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The Story of Film: An Odyssey


Images courtesy of Story Box Films
The Story of Film: An Odyssey
(Mark Cousins, 2011)
Sun, Sep 9, 2012 1 PM
Sun, Sep 16, 2012 1 PM
Sun, Sep 23, 2012 1 PM
Sun, Sep 30, 2012 1 PM
Sun, Oct 7, 2012 1 PM
Sun, Oct 14, 2012 1 PM
Sun, Oct 21, 2012 2 PM

“It’s entirely possible that the most important cinematic event of the year is The Story of Film…visually ensnaring and intellectually lithe, it’s at once a love letter to cinema, an unmissable masterclass, and a radical rewriting of movie history.”—The Telegraph (London)

Mark Cousins’s The Story of Film might be the most extraordinary filmic chronicles of cinema’s history to date. Instead of the usual industry-oriented surveys, The Story focuses on film as an art form and singles out the creative individuals who have molded the history of motion pictures, without discounting the inarguable influence of industry and business on the medium. Cousins also offers a much more global perspective on cinema’s development than most histories. He covers significant, often overlooked filmmakers such as Youssef Chahine from Egypt and Ousmane Sembène and Djibril Diop Mambety from Senegal, as well as more familiar Hollywood and European figures.

An Irish writer and filmmaker, Cousins spent six years creating the series, traveling the world to interview filmmakers and film key sites in the history of world cinema, from Hitchcock’s London to the Benjali village where Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali was shot. The result is a pleasurable and engrossing series where each episodes stands on its own while together forming an entire film studies survey course refined into 15 brisk hour-long episodes. (915 mins., video)

Episodes 1–3: The Silent Era
Sun, Sept 9 | 1 PM

Introduction / 1895–1918: The World Discovers a New Artform / Thrill Becomes Story
Filmed in the very buildings where the first movies were made, this first hour shows that ideas and passion have always driven film more than money and marketing. This episode covers the very first movie stars, the development of close ups and special effects, and creation of the Hollywood myth. And a surprise: the greatest—and best-paid—writers in these early years were women.

1918: The Triumph of American Film…and the First of its Rebels
In the Roaring 1920s, Hollywood became a glittering entertainment industry with star directors including Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. But the gloss and fantasy were challenged by movie makers including Robert Flaherty, Eric Von Stroheim, and Carl Theodor Dreyer, who wanted films to be more serious and mature. This was a battle for the soul of cinema. The result: some of the greatest movies ever made.

1918–1935: The Great Rebel Filmmakers Around the World
The 1920s were a golden age for cinema internationally. German expressionism, Soviet montage, French impressionism, and surrealism were passionate new film movements, pushing the boundaries of the medium. Less known are the glories of Chinese and Japanese films in these years, and the moving story of a great, now-forgotten movie stars, Ruan Lingyu.

(183 mins., video)

Episodes 4–5: 1930s–1952
Sun, Sept 16 | 1 PM

The 1930s: The Great American Movie Genres…and the Brilliance of European Film
The arrival of sound in the 1930s upends everything. We watch the birth of new types of film: screwball comedies, gangster pictures, horror films, westerns, and musicals, and discover a master of most of them, Howard Hawks. Alfred Hitchcock hits his stride and French directors become masters of mood.

1939–1952: The Devastation of War…and a New Movie Language
The trauma of World War II makes cinema more daring. The story starts in Italy; then we go to Hollywood, discover Orson Welles, and chart the darkening of American film during the McCarthy era. Screenwriters Paul Schrader and Robert Towne discuss these years. The director of Singin’ in the Rain, Stanley Donen, talks about his career.

(122 mins., video)

Episodes 6–7: 1953–1964
Sun, Sept 23 | 1 PM

1953–1957: The Swollen Story: World Cinema Bursting at the Seams
Sex and melodrama shape US movies of the 1950s, as we look at James Dean, On the Waterfront, and glossy weepies. We travel to Egypt, India, China, Mexico, Britain, and Japan to find that movies there were also full of rage and passion. Exclusive interviews include associates of Indian master Satyajit Ray; legendary Japanese actress Kyoko Kagawa, who starred in films by Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu; and the first great African director, Youssef Chahine.

