Walker Art Center

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The Story of Film: An Odyssey, Parts 1–15

Directed by Mark Cousins

Part of The Story of Film: An Odyssey

Exhilarating for both cinephiles and the casual fan, The Story of Film: An Odyssey puts a unique, compelling, and—clocking in at 15 hours—epic spin on standard film histories. Film historian and director Mark Cousins traces the development of film worldwide, both as an art form and a popular pastime, shedding new light on Hollywood’s grand traditions and embracing filmmakers from all corners of the globe.

Each week from September 18 through December 30, a different part of the The Story of Film will be screened in the Walker’s Lecture Room. 2011, digital, 900 minutes total; 60 minutes each part.

September 18–23

Part 1: The Birth of a Great Art Form

Filmed in the very buildings where the first movies were made, this hour shows ideas and passion as the driving forces behind film, more so than money and marketing. It covers the very first movie stars, the close up shot, special effects, the creation of the Hollywood myth, along with a surprise: the women who were the greatest—and best-paid—writers in these early years.

September 25–30

Part 2: Movies in the Roaring Twenties

Star/directors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton made Hollywood a glittering entertainment industry. 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. The result of this battle for the soul of cinema: some of the greatest movies ever made.

October 2–7

Part 3: World Cinema in the 1920s

German Expressionism, Soviet montage, French impressionism and surrealism pushed the boundaries of film as passionate new movements. Less known are the glories of Chinese and Japanese films, and the moving story of a great, now-forgotten, movie star, Ruan Lingyu.

October 9–14

Part 4: The 1930s Talkies Upend Everything

Along with the advent of sound with film comes a host of new genres: screwball comedies, gangster pictures, horror films, westerns, and musicals. Director Howard Hawks was a master of most of them. During this period, Alfred Hitchcock hits his stride and French directors become masters of mood.

October 16–21

Part 5: World War II and a New, Daring Cinema

Starting in Italy, this episode moves to Hollywood to cover Orson Welles and chart the darkening of American film during the drama of the McCarthy era. Screenwriters Paul Schrader and Robert Towne discuss these years; and Singin’ in the Rain director Stanley Donen talks about his career.

October 23–28

Part 6: Sex and Melodrama in the ’50s

In the United States, it was James Dean, On the Waterfront, and glossy weepies; but movies in Egypt, India, China, Mexico, Britain, and Japan 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.

October 30–November 4

Part 7: Explosive Films of the Late ’50s and ’60s

The great movie star Claudia Cardinale talks about Federico Fellini; Lars von Trier describes his admiration for Ingmar Bergman; and Bernardo Bertolucci remembers his work with Pier Paolo Pasolini. French filmmakers plant a cinematic bomb with the New Wave that sweeps across Europe.

November 6–11

Part 8: Global Cinema in the Dazzling 1960s

In Hollywood, legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler reveals how documentary films influenced mainstream movies. Easy Rider and 2001: A Space Odyssey signal a new era in America cinema. Also featured are Roman Polanski, Andrei Tarkvosky, Nagisa Oshima, Mani Kaul, and the birth of Black (not colonialist) African cinema.

November 13–18

Part 9: American Cinema Matures in the Late ’60 and ’70s

Buck Henry, writer of The Graduate, reflects on movie satire. Paul Schrader talks about his existential screenplay for Taxi Driver. Robert Towne explores the dark ideas he wrote into Chinatown, and director Charles Burnett discusses Black American cinema.

November 20, 21, 23–25

Part 10: Seventies Movies that (Tried to) Change the World

Part 10 takes a look at Wim Wenders in Germany, Ken Loach in Britain, Pasolini in Italy, and the new Australian cinema. While the most moving films in the world were being made in Japan, even bigger, bolder questions were being asked in Africa and South America. The episode culminates with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s extraordinary, psychedelic The Holy Mountain—John Lennon’s favorite film.

November 27–December 2

Part 11. Groundbreaking American Blockbusters in the 1970s

Star Wars, Jaws, and The Exorcist gave rise to the multiplex, but they were also innovative; at the same time in India, world-famous movie star Amitabh Bachchan shows how Bollywood was also doing new things. Bruce Lee’s movies kick-started the kinetic films of Hong Kong, where master Yuen Woo-ping talks about his action movies and his wire fu choreography for The Matrix.

December 4–9

Part 12: Protest Movies of the 1980s

American director John Sayles talks about the years when brave filmmakers spoke truth to power. Chinese cinema blossomed before the Tiananmen Square crackdown. In the Soviet Union, the past wells up in astonishing films, and master director Krzysztof Kieslowski emerges in Poland.

December 11–16

Part 13: Nineties Film—a Surprise Golden Age

Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami rethinks movie-making and makes it more real. In Tokyo, Shinji Tsukamoto lays the ground for a bold new Japanese horror cinema. Also included is an interview in Paris with one of the world’s greatest directors, Claire Denis, and a journey to Mexico.

December 18–23

Part 14: Brilliant, Flashy, Playful movies of ’90s

Highlights include an examination of what was new in Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue and the edginess of the Coen Brothers. The writer of Starship Troopers and Robocop discusses irony in those films; and in Australia, Baz Luhrmann talks about Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge. Then a plunge into the digital world changes movies forever.

December 26–30

Part 15: Movies Come Full Circle

Things get more serious after 9/11, and Romanian cinema comes to the fore. David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive becomes one of the most complex dream films ever made, and Inception turns cinema into a game. In Moscow, an interview with master director Alexander Sokurov delves into his innovative works. The Story of Film moves forward to envision movies in the future.


The Premieres series is made possible by generous support from Elizabeth Redleaf.

Media partner