×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

What Is This Film Called Love?

Sprite-like Irish film critic, historian and documaker Mark Cousins has done many commendable things to honor the medium he loves so deeply -- notably last year's "The Story of Film" -- but his fatuous vanity project "What Is This Film Called Love?" is not among them.

With:
With: Mark Cousins.

Sprite-like Irish film critic, historian and documaker Mark Cousins has done many commendable things to honor the medium he loves so deeply — notably last year’s “The Story of Film” — but his fatuous vanity project “What Is This Film Called Love?” is not among them. A whimsical travel diary of sorts following Cousins as he ambles around Mexico City for three days with only a laminated photo of Sergei Eisenstein for company, the film is openly intended as an off-the-cuff doodle, but its professed modesty swiftly proves self-aggrandizing. Cousins’ conscientious reputation will ensure plentiful fest bookings; distributors will be less charmed.

Six years in the making and weighing in at 15 hours, Cousins’ cinema-history doc “The Story of Film” was presumably an exhausting undertaking, so it’s not surprising that his follow-up finds him thinking a little smaller. “This wee film’s going to be the opposite of (my previous ones),” his unmistakably accented voiceover intones near the beginning. “It’s not trying to change the world in any way.”

The implication that Cousins’ other films do indeed have world-changing ambitions will strike some viewers as affectedly self-important and others as beguilingly idealistic, and auds are likely to split along similar lines in response to his latest. Forever enraptured by the world around him as he restlessly lily-pads from one cinematic or literary reference to another, the filmmaker’s authorial voice is less distracting when tethered to external matters of film or politics. When his chief subject is himself, however, it’s more of an acquired taste.

Additional third-person narration from an unseen female presence — whose identity is eventually revealed in a twist that seemingly nods to one of his favorite filmmakers, Apichatpong Weerasethakul — amplifies the sense of self-examination. Both she and Cousins muse on how the various social and historical changes visible in Mexico City are reflected in Cousins’ own life and work. Cousins addresses many of his observations directly to Eisenstein, another of his filmmaking heroes, who himself spent time in the city more than 80 years ago. This one-way dialogue is the film’s most playful device, but its chummy tone (“There have been a few changes here, amigo,”) tips over into twee.

Cousins feigns to lay himself bare here — literally so, as one sequence finds him running stark naked through the desert, as he elatedly enthuses, “My body is the best thing I have.” Still, it’s hard to escape the sense that the scrappily self-shot “What Is This Film Called Love?” is a carefully managed performance piece, documenting and consolidating the persona that has won Cousins so many followers among the cinephile set.

What Is This Film Called Love?

U.K.

Production: A BFI/Creative Scotland presentation of a 4-Way Pictures Scotland production. Produced by Mark Cousins, Catherine Aitken. Directed, written by Mark Cousins.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Cousins; editor, Timo Langer; music, Simon Fisher Turner, Espen J. Jorgensen, P.J. Harvey; sound editor, Ali Murray. Reviewed at Edinburgh Film Festival (Films on Film), April 23, 2012. (Also in Karlovy Vary Film Festival.) Running time: 80 MIN.

Cast: With: Mark Cousins.

More Scene

  • Variety TV Summit Europe

    Variety TV Summit Europe Coming to London on June 13

    Variety’s TV Summit Europe will coincide with London Tech Week this year, returning to the city on June 13. The international conference will be held at the Royal Lancaster and is co-produced by global events company Informa’s KNect365 division, the world’s largest business-to-business organizer. The one-day summit will focus on the intersection of content and [...]

  • David Furnish, Bryce Dallas Howard, Taron

    'Rocketman': Paramount Previews Footage of Elton John Biopic

    “Rocketman” is ready for lift off. Paramount Pictures threw a cocktail party Monday night to preview 15 minutes of the upcoming Elton John biopic, set for release on May 31, at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, the legendary rock club where John made his U.S. debut nearly 50 years ago. The footage featured pieces of [...]

  • The CalArts REDCAT Gala 2019 Honoring

    Pixar's Pete Docter Honored at CalArts REDCAT Gala

    Pixar’s Pete Docter reminisced about his days as a student at CalArts on Saturday night at the 2019 CalArts REDCAT Gala, where he received the Distinguished Alumni Award. For the wide-eyed boy from Minnesota, where life was more routine, attending CalArts “was a free-for-all. It was eye-opening in a lot of ways,” he recalled. “But [...]

  • Sasha Pieterse, Eli Brown, Sydney Park

    'Pretty Little Liars' Spinoff Unexpectedly Coincides With College Admissions Scandal

    It was a case of art imitating life at Saturday night’s Hollywood premiere of “The Perfectionists” — Freeform’s “Pretty Little Liars” spinoff about a scandal involving college students striving for excellence by any means necessary. The TV show’s debut was coincidently preceded by a real-life college scandal involving Hollywood celebrities who allegedly didn’t let a [...]

  • Keira Knightley'The Aftermath' film screening, Arrivals,

    Keira Knightley Talks 'Aftermath,' Alexander Skarsgård and Another Itchy Wardrobe

    The reigning queen of period pieces, Keira Knightley, knows a thing or two about historical clothing. “Lining. Lining is always important,” the Oscar-nominated actress playfully advised on Wednesday at the premiere of her post-WWII drama “Aftermath.” “If you get a lot of itchy stuff always put lining in it. I have learned that from having [...]

  • Priyanka Chopra

    Priyanka Chopra to Speak at the 2019 Women in the World Summit (EXCLUSIVE)

    Priyanka Chopra has just been added to the star-studded list of speakers at the 2019 Women in the World Summit. Chopra, who will be interviewed on stage by Women in the World founder Tina Brown, will discuss her career as an activist and entrepreneur. Recently, the “Baywatch” actress joined forces with Serena Williams in investing [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content