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DVD: The Story of Film: An Odyssey | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Story of Film: An Odyssey

DVD: The Story of Film: An Odyssey

This unapologetically subjective history of cinema is a joy to behold

Packaging fetishists might like to know that the metal box version pictured above is a limited edition

It would be an impossible to do a comprehensive global history of cinema in just 15 hours. You could attempt it by throwing hundreds of thousands of second-long clips at the viewer in a firework display of celluloid. But film-maker and critic Mark Cousins opts for gentle hypnotism over dazzling pyrotechnics.

In the opening episode alone, in a lucid correlation of words and images, he shows us how filmmakers evolved a grammar for this new medium which took full advantage of an intrinsic plasticity which theatre, photography and painting lacked. The close-up, the flashback, the move from one setting to another; all these narrative techniques are taken for granted today. Yet they all had their moment of conception.

He also breaks away completely from a Hollywood-centric perspective, giving equal weight to the history of world cinema interviewing along the way directors as diverse as Robert Towne, Jane Campion, Abbas Kiarostami and Lars Von Trier. From the time-ravaged stock of silent movies, through the hyperrealism of CGI, to a post 9/11 era which saw a return to a grittier documentary-like aesthetic, Cousins points out how inseparable our cinema is from our cultural history. One of his favourite techniques is to juxtapose clips from different countries or decades to further his thesis that film’s twin engines have been technical innovation and the individualist vision of the auteur.

Sometimes things get a little too subjective (a gorilla becomes something of an over stretched metaphor), but the pleasures outweigh the flaws, mainly because the flaws often centre on one’s own subjectivity (“How could he leave out…” etc).  But lovers of cinema will luxuriate in what is both an intimate and an epic journey, as they compile lists of all the movies they need to revisit or catch up with. The five disc set comes with a 25,000 word booklet.

Watch the trailer to The Story of Film

Follow @Howard Male on Twitter 

 

 

Film-maker and critic Mark Cousins opts for gently hypnotism over dazzling pyrotechnics

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Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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