“I was determined not even to make a film about cinema, but this one came out of daydreaming, out of not filming. Seamus Heaney says inspiration is a ball kicked in from nowhere, and it felt like ‘A Story of Children and Film’ was just that.”
‘A Story of Children and Film’, a documentary directed by Mark Cousins in 2013, is a sequel of sorts to his epic fifteen hour ‘The Story of Film’. As its title suggests, Cousins short movie focuses on the depiction of children on the big screen and uses clips from films as diverse as Truffaut’s ‘The 400 Blows’ to Yasujirō Ozu’s ‘An Inn in Tokyo’. As a framing device, Cousins films his own niece and nephew as they play in his living room. Their actions, at times co-operative and at times fractious, recall moments from cinema around the world and, in turn, create sections for the film, freewheeling between the different themes that the presence of children on screen help develop. Cousin’s earlier documentary was the main inspiration for this blog, watching it made me realise that although I have a doctorate in film, I had seen few of the movies he’d referenced, especially from places other than American and the UK. This second film therefore expanded the list of films I’m hunting down, but also reinforced my motivation for watching them. Cousins has the ability to tie the cinema of different countries together, ‘The Story of Film’ used the chronological development of technology and public taste to connect the films together, but in this later movie he moves away from a chronological approach demonstrating the timeless and location-less preoccupations and quirks of childhood. Cousins is a liberal and progressive internationalist (as his reaction to Brexit on social media demonstrates), and shows how cinema can be a way of uniting disparate countries regardless of differences in politics, culture or religion, but also helping the viewer dig beneath the surface of the films and to explore how they engage with the universal aspects of human nature. In the end, this documentary has given me an even broader list of movies to seek out.
Would I recommend it? Yes – and watch ‘The Story of Film’ as well. To suggest a double bill would be rather pointless – a number of the films I’ve seen recently would fit: ‘The 400 Blows’, Tarkovsky’s ‘Mirror’, Victor Erice’s ‘The Spirit of the Beehive’ or Vigo’s ‘Zero for Conduct’, but in the end I think this should be watched alone.