ByTowne ByTowne Cinema
325 Rideau St. Ottawa K1N 5Y4
Info Line: (613) 789-FILM
Made over six years, on four continents, covering 11 decades and a thousand films.
The Story Of Film is a feast for cinema lovers. Mark Cousins adapts his celebrated book of the same title into this audacious fifteen-hour project, screening in eight weekly installments.
He traces the entire history of film, concentrating on artistic vision (rather than business or celebrities) from the silent era to the digital age. Unlike historians who place an emphasis on Western cinema, Cousins takes a more global approach. He showcases iconic film clips from Asia, Africa, India, the Middle East and South America – woven into the more familiar legacy of Europe and North America. His treatment succeeds at being both erudite and accessible.
Often this kind of ambitious project requires the backing of an institution, which can result in a bland sensibility. But Cousins’ approach is more individualistic. Based in Scotland, he earned his expertise from an eclectic background of festival programming, filmmaking and teaching. For his popular BBC program and eponymous book Scene by Scene, he interviewed the likes of Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski and Bernardo Bertolucci. Now he marshalls that wealth of knowledge to narrate The Story of Film in his endearing brogue. He supplements his commentary by interviewing cinematic history makers such as Wim Wenders, Claire Denis and Alexander Sokurov. The conversations are shot with the idiosyncratic style of a one-person crew in locales around the world.
By taking a DIY approach, Cousins preserves an editorial independence that normally gets lost with a bigger budget and committee decision-making. His achievement represents a breakthrough for the multi-part documentary. After experiencing this history from such a distinctive viewpoint, you may crave similar treatments for music, literature, politics or whatever compels you. Of course, Cousins has the advantage of drawing upon image makers who take our breath away: Buster Keaton, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Fritz Lang, Yasujiro Ozu, Satyajit Ray, Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Youssef Chahine, Agnes Varda, Nicholas Roeg, Ousmane Sembene, Abbas Kiarostami – to name only a sampling.
In The Story of Film, you’ll drink their visions and walk away thirsty for more.
– Toronto International Film Festival
Regular admission prices apply for each installment. Members may buy a Series Pass: all 7 episodes for $30
The Story Of Film is divided into 7 weekly installments. The first 6 parts are each about 2 hours long, and the final part is about 3 hours long. Each installment will screen once, on a Sunday afternoon.
Part 1 (Sunday Nov. 4) covers the birth of the great new artform of movie-making, by looking at the very first movie stars, special effects and creation of the Hollywood myth. Hollywood became a glittering entertainment industry with star directors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. But the gloss and fantasy were challenged by filmmakers like Robert Flaherty and Eric Von Stroheim, who wanted films to be more serious and mature.
Part 2 (Nov. 11) looks at changes in the world of film in the 1920s, a golden age within and outside of Hollywood. German Expressionism, Soviet montage, French impressionism pushed the boundaries of the medium. In the late 20s, ‘talkies’ changed everything, spawning new genres: screwball comedies, gangster pictures, horror films, westerns and musicals.
Part 3 (Nov. 18) starts in Italy during the Second World War, then heads back to Hollywood to ‘discover’ Orson Welles and chart the darkening of American film during the drama of the McCarthy era. The filmmaker then travels to Egypt, India, China, and Japan to find that movies there were also full of rage and passion.
Part 4 (Nov. 25) moves into the 1950s and 60s, with exclusive interviews with Claudia Cardinale and Bernardo Bertolucci, before examining the New Wave taking its hold on French film, and influencing filmmakers everywhere from Russia to the U.S. to Japan. In the 1960s, documentary started to influence Hollywood productions, and movies like Easy Rider and 2001: A Space Odyssey began a new era in American moviemaking.
Part 5 (Dec. 2) features the remarkable story of the maturing of American cinema in the late 60s and 70s, through exclusive interviews with writers Buck Henry (The Graduate), Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), and Robert Towne (Chinatown). After examining ‘the movies that tried to change the world’ through interviews with Wim Wenders and Ken Loach, The Story Of Film explores the emerging Australian, African, and South American film industries, as well as the peaking Japanese film world.
Part 6 (Dec. 9) explores how, as well as helping create the multiplex, Star Wars, Jaws and The Exorcist were also innovative. The programme then travels to India, to talk to Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, as well as to Hong Kong to talk about ‘wire fu’ and Bruce Lee. In the 1980s, with Thatcher and Reagan in office, films were often about making a statement, and with the faltering Iron Curtain, the cinemas of the U.S.S.R., Poland, and China were starting to change.
Part 7 (Dec. 16) celebrates a new golden age in the 1990s, starting in Iran with the films of Abbas Kiarostami, then travelling via Japan and Australia to Hollywood, where the Coens brothers and Quentin Tarantino were bringing a new edgy playfulness to the medium. In the 2000s, things get more serious after 9/11, and Romanian movies come to the fore. Meanwhile, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive becomes one of the most complex dream films ever made and Inception turns film into a game. The series concludes by going beyond the present, to look at film in the future.
This web site is very useful, but the hard copy of the ByTowne guide still has its merits. People rely on it and love it. Plus, its calendar pages can be pulled out and posted on your fridge door, something that we still can't achieve with the web site. Get your copy today at many local stores, coffee shops and info centres around town!
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