Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Story of Children and Film

GB 2013. P: Adam Dawtrey, Mary Bell. D+SC: Mark Cousins. DP: Marc Bénoliel. ED: Timo Langer. Non-fiction. 101 min
    DCP from The Festival Agency
    Screener dvd viewed at home
    First festival screening at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 20 Sep 2014

HIFF Catalogue, quoting Peter Debruge (Variety): "Having paved the way two years ago with his 15-hour cine essay The Story of Film (and before that, the handsome coffeetable volume of the same name), film critic-cum-director Mark Cousins returns with a 100-minute companion piece focused entirely on the depiction of kids onscreen, a (…) captivating spinoff A Story of Children and Film. This latest collage of film clips and personal footage shares the earlier project’s principal virtue – namely, its capacity to enrich casual moviegoers’ way of consuming cinema – as well as its harmless little idiosyncrasies."

"One part evangelist for the noble cause of humanist cinema, the other part giddy teenager itching to share the most esoteric selections on his iPod playlist, Cousins seizes this opportunity to introduce auds to some of his favorite international films and filmmakers, (…) using the common thread of children to tie everything together."

"Cousins appeals to his audience’s sense of poetry, not logic, offering the slenderest of connections between films. (…) [He] includes less of the canon than one might expect, creating room for discovery. Even the most dedicated cinephile is sure to come away with one or two new titles to add to the old Netflix queue." Peter Debruge, Variety quoted in the HIFF Catalogue

"Movies are like kids. Kids are like movies." This is the thesis of Mark Cousins in his new work, in which he contemplates the vision of Vincent Van Gogh, stays at home with the kids of his sister, wanders about the landscapes of the United Kingdom, and launches a chain of cinematic associations around themes of - the child's look (the look on a child's face) - class - performance - viewpoint - the joy of destruction - adventure - loss - the flight of the balloon - and dreaming.

This is an approach essential to all artistic creativity: seeing everything anew and taking nothing for granted. But a further thesis of Cousins is that no art has loved children more than film.

This film is an essay based on a montage of clips across the history of the cinema everywhere around the world. Cousins is delighted to make discoveries and display clips from India, Iran, Burkina Faso, and Albania, always worthwhile, always too little known in the West. He is equally delighted to juxtapose them with obvious examples like E.T., The Kid, and Les quatre cents coups. A concrete result is that I realize that I need to see more Iranian films such as Willow and the Wind and The Boot, and the work of the Albanian artist Xhanfise Keko.

Another concrete result is that the film inspires me to create lists of my own, perhaps more obvious selections such as - I bambini ci guardano - Ladri di biciclette - Por primera vez - Seryozha - Pojat - Astrid Lindgren films in Sweden - Jacques Feyder's Gribiche and Crainquebille (both with Jean Forest) - the many child stars of the early cinema, often with special series of their own, starting perhaps with the Willy series at Éclair - continuing in the Our Gang series - the cinema of independent Finland starting with Ollin oppivuodet - Det stora äventyret - Treasure Island and Jackie Cooper - not forgetting Freddie Bartholomew - street child stories staring with Putyovka v zhizn and Wild Boys of the Road - Gerhard Lamprecht and Die Unehelichen - the Holocaust stories: The Search, Unszere Kinder, Au revoir les enfants - Louisiana Story - Goodbye My Lady - Fritz Lang: M - Alice in den Städten - the contemporary child soldier stories - Bimal Roy: Do bigha zamin / Two Acres of Land - Germania anno zero - Maurice Tourneur: The Blue Bird - Herbert Brenon: Peter Pan - the Mary Pickford phenomenon (masterpieces still too little known) (but Mary Pickford was a grown-up who became a star by playing a child) - The Window - The Man Who Knew Too Much - Pocahontas - Jungle Book - Little Red Devils - The Three Godfathers - Trois hommes et un couffin - The Fallen Idol - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Henry Spofford III). --- Obviously, Cousins has left out Umarete wa mita keredo / I Was Born, But... and selected other great Japanese films from the 1930s. --- He has selected Katok i skripka and not Ivanovo detstvo from Tarkovsky.

The Finnish selection in A Story of Children and Film is from the non-fiction official travelogue Finlandia (1922) by Erkki Karu - a screening print of which has not existed since generations (we were not able to screen Finlandia in our extensive Erkki Karu retrospective this year), although a reconstruction is now being planned. The unassembled footage of the film has survived. It has been preserved and made available for viewing, and Peter von Bagh selected for Helsinki Forever the clip that Cousins uses here.


