Series Review–The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)

Presented by Mark Cousins

15 one hour episodes

Available on Netflix

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I love movies, probably too much for my own good. Black & white, color, French New Wave, summer blockbuster, experimental, whatever. I love ‘em all, and I always want more. If you’re anything like that, then you should check out A Story of Film. It’s a 15-part series chronicling the big moments in cinema from the last 120 years. The best thing about this odyssey is that it goes to such lengths to bring the audience the full spectrum of cinematic history. You’ll get a little bit of Hollywood reflection, but the richest morsels of meditation on film come from outside Western culture. Particular standouts include the exploration of the Chinese golden-age, and the Third Cinema in countries like Senegal and Cuba. Get out a pen and paper, or get your Netflix queue ready, because you’ll be itching to experience these hidden gems.

The Story of Film plays like a love poem, in which Mark Cousins is the longing poet, and  film is the beneficiary of his unrequited love. Each segment is a stanza expressing an account of this love. The Story unfolds chronologically, beginning with the very first moving images in the late 19th century, then working meticulously through the timeline of film. The imagery of a moving train is used as a motif, partly to symbolizes the filmic journey, but also for Cousins’ obvious love for trains in film. This is his pet project and it shows.

Some viewers take issue with Mark Cousins’ upward lilt and sing-song accent. Get over it. He’s Irish. Not everybody has to sound like Morgan Freeman. That being said, the narration can be somewhat intrusive at times. Film is the medium of images. Backstory and commentary are fine, but we don’t need a play-by-play to describe all the action.

In the end, this is a collection that can be watched from beginning to end, or picked at randomly. You’ll get a lot out of it to be sure. Since watching this series doors have been opened to worlds of cinema I had never even imagined before. If you love movies, you’ll love ‘em even more after watching The Story of Film.

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