You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cousins unveils poetry in ‘Odyssey’

15-hour series makes fest rounds

As a festival director, film historian and documentary maker, Mark Cousins has always walked the road less traveled. His epic 15-hour TV series “The Story of Film: An Odyssey,” which screened at Telluride ahead of its official premiere at Toronto, is an invitation to follow him off the beaten track.

Cousins, a Northern Irishman living in Edinburgh, where he once ran the film festival, spent the past six years spanning the globe to make this poetic love letter to cinema.

Based on his own book, it’s a history of innovation and ideas, tracing influence and imagery across generations and continents.

In his distinctive Belfast lilt, Cousins follows bubbles in spilled beer from Carol Reed’s “Odd Man Out” to similar scenes in Jean Luc Godard’s “Two or Three Things I Know About Her” to Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.” He notes how British director G.A. Smith’s 1898 brainstorm of putting a camera on the front of a train led to Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah,” floating along weed-encrusted tracks toward the gates of Treblinka, and to the hallucinatory cosmic ride at the end of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

In Japan, he pinpoint the angles, sight-lines and compositions that make Yasujiro Ozu, in his opinion, the greatest classicist of all.

Cousins wants to redraw the map of cinema. Hollywood is on it, of course — he walked 25 miles with his camera in one day across Los Angeles to catch the city afresh — but he gives it no more prominence than China, Japan, Latin America or Africa.

He’s an infectious evangelist for films, individuals, countries and eras he feels have been undervalued, such as artists like Forough Farrokhzad, Youssef Chahine and Souleymane Cisse; Chinese cinema of the ’30s; and Japanese documentaries of the ’60s. But he’s also a populist; he waxes lyrical about Spielberg, Keaton, Tati and Lubitsch.

“In this age where so much is available on DVD, canons are more important than ever. In this new era of cinephilia, you need a map,” he says. “I’m not an academic. I don’t use the words ‘auteur’ or ‘mise-en-scene’ once. I’m just saying, look how beautiful this is. Not once in 15 hours do I slag anything off. Stuff that isn’t much good, I just don’t talk about it.”

The series is screening this fall on the U.K. digital channel More4, which put up much of the $1.2 million budget. With Artificial Eye as U.K. distrib and HanWay handling foreign sales, it has already been invited to dozens of fests. Cousins will stage quirky events in each of the U.K.’s four nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) as part of next year’s Cultural Olympiad. He’s constructing a website, which he describes as “part game, part film history, part artwork.”

“This film has been made to get an audience, to enthuse and enchant them, so the more places it can go, the better,” Cousins says.

More Film

  • Channing Tatum on Taking Time Off,

    Channing Tatum Says He's Ready To Get Back to Work After Quiet Year

    As a festival director, film historian and documentary maker, Mark Cousins has always walked the road less traveled. His epic 15-hour TV series “The Story of Film: An Odyssey,” which screened at Telluride ahead of its official premiere at Toronto, is an invitation to follow him off the beaten track. Cousins, a Northern Irishman living […]

  • Poland's Gdynia Film Festival Signs Gender

    Poland's Gdynia Film Festival Signs Gender Pledge

    As a festival director, film historian and documentary maker, Mark Cousins has always walked the road less traveled. His epic 15-hour TV series “The Story of Film: An Odyssey,” which screened at Telluride ahead of its official premiere at Toronto, is an invitation to follow him off the beaten track. Cousins, a Northern Irishman living […]

  • Zendaya Wants To Do a 'Little

    Zendaya Wants To Do A 'Little Mermaid' Live Action: 'Why Wouldn't I?'

    As a festival director, film historian and documentary maker, Mark Cousins has always walked the road less traveled. His epic 15-hour TV series “The Story of Film: An Odyssey,” which screened at Telluride ahead of its official premiere at Toronto, is an invitation to follow him off the beaten track. Cousins, a Northern Irishman living […]

  • San Sebastian: ‘Midnight Runner’ World Premieres

    ‘Midnight Runner’ Takes Off at San Sebastian New Directors Premiere

    As a festival director, film historian and documentary maker, Mark Cousins has always walked the road less traveled. His epic 15-hour TV series “The Story of Film: An Odyssey,” which screened at Telluride ahead of its official premiere at Toronto, is an invitation to follow him off the beaten track. Cousins, a Northern Irishman living […]

  • San Sebastian/Toronto: Simon Jaquemet on ‘The

    San Sebastian/Toronto: Simon Jaquemet on ‘The Innocent,’ Frail Faith, Certainty

    As a festival director, film historian and documentary maker, Mark Cousins has always walked the road less traveled. His epic 15-hour TV series “The Story of Film: An Odyssey,” which screened at Telluride ahead of its official premiere at Toronto, is an invitation to follow him off the beaten track. Cousins, a Northern Irishman living […]

  • village rockstars TIFF

    India Rolls With 'Village Rockstars' as Oscar Contender

    As a festival director, film historian and documentary maker, Mark Cousins has always walked the road less traveled. His epic 15-hour TV series “The Story of Film: An Odyssey,” which screened at Telluride ahead of its official premiere at Toronto, is an invitation to follow him off the beaten track. Cousins, a Northern Irishman living […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content