Film: The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2012)
Interviews featuring the following: Bernardo Bertolucci, Charles Burnett, Jane Campion, Claudia Cardinale, Youssef Chahine, Terence Davies, Claire Denis, Stanley Donen, Kyoko Kagawa, Abbas Kiarostami, Baz Luhrmann, Paul Schrader, Alexander Sokurov, Robert Towne, Gus Van Sant, Sharmila Tagore, Lars Von Trier, Wim Wenders, Haskell Wexler, Yuen Woo-Ping
Director: Mark Cousins
Genre: British documentary TV series
?Modernity is not a primordial model; It’s two opposite sides struggling and putting me in an uncomfortable position as to what to choose. Film provides a wonderful answer: choose both.
The twentieth century gave us almost impossible situations as a kind of challenge, situations in which we had to choose between things like freedom and duty. Film was the only art of the twentieth century that tried to find a compromise, a good compromise, between the two sides of the riddle.?
Film History through an Idiosyncratic Lens
Can a film documentary on the subject of film be called avant-garde? Yes, if the vision it presents is at the vanguard of our cultural awareness. The Story of Film presents a remarkably erudite, even eccentric, view, one shared by a number of notable film scholars–and it uses numerous carefully chosen vignettes to express it. The result is an incredible bricolage of cinematic excellence and forward thinking that makes a great story in itself.
The 15-part series begins with the invention of film in the 1900s and moves on to show how Hollywood slowly became the center of the global industry. In the 15th episode we take a look at the themes and the impact of new digital technology of the 21st century. But in between, Cousins explores notable developments the world over.
Part of the essence of film as art is that It’s a way of wrestling with the divide between reality and fantasy, between waking and dreaming. But the film industry is where art most dramatically locks horns with capitalistic greed. Henry Miller was right: Hollywood is where artists go to be silenced, but in spite of that a meaningful voice slowly comes to the fore.
Director and film historian Mark Cousins narrates, in an Irish accent that adds a slight dissonance to the film by rising slightly in pitch at the end of every sentence (which makes each statement sound like a question), but after a while this becomes metaphorical, giving the sense that everything about film is open-ended, its message always in flux.
One of Francesco Casetti’s great contributions to film scholarship is his assertion that while negotiating reality for a society film also makes cogent statements about itself. For example, King Kong is about the struggle of nature versus industry, or, more precisely, about film’s imperative to somehow express truth with technological tools paid for by those who silence the truthful.
A case in point: there’s a scene in the 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc in which Joan weeps while expressing profound remorse for having denied her God just to remain alive. No sound, black and white, and severe limitations compared to today, but nonetheless this is a pinnacle of cinematography, expressing a sentiment so profoundly human that it provokes emotional responses from all who view it. Since then technology has made astounding advances while not adding a speck of superiority to films as works of art.
In Casetti’s view, she would have been expressing the remorse, the regret, the shame of film itself, a remorse that may be part of film’s essence and the very thing that comprises its genius.
Despite a terrible struggle and myriad knockdowns, ultimately, art manages to win out over greed.
Wanda also penned the poems for the artist book They Tell My Tale to Children Now to Help Them to be Good, a collection of meditations on fairy tales, illustrated by artist Susan Malmstrom.