Review: A Story of Children and Film

A Story of Children and Film
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Director: Mark Cousins
Cert: Club
Genre: Documentary
Starring: Mark Cousins
Running Time: 1 hr 46 mins

Your view on the documentaries of Mark Cousins, distinguished critic and film historian, depends very much on what you make of the Northern Irishman's eccentric voice. We mean that both literally and figuratively. In works such as his monumental The Story of Film , he flits creatively from obscure folk drama to mainstream barnstormer with the confidence of an intellectual showman. The commentary is delivered in an oddly stressed sing-song delivery – think of Paul Durcan in night-class mode – that hovers between Ulster and his adopted Scotland.

The strategy is used to particularly winning effect in this gorgeous, rigorously edited study of children in cinema. He comes across as an intellectual, but he never seems snobbish. He is prepared to accept the sentimental, but also argues strongly for the power of unflinching naturalism.

Cousins kicks things off with a consideration of Vincent Van Gogh and then moves on to a video of his niece and nephew constructing some sort of ingenious plastic chute. Such apparently jarring – but always justified – juxtapositions continue in a study that takes in such varied pictures as Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table , Steven Spielberg's ET: The Extraterrestrial and Hirokazu Koreeda's Nobody Knows . Rather poignantly, he also includes – as part of a generous montage – shots of the late Shirley Temple in Curly Top . Essential for all committed cineastes.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist