A Story of Children and Film

Film Title: A Story of Children and Film

Director: Mark Cousins

Starring: Mark Cousiins

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 106 min

Fri, Apr 4, 2014, 00:00


Is there a more delightfully eccentric voice in film criticism than the one that emerges from Mark Cousins? We mean “voice” both in its literal and figurative senses. In his vast documentary The Story of Film (2011), the Northern Irishman – long resident in Scotland – utilised his poetic inflections to talk us through a vast web of cinematic connections.

Cousins is at it again in this stirring, characteristically idiosyncratic study of children in film. The sheer strangeness will, no doubt, annoy some viewers. More will be captivated by his passion and his unwillingness to take the obvious road. Yes, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial is here. So, is Ken Loach’s Kes. But Cousins also finds time to walk us through such underappreciated films as Dorota Kedzierzawska’s Crows and Kira Muratova’s Melody for a Street Organ.

Cousins’s ponderings on the latter offer a demonstration of his ability to divine surprising connections and themes in his story. “When it comes to movie scenes about balloons and kids, few are better than this one,” he says.

Oh, really. Are there so many to choose from? Cousins answers that question by discussing Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon, J Lee Thompson’s The Yellow Balloon and Jafar Panahi’s The White Balloon. (That last film will play in the Irish Film Institute as part of the IFI’s accompanying season on the Cinema of Childhood.)

Such surprising links abound, but Cousins doesn’t reveal any grand central thesis. Fittingly enough, the picture comes across more like an elaborate, meandering game.

We begin with footage of his niece and nephew playing imaginatively in his Edinburgh flat. Their interactions lead him to consider the difference between boys and girls, the notion of “tantrums” in film and the honesty of the best juvenile performances.

Following a brief holiday and some musings on Vincent Van Gogh, Cousins does eventually come to a conclusion: “Movies are like kids. Kids are like movies.” That will do well enough as an epigram. Both still have much living to do.