Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Story of Film: An Odyssey

On successive Saturdays at noon, the San Francisco Film Society is showing the 15 hour documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey, by Mark Cousins. This Saturday I saw the 1st 2 episodes, which cover the birth of film & the Hollywood silent era. Mr. Cousins narrates, & I had to become accustomed to the rising inflection of his Irish accent. We get copious movie clips, & much of the fun is seeing scenes from different films juxtaposed, so we see how a shot of workers at their desks from King Vidor's The Crowd is copied in The Apartment by Bill Wilder & The Trial by Orson Welles. Modern-day documentary footage shot in various locations often undermines the movie images, such as when Mr. Cousins cuts from Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad to the real Bagdad.

Mr. Cousins deems film history racist by omission & calls Hollywood a "bauble," even illustrating the idea with a red Christmas ornament that falls off a tree & shatters. I was interested to learn about Florence Lawrence, the 1st movie star, & I agree with Mr. Cousins that the comedies are the best products of silent era Hollywood. The documentary made me feel I need to see movies by Benjamin Christensen & Yevgeni Bauer, as well as Eisenstein's October: Ten Days That Shook the World.

The process of buying tickets at the door was a bit inefficient, as it seemed that every ticket was printed on demand. Despite the unusual noontime start, the theater was close to half full. The woman seated next to me grunted in approval intermittently. Or maybe she was snoring.

§ The Story of Film: An Odyssey
Directed by Mark Cousins
8 parts, 122 min each part

Eight Consecutive Saturdays
June 2–July 21
Showtime: noon
SF Film Society Cinema

June 2: Part 1 “Birth of the Cinema” (1900–1920); “The Hollywood Dream” (1920s)

June 9: Part 2 “Expressionism, Impressionism and Surrealism: Golden Age of World Cinema” (1920s); “The Arrival of Sound” (1930s)

June 16: Part 3 “Postwar Cinema” (1940s); “Sex & Melodrama” (1950s)

June 23: Part 4 “European New Wave”; “New Directors, New Forms” (1960s)

June 30: Part 5 “American Cinema of the ‘70s”; “Movies to Change the World” (1970s)

July 7: Part 6 “The Arrival of Multiplexes and Asian Mainstream” (1970s); “Fight the Power: Protest in Film” (1980s)

July 14: Part 7 “New Boundaries: World Cinema in Africa, Asia, Latin America”; “New American Independents & the Digital Revolution” (1990s)

July 21: Part 8 “Cinema Today and the Future” (2000s)


sfmike said...

This sounded like the equivalent of a music lecture before a concert, except fifteen hours of it. I admire, once again, your stamina and patience.

Axel Feldheim said...

I really am interested in the silent era! Also, there are so many clips that you feel like you're seeing the best parts of tons of movies you don't know. I don't think all of his associative leaps are convincing (at one point he jumps from Harold Lloyd to an early Ozu), but I enjoyed his cynical look at Hollywood. And he makes the city of LA look like crap.