Spread the Word! Monumental Doc The Story of Film Playing July Weekends at Belcourt



We're suckers for essay docs about film that have the potential to change the way you watch movies — a few examples including Mark Rappaport's Rock Hudson's Home Movies, Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself and Arnold Glassman, Todd McCarthy and Stuart Samuels' Visions of Light. (Haven't had the chance to see JLG's Histoire(s) du cinema yet, but we're saving our pennies.) That's why we're excited to see The Belcourt playing Irish journalist Mark Cousins' epic 15-hour history The Story of Film: An Odyssey over four weekends starting July 7. From The Belcourt's site:

“At the end of the 1800s, a new art form flickered into life. It looked like our dreams. Movies are a multibillion-dollar global entertainment industry, but what drives them isn’t box office or showbiz. It’s passion. Innovation. So let’s travel the world to find this innovation for ourselves…Welcome to THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY, an epic tale of innovation across 12 decades, six continents, and 1,000 films.” – Introduction, THE STORY OF FILM

So begins this passionate and expertly guided tour through the history of moving pictures, told through the observations of award-winning writer and filmmaker Mark Cousins—an adaptation of his book of the same title. A commitment to such an endeavor is astounding enough, but that it also succeeds and excels as something more personal than mere survey makes THE STORY OF FILM all the more pleasurable. With an abundance of clips and interviews with both famous and lesser known directors, THE STORY OF FILM is comfort food for the cinephile: rich in history, satisfying in scope, and a base pleasure to watch throughout.

Watch the dizzying trailer above and see how many images you can identify in its tommy-gun clip montage, which surveys more than a century of film around the globe. (Just a few: Tarkovsky, Bresson, Melies, "The Great Train Robbery," Chaplin, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Bergman, Satyajit Ray, Riefenstahl, Caligari, Metropolis, the overhead coffee-cup shot from Godard's Two or Three Things I Know About Her, Fellini, Leone, Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, Bela Tarr, I Am Cuba, De Palma's Scarface, and Hitchcock's Psycho shower scene alongside Gus Van Sant's.) Alas, there won't be any accompanying movie screenings of spotlighted titles — but if nothing else, you should come away from this with a Netflix queue 100 films deeper.

Here's a good A.O. Scott piece, which praises the documentary as a one-stop crash course in film history. Below, The Belcourt's breakdown of the schedule.

Part 1: Sat, July 7 at Noon
Introduction / 1895-1918: The World Discovers a New Artform / Thrill Becomes Story. Filmed in the very buildings where the first movies were made, this first hour shows that ideas and passion have always driven film more than money and marketing. The very first movie stars, close ups and special effects, and creation of the Hollywood myth. And a surprise: the greatest—and best-paid—writers in these early years were women.
1918: The Triumph of American Film…and the First of its Rebels. Movies in the Roaring 1920s. Hollywood became a glittering entertainment industry with star directors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. But the gloss and fantasy was challenged by movie makers like Robert Flaherty, Eric Von Stroheim and Carl Theodor Dreyer, who wanted films to be more serious and mature. This was a battle for the soul of cinema. The result: some of the greatest movies ever made.
Running Time: 2 hours

Part 2: Sun, July 8 at Noon
1918-1935: The Great Rebel Filmmakers Around the World. The 1920s were a golden age for world cinema. German expressionism, Soviet montage, French impressionism and surrealism were passionate new film movements, pushing the boundaries of the medium. Less well-known are the glories of Chinese and Japanese films, and the moving story of one of the great, now-forgotten, movie stars, Ruan Lingyu.
The 1930s: The Great American Movie Genres…and the Brilliance of European Film. The coming of sound in the 1930s upends everything. We watch the birth of new types of film: screwball comedies, gangster pictures, horror films, Westerns and musicals, and discover a master of most of them, Howard Hawks. Alfred Hitchcock hits his stride and French directors become masters of mood.
Running Time: 2 hours

Part 3: Sat, July 14 at Noon
1939-1952: The Devastation of War…and a New Movie Language. The trauma of World War II makes cinema more daring. The story starts in Italy; then we go to Hollywood, discover Orson Welles and chart the darkening of American film during the drama of the McCarthy era. Screenwriters Paul Schrader and Robert Towne discuss theses years. The director of SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, Stanley Donen, talks exclusively about his career.
1953-1957: The Swollen Story: World Cinema Bursting at the Seams. Sex and melodrama in the movies of the 50s. James Dean, ON THE WATERFRONT, and glossy weepies. We travel to Egypt, India, China, Mexico, Britain and Japan to find that movies there were also full of rage and passion. Exclusive interviews include associates of Indian master Satyajit Ray; legendary Japanese actress Kyoko Kagawa, who starred in films by Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu; and the first great African director, Youssef Chahine.
Running Time: 2 hours

