Urban Cinefile
"The film sentence is very different from the prose sentence "  -Anthony Minghella
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Wednesday August 14, 2019 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



In idiosyncratic style and in his inflected Irish brogue, film critic Mark Cousins talks us through The Story of Film in a combination if deep insight, succinct information and evident passion for film. Passion, as he says, is what drives filmmaking, not money. Andrew L. Urban unspools this film about film in all its manifestations over its entire lifetime as an artform.

Shooting the violent landing in Private Ryan on a peaceful beach in Ireland bringing blood, bullets and bombs to it …is a lie to tell the truth. Cinema is an empathy machine. Money doesn’t drive movies – it’s ideas. Money men don’t know how to get inside our heads … David Lynch does.

With such epithetic remarks, Mark Cousins introduces his extraordinary work, embracing the story of film in a way never seen before. It’s a visceral experience which begins …. you’d never guess… with an underwater shot from the gut wrenching landing scenes from Saving Private Ryan. That’s when Cousins makes the observation about a lie telling the truth. Neat line.

The film’s agility and unexpected juxtaposing, constantly surprising us with what images are chosen to begin some aspect of each chapter make it constantly engaging, his commentary captivating.

After the introduction, we are taken to New Jersey, a house where mum and two daughters are off to the movies. This is where Edison lived – inventor and obsessive. Next to Lyon, to visit the home of Lumiere brothers, a real shrine to cinema. But the way this is all put together is what makes the perhaps obvious chronological progression so fascinating.

Perhaps above all, Cousins does more than recount the history of film; he puts it in context and imbues it with meaning, all in a seamless narrative that seeds our sense of discovery.

Episode 1 | 1895-1918 "The World Discovers - A New Art Form” 
How cinema was born – the story of the very first movie stars, close-ups and special effects, and travels to Hollywood to show how it became a myth. 

Episode 2 | 1918-1928 "The Triumph Of American Film - And the First of Its Rebels" 
The movies in the roaring twenties, when Hollywood became a glittering entertainment industry, and star directors such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton emerged.

Episode 3 | 1918 - 1932 "The Great Rebel Filmmakers - Around the World
1920s golden age for world cinema when movie makers were pushing the boundaries of the medium and the emergence of passionate new film movements. 

Episode 4 | The 1930s "The Great American Movie Genres & the Brilliance Of European Films" 
The arrival of sound in the 1930s that changed everything for cinema and the birth of new types of film: screwball comedies, gangster pictures, horror films, westerns and musicals.

Episode 5 | 1939 – 1952 "The Devastation Of War - And a New Movie Language" 

How the trauma of war made cinema more daring. The story starts in Italy, and moves to Hollywood, from Orson Welles to the darkening of American film and the drama of the McCarthy era. 

Episode 6 | 1953 – 1957 "The Swollen Story - World Cinema Bursting at the Seams" 
The story of sex and melodrama in the movies of the 50s. From James Dean in On the Waterfront and the glossy weepies of the period, but also travels to Egypt, India, China, Mexico, Britain and Japan, where movies were also full of rage and passion. 

Episode 7 | 1957 – 1964 "The Shock Of The New - Modern Filmmaking In Western Europe”

The explosive story of film in the late 50s and 60s. From Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and Bernardo Bertolucci - how the new wave swept across Europe.

Episode 8 | 1965 – 1969 "New Waves - Sweep Around The World"
In Hollywood, Easy Rider and 2001: A Space Odyssey begin a new era in America cinema. In world cinema – examines the films of Roman Polanski, Andrei Tarkvosky and Nagisa Oshima., and Black African cinema is born. 

Episode 9 | 1967 – 1979 "New American Cinema"
The remarkable story of the maturing of American cinema in the late 60s and 70s. From cinematic icons including The Graduate, Taxi Driver and Chinatown to the birth of Black American cinema.

Episode 10 | 1969 – 1979 "Radical Directors In The 70s - Make State Of The Nation Movies"

Movies that tried to change the world in the 70s. From Germany with Wim Wenders, Britain with Ken Loach, the birth of new Australian cinema and the bigger, bolder questions about film were being asked in Africa and South America.

Episode 11 | 1970s and Onwards "Innovation In Popular Culture - Around The World"

Star Wars, Jaws, The Exorcist and the creation of the multiplexes. From India where Bollywood was doing new things in the 70s and how Bruce Lee movies kick-started the kinetic films of Hong Kong.

Episode 12 | The 1980s "Moviemaking And Protest - Around The World"

With Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in power the 1980s was a decade of protest in the movies. Whilst in Beijing, Chinese cinema blossoms before the Tian'anmen crackdown and in the Soviet Union, the past wells up in astonishing films and the emergence of master director Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Episode 13 | 1990 – 1998 "The Last Days Of Celluloid - Before The Coming Of Digital"
World cinema enters a golden age in the 90s. The story starts in Iran with Abbas Kiarostami, who rethought movie making and made it more real. In Japan, Shinji Tsukamoto, lays the ground for the bold new Asian horror cinema. 

Episode 14 | The 1990s "The First Days Of Digital - Reality Losing Its Realness In America And Australia"
The brilliant, flashy, playful movies in the English-speaking world in the 90s. From Tarantino's dialogue and the edge of the Coen brothers. Baz Luhrmann talks about Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge!

Episode 15 | 2000 Onwards "Film Moves Full Circle - And The Future Of Movies."
In the final episode, movies come full circle. They get more serious after 9/11, and Romanian movies come to the fore. Meanwhile, David Lynch's Mulholland Drive becomes one of the most complex dream films ever made and Inception turns film into a game. And the program goes beyond the present, to look at film in the future.

Published October 25, 2012

Email this article

The aptly named pioneers of cinema, the Lumiere brothers


The Story of Film: An Odyssey – Australian screenings:
Newtown Dendy Sydney: 2 November – 5 December 2012
National Film & Sound Archive Canberra: 26-28 October & mid November, 2012
ACMI Melbourne: 27 September – 11 November, 2012

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019