Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mark Cousins "The Story of Film: An Odyssey" at SIFF Cinema: Aug 17 - Oct 4

The weekend marathon at SIFF has begun! Truly audacious, the premise alone is Herculean in it's scope - that the results are this luminous, introspective, playful, inquisitive and all-inclusive - is a alchemical feat born of love for the medium and the inspiration to unwrite it's established history. Within minutes of the opening shot Cousins' softly spoken Irish lilts out; "It's time to redraw the map of movie history we have in our heads. It's factually inaccurate, and racist by omission.", having cut from Curtiz's "Casablanca" to Ozu's "Record of a Tenement Gentleman" as punctuation on that statement... he then has my attention for the duration of his 'odyssey'. That much more impressive when the odyssey in question is so expansive in it's quest as to be 15 hours long, cover 12 decades and contain excerpts from over 1000 films. The interview in the May Sight & Sound didn't quite prepare me at all for Mark Cousins' "The Story of Film: An Odyssey" which initially aired late last year in 15 installments on BBC4. Helpfully, the wiki entry does an astounding job of citing it's content (yes, all 1000 films) and draws the very parallel that I myself was making while watching it in the theater; that of the similarities/striking differences to the another audacious endeavor at reclaiming cinema's history from the 'conventional wisdom' of popular culture, as previously attempted by Godard's personal, polemic and political "Histoire(s) du Cinéma". From what I've seen on the first night of many night's to come... I prefer Cousins' take. From BBC4: "An epic 15-part worldwide guided tour of the greatest movies ever made, made over five years on six continents, covering 12 decades and a thousand films. Written and directed by the award-winning Mark Cousins, this definitive series is a ‘love letter’ to the movies. Telling the history of cinema from the silent era to the digital age, the show visits key cinematic landmarks, from Hollywood to Mumbai, and features interviews with legendary filmmakers and actors."