Following the massive 15-hour documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey, writer-director Mark Cousins continues his study of cinematic nuance in the sequel The Story of Film: A New Generation. This documentary dives into the most innovative moments in cinema over the last ten years in hopes of finding contemporaries to the film legends of the previous decades. As it progresses, Cousins seeks to expand your motion picture horizons and capture the essence of a decade defined by COVID, technology, and a new sense of identity. It’s like a visual novel on film studies, with Cousins acting as your guide.
The Story of Film: A New Generation highlights two critical aspects of film in the last decade. Part 1 focuses entirely on the extension of film language, breaking down the tropes, genres, and character traits of previous generations and expanding on how new generations have re-imaged these classic stories. Part 2 brings forth ideas of new genres and subversion of expectations. This chapter celebrates filmmaking’s surreal, avant-garde, and existential aspects in the 2010s through the 2020s. Cousins narrates through each example, emploring the audience to study each masterpiece of the new millennium and find meaning in these films beyond what they see.
“…dives into the most innovative moments in cinema over the last ten years…”
If the name did not give it away, The Story of Film: A New Generation is a movie for cinephiles from its opening title to its ending credits. Essentially the documentary feels like a massive collection of the best film video essays rolled into a nearly 3-hour package. The almost video essay format highlights the director’s meticulous study and genuine curiosity regarding artistic filmmaking. Cousins does an outstanding job transitioning and comparing each title represented. He easily flows from Frozen to Joker to Bollywood blockbusters and voyeuristic mockumentaries, providing an almost surgical analysis of how each shaped cinema.
Watching The Story of Film: A New Generation may be a challenging endeavor for the casual moviegoer. Cousins takes no time to explain technical jargon or spoonfeed his audience on the finer points of indie or international film. Instead, he leaps into the world of moviemaking with precision, keeping in mind the film fanatics who will devour this. As a result, the film is far more an admiration, almost a filmmaking museum, than a pop-culture-infused doc on the magic behind the movies.
However, a lack of flash or energy does nothing to detract from the sheer depth of film exploration present in The Story of Film: A New Generation. When Cousins discusses films like Mad Max: Fury Road or Parasite, cinephiles will enjoy his commentary. When reflecting on multi-layer-meta films like Slavko Martinov’s Propaganda, film fans and critics alike will start to take notes; I know I did.
"…film fans and critics alike will start to take notes..."