Part 4: Sun, July 15 at Noon
1957-1964: The Shock of the New…Modern Filmmaking in Western Europe. The explosive story of film in the late 50s and 60s. The great movie star Claudia Cardinale talks exclusively about Federico Fellini; in Denmark, Lars von Trier describes his admiration for Ingmar Bergman; and Bernardo Bertolucci remembers his work with Pier Paolo Pasolini. French filmmakers plant a bomb under the movies, and the new wave it causes sweeps across Europe.
1965-1969: New Waves Sweep Around the World. The dazzling 1960s in cinema around the world. In Hollywood, legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler reveals how documentary influenced mainstream movies. EASY RIDER and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY signal a new era in America cinema. We discover the films of Roman Polanski, Andrei Tarkvosky and Nagisa Oshima. Black African cinema is born, and we talk exclusively to the Indian master director Mani Kaul.
Running Time: 2 hours

Part 5: Sat, July 21 at Noon
1967-1979: New American Cinema. The maturing of American cinema of the late 60s and 70s. Buck Henry, writer of THE GRADUATE, talks exclusively about movie satire of the time. Paul Schrader reveals his thoughts on his existential screenplay for TAXI DRIVER. Writer Robert Towne explores the dark ideas in CHINATOWN, and director Charles Burnett talks about the birth of Black American cinema.
1969-1979: Radical Directors in the 70s Make State of the Nation Movies. The movies that tried to change the world in the 70s. Wim Wenders in Germany; Ken Loach and Britain; Pasolini in Italy; the birth of new Australian cinema; and then Japan, which was making the most moving films in the world. Even bigger, bolder questions about film were being asked in Africa and South America, and the story ends with John Lennon’s favorite film, the extraordinary, psychedelic THE HOLY MOUNTAIN.
Running Time: 2 hours

Part 6: Sun, July 22 at Noon
1970s and Onwards: Innovation in Popular Culture Around the World. STAR WARS, JAWS and THE EXORCIST created the multiplexes, but they were also innovative. In India the world’s most famous movie star, Amitabh Bachchan, shows how Bollywood was doing new things in the 70s too. And we discover that Bruce Lee movies kick-started the kinetic films of Hong Kong, where master Yuen Woo-ping talks exclusively about his action movies and his wire fu choreography for THE MATRIX.
1980s: Moviemaking and Protest Around the World. Protest in the movies of the 1980s, and brave filmmakers spoke truth to power. American independent director John Sayles talks exclusively about these years. In Beijing, Chinese cinema blossomed before the Tiananmen crackdown. In the Soviet Union, the past wells up in astonishing films, and master director Krzysztof Kieslowski emerges in Poland.
Running Time: 2 hours

Part 7: Sat, July 28 at Noon
1990-1998: The Last Days of Celluloid Before the Coming of Digital. Film in the 1990s enters a surprise golden age. In Iran we meet Abbas Kiarostami, who rethought movie making and made it more real. Then, in Tokyo, we meet Shinji Tsukamoto, who laid the ground for the bold new Japanese horror cinema. In Paris one of the world’s greatest directors, Claire Denis, talks exclusively about her work. The story ends in Mexico.
1990s: The First Days of Digital — Reality Losing its Realness in America and Australia. Brilliant, flashy, playful movies in the English speaking world in the 90s. We look at what was new in Tarantino’s dialogue and the edginess of the Coen brothers. The writer of STARSHIP TROOPERS and ROBOCOP talks exclusively about the films’ irony. In Australia, Baz Luhrmann talks about ROMEO + JULIET and MOULIN ROUGE, and we plunge into the digital world to see how it has changed the movies forever.
Running Time: 2 hours

Part 8: Sun, July 29 at Noon
2000 Onwards. Movies come full circle. They get more serious after 9/11, and Romanian movies come to the fore. But then David Lynch’s MULHOLLAND DRIVE becomes one of the most complex dream films ever made and INCEPTION turns film into a game. In Moscow, master director Alexander Sokurov talks exclusively about his innovative films. Then, a surprise: THE STORY OF FILM goes beyond the present, to look at film in the future.
Running Time: 1 hour

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