Vincent Van Gogh - children, Laura and Ben, at play at Mark's home - THAT WEARY BLANK LOOK - Yellow Earth (Chen Kaige, CN 1984) - E.T. (Steven Spielberg, US 1982) - Children of the Wind (Hiroshi Shimizu, JP): shyness - An Angel at My Table (Jane Campion, AU), a Jane Campion close-up - Ghatashraddha (Girish Kasaravalli, IN 1977) - SOCIAL CLASS: - Katok i skripka (Andrei Tarkovsky, SU 1961) - Freedom is Paradise (Sergei Bodrov, SU 1989) - Los olvidados (Luis Buñuel, MX 1950) - Great Expectations (David Lean, GB 1946) - An Inn in Tokyo (Yasujiro Ozu, JP 1935) - The Boot (Mohammad-Ali Talebi, IR 1993) - The White Balloon (Jafar Panahi, IR 1995) - after shyness drops children start to open up on camera - PERFORMING KIDS: - Fanny och Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, SE 1982) - Curly Top (Irving Cummings, US 1935 - Shirley Temple) - Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, US 1944), the film is spellbound by Margaret O'Brien - Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, US 2012), childhood as proscenium - Tomka and His Friends (Xhanfise Keko, AL 1977) - The First Movie (Mark Cousins, GB 2009): Irakian footage - The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun (Djibril Diop Mambety, SN 1999), invalids, dancing - The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, US 1955) - Hugo och Josefin (Kjell Grede, SE 1967) - Crows (Dorola Kedzierzawska, PL 1994) - Kauwboy (Boudeijn Koole, NL 2012) - Kes (Ken Loach, GB 1969), shyness melts away - Freedom is Paradise (Sergei Bodrov, SU 1989) - Moving (Shinji Somai, JP 1993) - Nobody Knows (Hirokazu Koreeda, JP 2004) - Yaaba (Idrissa Ouedraogo, BF 1989) - CHILD'S POINT-OF-VIEW, FRAMING: - A Mouse in the House (Hanna & Barbera, US 1947) - Gasman (Lynne Ramsay, GB 1998), disjecta membra - Long Live the Republic (Karel Kachyna, CZ 1965) - Ten Minutes Older (Herz Frank, LV 1978), the scary thing out of frame - El espíritu de la colmena (Víctor Erice, ES 1973), the child and the monster - Frankenstein (James Whale, US 1931) - Yellow Earth (Chen Kaige, CN 1984) - Willow and Wind (Mohammad-Ali Talebi, IR 1999, SC: Abbas Kiarostami) - The Unseen (Miroslav Janek, CZ 1996) - THE DESIRE OF BREAKING UP THINGS - Big Business (Leo McCarey, US 1929, Laurel & Hardy) - Zéro de conduite (Jean Vigo, FR 1933) - Jeux interdits (René Clément, FR 1952) - Two Solutions for One Problem (Abbas Kiarostami, IR 1975) - school as a microcosm - Alyonka (Boris Barnet, SU 1961) - DARING - Finlandia (Erkki Karu, FI 1922) - Long Live the Republic (Karel Kachyna, CZ 1965) - Les quatre cents coups (Francois Truffaut, FR 1959) final shot - A Hometown in Heart (Yoon Yong-Kyu, KR 1949) - Hugo och Josefin (Kjell Grede, SE 1967), the bicycle - E.T. (Steven Spielberg, US 1982), the bicycle - Palle Alone in the World (Astrid Henning-Jensen, DK 1949), approaching the Moon - The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, US 1955), swamp odyssey at night - I Wish (Hirokazu Koreeda, JP 2011) - Moving (Shinji Somai, JP 1993) - Willow and Wind (Mohammad-Ali Talebi, IR 1999, SC: Abbas Kiarostami), the glass fits, the hammer has remained on the floor, the danger - Palle Alone in the World (Astrid Henning-Jensen, DK 1949), alone in the city - An Angel at My Table (Jane Campion, AU), a different sense of language - The Bill Douglas Trilogy: My Childhood (Bill Douglas, GB 1972), he listens to a different beat, the train brings the future - THE BALLOON - Le Ballon rouge (Albert Lamorisse, FR 1956) - The Yellow Balloon (J. Lee Thompson, GB 1953), playing in ruins, tragedy, now even the balloon is heavy - Melody for a Street Organ (Kira Muratova, UA 2009) - LOSS - E.T. (Steven Spielberg, US 1982), Spielberg works a lot at loss - The Kid (Charles Chaplin, US 1921) - Moving (Shinji Somai, JP 1993), the fire festival, "don't leave me alone" - DREAMING - The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, US 1955) - Emil und die Detektive (Gerhard Lamprecht, DE 1931), visual effects of Emil's visions - The Newest City in the World (Xhanfise Keko, AL 1974), the dreamer climbs - Long Live the Republic (Karel Kachyna, CZ 1965), the dream world - Zerkalo (Andrei Tarkovsky, SU 1977), the track forward, the dream world - REPLAY: - Ghatashraddha - An Inn in Tokyo - The Boot - Meet Me in St. Louis - Crows - Willow and Wind - Zéro de conduite - A Hometown in Heart - Melody for a Street Organ - The Newest City in the World - The White Balloon: retrieving the money bill from the sewer with chewing gum attached to a stick - the cinema just twelve decades old - a child - no art form has loved kids more than film - children change so fast - movies are good at capturing that - movies are like kids - kids are like movies. - Advisor and researcher: Neil McGlone. - Copyright BFI/BofA Productions 2013.

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