The Story of Film
September 3, 2013 10:47 AM   Subscribe

The Story of Film: An Odyssey is a documentary in 15 parts which documents the evolution of the medium from first steps of silent film to the present day multi-national blockbuster (trailer). This amazing work is currently available on Netflix, but will also be playing on TCM starting this month (full schedule available at the bottom of this link).
posted by codacorolla (23 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's a really wonderful, globally-encompassing documentary about Film. I loved it. The documentarian/narrator's impossibly-heavy and lilting Irish brogue can be a trial at times, I found.
posted by annekenstein at 11:01 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The first episode was on TCM last night. It was certainly interesting and thought-provoking. It's definitely not a History of Cinema!!!™ approach, so if you're expecting your usual roll-call of accepted great films and directors, you might be in for a disappointment. I was highly entertained. I'll definitely watch them all.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:10 AM on September 3, 2013


Aye was ghonna ahsk, if tha ghai, frum tha traylher, narhahrated, tha hool thing; sew thahnks, fer lettin, me noh.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:11 AM on September 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Holy komoly! At first I was pissed thinking I'd missed the first episode, but I see it's on tonight here, so I've set the DVR to record it (as well as Victor Sjöström's The Wind, which is supposed to be a classic). Thanks very much for the post.
posted by languagehat at 11:11 AM on September 3, 2013


I'm from Northern Ireland and even I can't listen to Mark Cousins for very long. It's annoying, because the content is great.
posted by knapah at 11:16 AM on September 3, 2013


Yeah, me too. I loved the content but Mark Cousins' voice is really hard to take over a long period. I realize that he wrote and directed it but probably didn't have the budget to hire a voice actor but he could have tried to sound interested in his own words.
posted by octothorpe at 11:17 AM on September 3, 2013


Funny. I didn't mind his accent at all, and never found that it got in the way. I thought it added to the whole "This is not your father's history of cinema" vibe.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:20 AM on September 3, 2013


The accent really grew on me. I think it's terrific that TCM is broadcasting this series. I hope a lot of people see it.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:57 AM on September 3, 2013


The Story of Film is bloody great. Regarding Cousins and his soporific speech patterns, he actually reminds me of Adam & Joe's lampooning of (also Northern Irish) poet and critic Tom Paulin, as Tom Tortoise.*


*Hilariousness of clip may be enhanced/degraded depending on your familiarity with shite late 90s UK TV shows and BBC2's Review Show, but, to quote Mark Twain, I repeat myself.
posted by Len at 12:21 PM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought I mentioned it more specifically in the FPP, but TCM is doing a festival of sorts where films highlighted in the documentary are also being shown concurrently. This is a great chance to see a lot of awesome foreign, art, and classical cinema.
posted by codacorolla at 12:27 PM on September 3, 2013


The irony that a documentary on film is being released on TV and Netflix is pretty sad, actually.

Film is dead. It's sadly not coming back.
posted by inturnaround at 12:37 PM on September 3, 2013


The irony that a documentary on film is being released on TV and Netflix is pretty sad, actually.

What exactly is the irony? You think they should release a 15 hour documentary in theaters?

I must be one of the small minority who thinks Cousins' voice makes the whole thing BETTER. Just imagine he's reading an epic length poem on the history of cinema, and it makes perfect sense.
posted by the bricabrac man at 12:53 PM on September 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's worth watching with a notepad or something at hand because every five minutes you will be saying "wow, that movie looks amazing, I should watch that" and then by the next one you'll forget what it was.
posted by theodolite at 1:16 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was completely hooked by the first episode. It's ambitious and opinionated in a way that recalls Civilization, Shock Of The New, and Ways Of Seeing, the sort of thing I didn't think anyone even tried to make any more. And I wasn't put off by Cousins' accent—or wasn't yet—mostly because his visuals are so absorbing, but partly because his murmur fits the topic, as if it's a whisper in the dark.

Film is dead. It's sadly not coming back.

Cousins may spell this out more explicitly in the future, but even the first episode hints at the proposition that "the story of film" is much bigger than just a history of theatrically-released motion pictures, but is, in fact, the story of the invention of a wholly new way of visualizing the world in ways made possible by films. If this is true, then "film," in the broadest sense, is still very much alive.

Personally, I think that film is as dead as the novel, or irony.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:19 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


theodolite: "It's worth watching with a notepad or something at hand because every five minutes you will be saying "wow, that movie looks amazing, I should watch that" and then by the next one you'll forget what it was."

The Wikipedia page for the series has a list of all the movies featured in each episode.
posted by octothorpe at 1:22 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's worth watching with a notepad or something at hand because every five minutes you will be saying "wow, that movie looks amazing, I should watch that" and then by the next one you'll forget what it was.

The perfect presentation for this would be if Netflix had streaming rights for as many of the films involved as possible and had an optional overlay button or keyboard/remote shortcut to add those films to your queue when they come up in the documentary, with a big list of links to all the films at the end.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:27 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The perfect presentation for this would be if Netflix had streaming rights for as many of the films involved as possible and had an optional overlay button or keyboard/remote shortcut to add those films to your queue when they come up in the documentary, with a big list of links to all the films at the end.

This is where a spacious DVR and TCM comes in handy.
posted by codacorolla at 1:32 PM on September 3, 2013


Note for Canadians: It's not on our NetFlix, but that's why Jeebus made ProxMate.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:08 PM on September 3, 2013


I watched the whole series when it was shown in Britain not that long ago. It's a breathtaking piece of work - passionate, intelligent and stunning. I'm struggling to put my reaction into non-cliches because The Story of Film did change how I look at many films and how I understand film history. I particularly liked its grasp of the world of cinema - steering away from the usual Hollywood-centric reading of the history and looking at films from all over the globe. An eye-opener in more ways than one.
posted by kariebookish at 2:38 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]



What exactly is the irony? You think they should release a 15 hour documentary in theaters?


They did here in Toronto, screening it episode by episode across three months and offering a reduced rate to buy tickets for the entire run.
posted by thecjm at 3:54 PM on September 3, 2013


I saw the entire directors cut of every episode at a movie theatre. It was awesome. It was so awesome I watched it again when it came to TV. It was so awesome that I am now working my way through the films he featured.

I have suffered only two adverse side affects:
- the clumsy narrative from the opening titles is burned on my brain ("at the end of the 19th century, a new art form flickered into life. It looked like our dreams. So let's follow these dreams...")
- I hear Mark Cousins narrating some scenes in actual movies now ("flat lighting... craning camera....")

But if you love film, you should watch it.
posted by girlgenius at 5:12 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing about his voice: that Belfast accent sounds like some kind of Valley Girl Brogue to American ears with the trailing off and rise at the end of sentences and before pauses. And he pauses a lot and uses a lot of short sentences. "Neither the Lumieres, nor Edison, nor the other inventors of cinema... could have known how big movies were to become..."
posted by jason_steakums at 8:16 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've finally looked through the whole schedule and marked up my calendar accordingly; I was extremely excited to see that on Nov. 18 they're going to be showing Yeelen, one of the greatest movies nobody's ever heard of. I've recommended it on MeFi several times, most recently here; for a long time there was no DVD available, but now there is (Amazon). Still, here's a chance to see it for free, and if you love it as much as I do you can order a copy.

Also, having watched the first episode of the history series, neither my wife nor I had any problem with Mark Cousins's accent and we can't understand why some people do. He's knowledgeable, charming, poetic, and righteous. Put that in yer pipe and smoke it!
posted by languagehat at 5:27 PM on September 7, 2013


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