story" is only mentioned because it's the first completely digital animated film). I know it'd be practically impossible to cover everything movie-related, but to almost ignore two genres is, in my opinion, baffling.
And as the series came to a close, another thing got on my nerves: Cousins' love of superlatives. The man LOVES superlatives. On the last two or three episodes, basically every film he puts on screen is "one of the best this", "one of the most that". I ended up laughing whenever he said it - and I even laughed at things that shouldn't be laughed, like the beauty of the final shots of "Breaking the Waves".
In the end, Cousins left me exhausted. I didn't watch The Story of Film, I watched Movies Mark Cousins Thinks That Matter. It felt like talking to someone who has obviously a great knowledge, but should learn one or two things about persuasion. As a viewer, Mark should leave me salivating for these amazing films I didn't know. Instead, he just sounded repetitive, without arguments. Several movie clips spoke for themselves; I'll definitely be checking some of the stuff he showed. But I doubt I'll be checking any more stuff Mark Cousins produces.
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