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The Story of Film - In the positive


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I really loved this first installment of this program. I have always been interested in how things began, where they started and how we got to where we are today. I have researched a lot of this stuff but, not nearly to the level of this presentation.

 

I don't normally go for silents but, within this context I am interested in watching some that are significant in the whole timeline of film.

 

I, for one am happy TCM decided to devote this month to this project. (I choose not to add to the negativity of some other thread)

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I agree with you. And those images are gorgeous! In addition to the history, I really appreciate the focus on film as art. Sometimes the pre-film chats of our beloved Robert and Ben get too involved in personalities. That can be interesting, but I prefer a more academic approach.

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I also found this a fascinating glimpse into the early history of cinema, and now am looking forward to watching the rest of this series.

 

The only thing I question is Mr. Cousins' assertion early on that Hollywood films and their frequent bent toward sentimentality, i.e. Romantic storylines and using the film "Casablanca" as an example to press his point, somehow disqualifies these films as "Classics".

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I think he is trying to press home the idea that Hollywood is not the only place good films were made. We know that.

 

Different movies serve different purposes. Those like Casablanca and Shanghai Express weren't trying to be real. They were escapist fantasies, and good ones too !

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Yes, and a point which he should have made. However, by that one(in my opinion over-)statement, I definitely got the idea that Mr. Cousins has a more Eurocentric mindset in this regard, and of which while I disagree with that statement of his, did not lessen my enjoyment of the first part of his film.

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Chapter 1 of this series was outstanding. Looking forward to Chapter 2 since it will cover the 1920's. Never expected it to be this good. Excellent work. This is one of the most in depth documentaries on film that I can remember. A tremendous effort.

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Cousins was using "Classical" in the sense of the philosophy of Classical Art and Classical form; how Hollywood has defined itself as THE classical form. Basically just a jab at the frequently encountered idea that film has to conform to those rules and appearances to be a "good film." But America wasn't the only country to produce films like that so I always find this a problematic criticism. Britain did (unless we count them as a Hollywood satellite), France produced them independently of American influence, Japan made films like that, most countries did to some extent. America may have had the heaviest influence, but it was never a one way street.

 

Using Yasujiro Ozu as an example of "truly classical" in comparison to Casablanca is correct in many ways but to me it yet again obscures the frequent formal play and irreverence in his films that actually make them quite odd and modern. Also, Ozu was a well known Hollywoodphile - he adored American films, especially Lubitsch. But I'll wait to see how Cousins addresses Ozu later in a couple of weeks.

 

I knew there would be some kind of shot at Griffith, which I didn't like. If anything I feel he's increasingly undervalued today. Of course, all the same the documentary still showed that Griffith was superior to his contemporaries. The proof is in the pudding (and that has been our position for a very long time now - he didn't necessarily invent, he codified and refined everything to its greatest extent up to that point.)

 

Pretty good so far, I just wish it was less ponderous. I wonder how Cousins tackles lighter subject matter with this heavy tone.

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Of course our viewpoint is going to be different because are a young nation compared to Japan or European cultures. We don't really have a classical, or you could say the twentieth century is our classic period for art. We don't have Shakespeare or Homer to compare our newer works against.

 

Just goes to show you that what we see as a film, others see are being so much more.

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Gagman, like you I enjoyed the first episode of *The Story of Film* very much and am curious to see how the series unfolds. The clear examples of different kinds of editing would be very useful for students in an Intro to Film course.

 

TCM festivalgoers had to love the shot of Grauman's Chinese and the attention to the Hollywood at Highland outdoor mall's recreation of some of the Babylon set of *Intolerance*.

 

Edited by: kingrat on Sep 3, 2013 7:11 PM

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I knew there would be some kind of shot at Griffith, which I didn't like. If anything I feel he's increasingly undervalued today.

 

The "shots" weren't so much aimed at Griffith as to the oversimplification of his legacy. No, he didn't invent closeups and such, but more than any filmmaker of his time -- and he made hundreds of films -- he popularized them. And had "The Birth Of A Nation" concluded with Lincoln's assassination and the families returning home to their respective sides, you still would have had an epic of about an hour-and-a-quarter, one you could show to audiences of any color today without fear of controversy.

