When I first began to really take notice of film as a cultural phenomenon and an artform, there were few good cinema shows on television. This in a time when there were still just four terrestrial channels and little form on the satellite channels, beyond the cringing red carpet interviews and fawning behind-the-scenes footage.
There was however two esteemable men; the quintessential Barry Norman on BBC One's Film whatever the year was and the other was much younger, but just as knowledgable, Mark Cousins. Cousins, a young man with a hypnotic Scottish voice, presented BBC Two's Moviedrome - a late night showing of a rarely screened film either Robert Siodmak's The Killers or something from Japan or Iran. It opened my eyes to the work of Akira Kurosawa and Abbas Kiarostomi. I also remember his ability to interview legends and get some great material, the best being his going to Paris to inteview Roman Polanski which touched upon his career and personal background.
Cousins has continued to be a writer, essayist and curator of many film programmes and festivals. Now he has embarked upon his largest work to date and his own personal love letter to the art of cinema. The Story of Film is Cousins' epic journey around the world encompassing the art form from all cultures, the evolution from silent cinema to sound to the most popular of cultural formats today. Filled with passion and researched to the hilt, the documentary is produced by Hopscotch Films.
Originally screened on More4 last year, it is garnering a huge DVD release on 23rd April in a five disc, steel case limited edition for £49.99.
Whereas other critics who are more egotistical and arrogant (Kermode maybe) would be front and centre to any documentary, cutting back to him in front of a global landmark talking about that countries milestone moment. Cousins takes the approach as an omnipresent narrator guiding us with little nuggets of information and research to back up the classic footage, as if it is the ultimate directors commentary on the history of film.
The roll call of people interviewed is a who's who of cinema - Robert Towne, Jane Campion, Stanley Donen, Lars Von Trier, Claire Denis, Buck Henry, Kiarostami, Paul Schneider - again there is no sight of Cousins but like any auteur his voice is all over the work.
The best insight is reserved for the moment when Cousins reflects on the two paths taken by Hollywood cinema in 1939 from John Ford's Stagecoach to Orson Welles' Citizen Kane how these two filmed are unified by the deep focus cinematography of Gregg Toland; and the new film language of Italian neorealism and the work of Rosselini, De Sica et al.
That is but my favourite piece, yet Cousins has so much to talk about thanks to the richness and uniqueness in the 100 plus years of film history.
The old adage of there is something for everyone has never been truer said than in this. Whilst bound to be consumed en masse by film students and scholars up and down the country, it can also be treated as a cheats guide to all those films you haven't got to see yet.
THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY is released from Network Releasing on 23rd April 2012 in a five disc format, 15 hours running time with a £49.99 RRP