Late 2011 saw a remarkable television series hitting UK screens, a 15 hour complete history of cinema up to the present day. Created and narrated by Mark Cousins, who also interviews a number of signficant film-makers, the history is important and fascinating because unlike most previous historical approaches, Cousins tells the real story of film: a worldwide phenomenon that has touched ever corner of the globe and as well as ther “stars” has produced hugely significant artists that have never worked in Hollywood or the Western film world. This global context is a rare approach, which Cousins had already outlined in the book Story of Film which came out several years ago. The series brings the book to life with clips and interviews (though I still recommend getting the book, too!)
Cousins is a film maker as well as a critic (a very rare case of putting your money where your mouth is) and so I believe he has a special insight into the process of making films.
Cousins demonstrates conclusively that film is an art form and that, even as the mainstream industry goes through convulsions and crises, there is an enduring desire to make and to see cinema. As humans we desire to represent ourselves and to see ourselves on the screen.
As a film fanatic (and sometimes lecturer), I don’t know if I have learned a great deal new from the series, which has just concluded (I expect there must be a DVD release planned, and I am itching to buy it!) although Cousins has opened my eyes to some films I haven’t seen yet. What Cousins gave me over those 15 hours is a wonderful sense of the pleasure of film, celebrating the incredible marriage of technology and art that is cinema.