Mark Cousins - The Story of Film: An Odyssey
- Mark Cousins
- 16 December 2011
Five things we learned about film while making the series
1: I wrote and directed The Story of Film: An Odyssey [a 15-part history of cinema, shown on Channel 4], but there are moments in it, wee spikes, which still surprise me. The first is that nobody in the earliest years of the movies placed the camera as well as director Lois Weber. Her film Suspense, in which she plays a mother threatened by a burglar, is a visual masterclass.
2: The second is that Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein was far more of a mensch than I thought. For years I loved his style but thought his propaganda too shrill; then I went to his apartment in Moscow, a tiny, dusty haven full of feeling.
3: The third thing I noticed is that the central films in the story aren’t the ones you’d expect – The Godfather, for example, or Seven Samurai. These are great, of course, but the longest single film clip in the whole 15 hours is from Souleymane Cisse’s brilliant African sci-fi film Yeelen (pictured).
4: The fourth thing is how many of the great filmmakers disliked story and tried to reduce it in their movies. Bill Forsyth thinks that stories bully films, Jacques Tati wanted his movies to be strings of little moments, and Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu pared the story down to a minimum.
5: And talking of Ozu, I still get a kick out of that fact that it doesn’t even say his name on his grave, just ‘Mu’ which means ‘the void’. Very cool.