If you’re looking for something to watch during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 shutdown, then you might want to delve into Mark Cousins’ epic documentary series The Story of Film: An Odyssey. The fifteen hour documentary is a fascinating chronicle through the last hundred plus years of cinema. From the origins of cinema through to the present day, Cousins’ film leaves no stone unturned when dissecting the art form, detailing its development over the last century and across six continents.
This is a sublime piece of filmmaking in itself and a must for hardcore cineastes and even the casual viewer. The beauty of Cousins’ film is that he doesn’t just dwell on Hollywood (a sin to which many documentaries on film succumb), but he also goes into detail on how cinema developed in Europe and across the globe. The documentary is effectively “Film History 101”, a detailed document that educates the viewer. In fact, if I had one qualm, it would be that it wasn’t detailed enough! An impossibility, I know, but Cousins touches on so much that further reading is most definitely required.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey took over five years to produce, and its detail is impeccable, featuring interviews with a wide variety of filmmakers including the great Stanley Donen, Gus van Sant, Robert Towne, Kyoko Kagawa, Lars Von Trier and Bernardo Bertolucci to name but a few. However, it is much more than “talking heads”, with Cousins employing some interesting camera work throughout his cinematic journey which heighten the experience for the viewer.
The best way of looking at The Story of Film: An Odyssey, is to imagine that it is a visual text book, a detailed tome which gives you a strong overview of cinema. However be prepared for this Odyssey to be the first step of a much larger cinematic adventure.