Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Mark Cousins’s Story of Film

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t feel the need to point the reliably well-informed readers of this “blog” towards a landmark TV series such as Mark Cousins’s The Story of Film: An Odyssey. After all, if you visit this place regularly …

Mon, Sep 5, 2011, 21:32

   

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t feel the need to point the reliably well-informed readers of this “blog” towards a landmark TV series such as Mark Cousins’s The Story of Film: An Odyssey. After all, if you visit this place regularly then you will surely already know about the thing. And yet. The series has been bizarrely under-promoted and, stranger still, is only being broadcast on More 4. (They could at least have stretched to E4.) The good news, however, is that it is available — even to folk in the Republic — on the admirable 4oD playback service.

Raised in Northern Ireland, but often seen in Scotland, Mark has a most singular way of delivering his lines. Heaving out the Ulster vowels, he speaks in a rich monotone that makes the voice-over on Terrence Davies’s Of Time and the City sound positively conventional. You may remember the timbre from his excellent series Scene by Scene, in which he talked great directors and actors through key scenes from their movies. He’s worth listening to. A great champion of film from less celebrated cinematic cultures — Africa in particular — he has a canny way of isolating significant details over which less careful eyes would thoughtlessly skirt. The first part is particularly good on the way simple editing techniques we now take for granted evolved in early cinema. Somebody had to invent the reverse shot, you know.

The series is based on a fine book of the same name. You might want to read that. Then again, perhaps, you don’t want to know what happens at the end. I’ll tell you anyway. James Cameron won.

The series continues on More 4 next Saturday.

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