Mark Cousins’s epic 15-part documentary The Story of Film: an Odyssey begins this Saturday, at 9.15pm on More4. This promises to be an excellent series, with Cousins roaming far and wide to put together a history of cinematic innovations and achievements. The early episodes obviously hold the most interest for us, and people who have seen the first instalment tell me it’s a must-see. Episode one explores the birth of the medium, from the development of techniques such as close-ups to the first movie stars and the early picture palaces. Episode two takes us into 1920s Hollywood and the golden era of comedy, with Keaton and Chaplin.
Filmed in the buildings where the first movies were made, it shows that ideas and passion have always driven film, more than money and marketing.
The series’s scope is wider than just American films, though, and if you had any doubt as to whether Cousins’s heart is in the right place, check out his new tattoo:
I know what you’re thinking – it would be great if Channel 4 could schedule some silent films to accompany these early episodes. What’s the point of telling people about Chaplin, Griffith, Dreyer and Eisenstein if we can’t watch the movies themselves? Well, there is a glimmer of hope. In the week following the first episode, Film4 will be showing Griffith’s French Revolution epic Orphans of the Storm (1921), starring Lillian and Dorothy Gish. The film will be screened at 00.50am on Tuesday 6 September (set your video) and again at 11am on Thursday 8 September.
A little update, courtesy of a helpful commenter below – Film4 will also be showing Battleship Potemkin later in the month – 19th and 22nd September to be precise. More of this please, Film4!
Meanwhile, if you’re enjoying what Mark Cousins has to say about silent cinema, and you live in or near London, watch this space for news of screenings with live music in the capital.
The Story of Film: an Odyssey screens on Saturday nights on More4 and is repeated throughout the week.
I tip my hat to @LondonMovieLoon on Twitter for alerting me to the screening of Orphans of the Storm. Much appreciated.