As part of its First Look program, The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) presents The Story of Film. From director, film critic and filmmaker Mark Cousins is the visual manifestation of his best-selling book by the same name. Fifteen hours, six continents, interviews with cinema masters and translated into 10 different languages, The Story of Film has been created with an individual voice aiming to cover the art-form of cinema in its entirety, regardless of national boundaries and financial hot spots; to “redraw the map of movie history that we have in our hands… factually inaccurate and racist by omission” (Cousins).
Split into 15 episodes, Cousins epic covers the film landscape from silent cinema to the modern day digital era. In January this year, A.O.Scott of The New York Times called The Story of Film “a semester-long film studies survey course compressed into 15 brisk, sometimes contentious hours… an invigorated compendium of conventional wisdom” that refuses to be nostalgic. Scott goes further to suggest that Cousins’ film is an “important precursor… and perhaps implicit interlocutor” to Jean-Luc Godard’s Historie(s) du cinma.
Inclusive of cinema from around the world, Cousins follows the progression of cinema as a progression of ideas. As part of the creative process, ideas embed, grow, become manipulated, alter and change direction. Including clips and exposition of films Cousins defines as seminal; he follows the notion of the idea through the ages. Showing reciprocity of influence between filmmakers, and how the world the filmmaker lives in further influences their perspective and interpretation of ideas, he crosses national boarders– positing that innovation doesn’t just happen in America. Ideas across filmic techniques, metaphoric representation, style and interpretation pepper Cousins’ epic, with him behind the camera rather than in front of it as is usual practice in a format as this. His use of phrasing of “us” the audience, rather than positioning himself between the film and the audience – he includes himself as part of the audience, an interpreter as we all are.
First shown on the UK channel More4, The Story of Film was featured in its entirety at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and exhibited in February 2012 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Beginning in September, ACMI will showcase the full first theatrical release in Australia of The Story of Film. There are two options in which to view this epic (subtitled The Odyssey), the first being nightly over a week (Monday – Friday) – split episodically over the five nights. Alternatively, the film will be split over a weekend.
Episode 1 (1895 – 1918) The World Discovers a New Art form
Episode 2 (1918 – 1928) The Triumph of American Film and the First of its Rebels
Episode 3 (1918 – 1935) The Great Rebel Filmmakers Around the World
Episode 4 (1930’s)
Episode 5 (1939 – 1952) The Devastation of War And a New Movie Language
Episode 6 (1953-1957) The Swollen Story: World Cinema Bursting at the Seams
Episode 7 (1957 – 1964) The Shock of the New – Modern Filmmaking in Western Europe
Episode 8 (1965 – 1969) New Waves – Sweep Around the World
Episode 9 (1967 – 1979) New American Cinema
Episode 10 (1969 – 1979) Radical Directors in the 70’s Make State of the Nation Movies
Episode 11 (1970’s Onwards) Innovation In Popular Culture – Around the World
Episode 12 (The 1980’s) Moviemaking And Protest – Around the World
Episode 13 (1990 – 1998) The Last Days of Celluloid – Before the Coming of Digital
Episode 14 (The 1990’s) The First Days of Digital and Reality Losing its Realness in America and Australia
Episode 15 (2000 Onwards) Film Moves Full Circle and The Future of Movies
There will also be a panel discussion prior to the beginning of the season, on Tuesday 25 September; featuring some of Australia’s leading film commentators including Paul Harris and Julie Rigg. They’ll discuss film, the canon and the epic proposition The Story of Film.
While creating The Story of Film, Cousins has also been working on side projects. In 2009 and again in 2011, he and Tilda Swinton created ‘The Pilgrimage’. A 33.5-tonne portable cinema on wheels made its way through the Scottish Highlands stopping to show films along the way. They also formed the Scottish Cinema of Dreams in Beijing in which a forest was made inside a cinema that snowed feathers. He is also the co-director of production company 4Way (Four Way) Pictures with Antonia Bird, Robert Carlyle and Irvine Welsh.
The Story of Film will screen at ACMI from the 27September to 11 November at various session times. Please check acmi.net.au/film for further details.