The Story Of Film: A New Generation


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Story Of Film: A New Generation
"Cousins' observations are, by their very nature, particular and personal - but that is part of the joy of this sort of essay film." | Photo: Courtesy of London Film Festival

Mark Cousins takes us on an enjoyable tour of films from 2010 onwards in this sequel to his earlier dive into the 20th century - although he still keeps one eye on historical context.

He sets out his ambitions to outline the way that many themes and ideas cross borders, while offering a grounding in some of the latest developments in film craft itself, including the huge advances in motion capture seen in the Planet Of The Apes most recent reboots and the use of mobile phones to shoot films. He also makes the case of the filmic nature of virtual reality.

Cousins' observations are, by their very nature, particular and personal - but that is part of the joy of this sort of essay film and, though you probably need to be at least a little on his wavelength or prepared to tune into it to really get the most out of this, his love of the medium is obvious and contagious. Nearly everyone - perhaps Michael Owen aside - at least occasionally enjoys watching films and what Cousins does is to encourage us to really see what is going on beyond the machinations of the plot.

He talks us through various scenes in ways that, although they may initially seem like pure description, draw our attention to the craft of them. At one moment his explaining how David Robert Mitchell uses the movement of the camera to ratchet up tension in It Follows, while at another he is showing how production design is used to further the mood and story of Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters. Cousin’ commentaries encourage us to watch films in ways that go beyond their basic story and character development.

His wide-ranging viewpoint, meanwhile, finds unexpected correlations between initially disparate work like Joker to Frozen and shows us how themes can be shared in very different ways from everywhere from Africa to India, Romania to Hollywood. There's a little bit of everything here - from socioeconomic observations to history to philosophy and politics and Cousins doesn't shy away from using films to scrutinise the way they reflect our real-world attitudes, for good and ill.

Whether your own story of film has only just begun or you’re already a fair way into your journey, you’d be advised to keep a pen handy, as you're likely to find yourself writing down one or two titles to try to find at a later date or revisiting an old favourite with fresh eyes.

Reviewed on: 16 Dec 2021
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The Story Of Film: A New Generation packshot
Mark Cousins returns with another journey across the landscape of film, examining what changes the 21st century has brought.

Director: Mark Cousins

Writer: Mark Cousins

Year: 2021

Runtime: 160 minutes

Country: UK


London 2021

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