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I must be the only one who was disappointed in this doc. The information was interesting, true, but there are a number of interesting film history video series. I found the narrator's style incredibly irritating, not because he has an accent but because his odd hissing style of enunciating and strange way of ending every sentence like it's a question and going from very soft to loud was a constant distraction from the content. The doc also seemed at times to be talking down to its audience, like we might be too provincial or racist to have ever seen Kurosawa or heard of Goddard, let alone anything really avant garde, and Cousins has to hit us over the head with his hyperbolic attitudes towards the obscure, as if loving "Casablanca" (to use his example; younger cinephiles might similarly sniff at "Titanic") means you aren't smart enough to also love more obscure fare. That's simply not the case and I don't need a sermon. The emphasis on foreign films is fine, since other film histories tend to concentrate mostly on Hollywood. There are a lot more foreign films and "art house" films on TCM these days, most of them ones I'm familiar with but some new ones, and this corrects a flaw with other film history series like "Moguls and Movie Stars" or "The Big Screen." But part one seemed unfocused and meandering to me and the narration finally made me turn it off. So here's one dissenter from the love fest!

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*MrWham said:*

*I must be the only one who was disappointed in this doc.*

 

No, you aren't. But the OP of the thread seemed to indicate that he only wanted favorable responses, which makes for a dull but agreeable thread I suppose.

 

I put my thoughts on the show here:

http://forums.tcm.com/message.jspa?messageID=8791399#8791399

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I finally started to watch Part I which I had recorded earlier. I lasted barely 5 mins or so. Like someone else stated, I couldnt stand the narrator, his accent and his pretentious opinions (I could see where it was going. I like this, therefore this is the correct opinion) I saw no need to torture myself further and deleted it from the dvr. I wont be watching other installments.....

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I liked a lot of this first program, especially the parts where the narrator told us how the different directors and cameramen gradually discovered that they could move the camera, movie it side to side and in close for close-ups, and how they discovered editing and fancy lighting.

 

It's still amazing to me that these things had to be "discovered" over a period of a couple of decades, before movies were fully "invented".

 

The program seems to be a little too Euro-centric for me, and that's probaby because this is a Scottish-British documentary, made in 2011 for a British and European audience.

 

Made by Hopscotch Films:

 

http://www.hopscotchfilms.co.uk/productions/

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2044056/

 

http://www.imdb.com/company/co0096239/?ref_=tt_dt_co

 

 

-------------------------------

 

Release Dates UK 3 September 2011

 

Canada 12 September 2011 (Toronto International Film Festival)

 

Also Known As (AKA) Finland Elokuvan tarina

 

Finland (Swedish title) Historien om film

 

Poland The Story of Film - odyseja filmowa

 

Sweden The Story of Film

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It's still amazing to me that these things had to be "discovered" over a period of a couple of decades, before movies were fully "invented".

 

If you consider that differentiated right and left shoes weren't invented until the early 1800s, the development of film moved at light speed in comparison.

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I found episode 2 last night a disappointment (I've yet to watch the first one). What I didn't care for was the forward projection into the future of the various inventions, innovations, etc. It's quite jarring to suddenly see footage from the 1950s, 2000s, or whenever, when you had been focused on the 1920s. Seems it would have been better if in later episodes they focus on how earlier innovations had led to ...whatever. And it would better justify the 1918-1928 part of the episode title.

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I think people are confused. Its not "The story of Hollywood" or "The story of American movies". While its obvious this narrator is on a mission to promote film making from around the world while at the same time sell short American films. Doesn't bother me a bit because I didn't watch this for the narrator. I watch this for the innovations and "the story of film". And that's all that matters to me.

 

I feel its refreshing to hear an opinion from outside of the norm. It reminds you of many of the issues with Hollywood in those days that we normally over look. Truth is truth and facts are facts. And they are there for anyone to expose.

 

And above all else he exposed me to many silent films I normally would not ever watch. I am not a silent film fan. I have trouble at times figuring out what's going on and the storyboards can be few and far in between. But, the concepts of light, shadow. The use of all sorts of angles and tricks that I never thought of makes this well worth my watching it.

 

I thought silent films were all Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and that's nice but, it doesn't keep my interest. These films discussed in the program look much more what I would like to see.

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*I think people are confused. Its not "The story of Hollywood" or "The story of American movies". While its obvious this narrator is on a mission to promote film making from around the world while at the same time sell short American films. Doesn't bother me a bit because I didn't watch this for the narrator. I watch this for the innovations and "the story of film". And that's all that matters to me.*

 

I am not confused by the intent, nor by the POV. Rather my problem is the execution. Let him do it chronologically, instead of interpolating what led to what 50-100 years later. Save it for later and focus on 1918-1928, NOT something that it would influence. THIS I do find condescending, as if we won't be able to connect the dots if he doesn't show them back to back to explain it to us.

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