1957–1964: The Shock of the New…Modern Filmmaking in Western Europe
The explosive story of film in the late 1950s and early 1960s unfolds. The great movie star Claudia Cardinale talks about Federico Fellini; in Denmark, Lars von Trier describes his admiration for Ingmar Bergman; and Bernardo Bertolucci remembers his work with Pier Paolo Pasolini. French filmmakers plant a bomb under the movies, and the new wave it causes sweeps across Europe.

(122 mins., video)

Episodes 8–9: 1965–1979
Sun, Sept 30 | 1 PM

1965–1969: New Waves Sweep Around the World
The 1960s were dazzling in cinema around the world. In Hollywood, legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler reveals how documentary influenced mainstream movies. Easy Rider and 2001: A Space Odyssey signal a new era in America film. We also discover the films of Roman Polanski, Andrei Tarkvosky, and Nagisa Oshima. Black African cinema is born, and we talk to the Indian master director Mani Kaul.

1967–1979: New American Cinema
American cinema matured in the late 1960s and 1970s. Buck Henry, writer of The Graduate, talks about movie satire of the time. Paul Schrader reveals his thoughts on his existential screenplay for Taxi Driver. Writer Robert Towne explores the dark ideas in his Chinatown, and director Charles Burnett talks about the birth of black American cinema.

(122 mins., video)

Episodes 10–11: 1970s–1980s
Sun, Oct 7 | 1 PM

1969–1979: Radical Directors in the 70s Make State of the Nation Movies
This episode looks at the movies that tried to change the world in the 1970s: Wim Wenders in Germany, Ken Loach in Britain, Pasolini in Italy, the birth of new Australian cinema, and then Japan, which was making the most moving films in the world. Even bigger, bolder questions about film were being asked in Africa and South America, and the story ends with John Lennon’s favorite film, the extraordinary, psychedelic The Holy Mountain.

1970s and Onwards: Innovation in Popular Culture Around the World
Star Wars, Jaws, and The Exorcist created the multiplexes, but they were also innovative. In India the world’s most famous movie star, Amitabh Bachchan, shows how Bollywood was doing new things in the 1970s, too. And we discover that Bruce Lee movies kick-started the kinetic films of Hong Kong, where master Yuen Woo-ping talks about his action movies and his wire fu choreography for The Matrix.

(122 mins., video)

Episodes 12–13: 1980s–1990s
Sun, Oct 14 | 1 PM

1980s: Moviemaking and Protest Around the World
Protest flourished in the movies of the 1980s, and brave filmmakers spoke truth to power. American independent director John Sayles talks about these years. In Beijing, Chinese cinema blossomed before the Tiananmen crackdown. In the Soviet Union, the past welled up in astonishing films, and master director Krzysztof Kieslowski emerged in Poland.

1990–1998: The Last Days of Celluloid Before the Coming of Digital
Film in the 1990s entered a surprise golden age. In Iran we meet Abbas Kiarostami, who rethought movie making and made it more real. Then, in Tokyo, we meet Shinji Tsukamoto, who laid the ground for the bold new Japanese horror cinema. In Paris Claire Denis, one of the world’s greatest directors, talks about her work. The story ends in Mexico.

(122 mins., video)

Episodes 14–15: 1990s
Sun, Oct 21 | 2 PM

1990s: The First Days of Digital—Reality Losing its Realness in America and Australia
This episode begins with a look at the brilliant, flashy, playful movies in the English-speaking world in the 1990s. We see what was new in Tarantino’s dialogue and the edginess of the Coen brothers. The writer of Starship Troopers and RoboCop talks exclusively about the films’ irony. In Australia, Baz Luhrmann talks about Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, and we plunge into the digital world to see how it has changed the movies forever.

2000 Onwards
The movies come full circle. They get more serious after 9/11, and Romanian movies come to the fore. Then David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive offers one of the most complex dream films ever made, and Inception turns film into a game. In Moscow, master director Alexander Sokurov talks about his innovative films. And a surprise: The Story of Film goes beyond the present, to look at film in the future.

(122 mins., video)

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