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‘The Story of Film: An Odyssey’ review: Beauty, analysis behind cinematic innovation

Movies like M*A*S*H (1970) are examined in the

Movies like M*A*S*H (1970) are examined in the acclaimed documentary series "The Story of Film: An Odyssey," which begins streaming Friday on Hulu. Credit: TCM

WHEN | WHERE It begins streaming Friday on Hulu.


WHAT IT’S ABOUT This 15-hour (or 900-minute long) survey of the history of world cinema — produced and narrated by Irish film critic and historian Mark Cousins, also adapted from his 2004 book — first aired on Turner Classic Movies in 2011. Some basics: It was filmed around the world and features 1,000-plus film clips and dozens of interviews, including Stanley Donen, Norman Lloyd, Kyoko Kagawa, Gus Van Sant, Lars Von Trier, Wim Wenders, Bernardo Bertolucci, Paul Schrader, Robert Towne, Jane Campion and Claudia Cardinale.

MY SAY “The Story of Film” earned richly deserved plaudits during its initial run on TCM, but that doesn’t always mean this is easy viewing. Foremost, this is not “That’s Entertainment! Part 4.” Cousins has no interest in celebrating U.S. cinema, but enormous — indeed, obsessive — interest in celebrating cinematic innovation and art throughout the world (although Hollywood does get top billing).

Cousins narrates his own film, too, which has its pros and cons. He has a gentle Irish lilt and ends every line on an upbeat. That tricks the ear into thinking there’s a punch line coming. It’s a stylistic tic that takes getting used to.

His expansive survey can also be a little idiosyncratic. For example, Cousins says movies in Senegal during the ’70s were as exciting as those in Hollywood? Really? You’ll have to take his word for it.

The depth, breadth, beauty and analysis that’s here more than makes this all worthwhile.

BOTTOM LINE Definitely for cineastes, but for casual viewers, Hulu’s a good place to watch (because you can always fast-forward).

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