The Story of Film: An Odyssey is a documentary film about the history of film, presented on television in 15 one-hour chapters with a total length of 900 minutes. It was directed and narrated by Mark Cousins, a film critic from Northern Ireland, based on his 2004 book The Story of Film.
The film was broadcast in September 2011 on More4, the digital television service of UK broadcaster Channel 4. The film was also featured in its entirety at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, and it was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in February 2012.
The Telegraph headlined the film's initial broadcast as a television series in September 2011 as the "cinematic event of the year" and an Irish Times writer called the program a "landmark" (albeit a "bizarrely underpromoted" one).
In February 2012, A. O. Scott of The New York Times contrasted the project with its "important precursor (and also, perhaps, an implicit interlocutor)", Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma. In contrast to the Godard project, which Scott called "personal, polemical and sometimes cryptic", Scott described Cousins' film as "a semester-long film studies survey course compressed into 15 brisk, sometimes contentious hours" that "stands as an invigorated compendium of conventional wisdom." He also commended its "refusal to be nostalgic".
The Story of Film, cinematic event of the year
Mark Cousins's 15-hour television series is an epic journey through the history of cinema, says Sukhdev Sandhu
The Story of Film is the cinematic event of the year
By Sukhdev Sandhu 02 Sep 20115 in The Telegraph
There have been many terrific films this year. Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, Lee Chang-Dong’s Poetry, Darren Aronofksy’s Black Swan, Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams: in their very different ways, all of these have entertained, provoked and bewitched. Yet it’s entirely possible that the most important cinematic event of 2011 is actually The Story of Film, an extraordinary 15-hour television series written and directed by Mark Cousins, that More 4 will begin screening tomorrow evening.
Subtitled ‘An Odyssey’, it’s a suitably epic journey through the history of cinema that features interviews with the likes of Martin Scorsese, Baz Luhrman and Singin’ In The Rain director Stanley Donen, spotlights technical and artistic innovations that transformed the grammar of film, and champions the critical importance and aesthetic brilliance of directors such as Yasujiro Ozu, Youssef Chahine and Benjamin Christensen, whose achievements are often ignored by Anglo-American cinephiles. The Story of Film is quite some achievement too: visually ensnaring and intellectually lithe, it’s at once a love letter to cinema, an unmissable masterclass, and a radical rewriting of movie history.
“The film industry would have us believe that money drives movies,” says Cousins early on in the first episode. At the end of another summer of mostly witless blockbusters, cynical remakes and demographic-pandering fodder, how could anyone disagree? Cousins though claims the true genesis of cinema lies in ideas. Isn’t that a bit romantic I ask him just before he flies to Telluride to attend the festival premiere of the series? “I don’t think so. To see the DNA of the medium, how it grows, you have to look at the innovations. Tarantino brings Travolta back to life because he gives him a new way of talking and a new postmodern identity. The Batman films die, then Chris Nolan revives them with new ideas. Scorsese is brilliant in part because of the ideas he draws into his work. To look at box office and money is to see a truth about the movies, but a plastic truth.”