Last night I saw a documentary about films around the world which deal with the topic of childhood. First of all, here’s the review I posted at rinema.
Fascinating, if flawed
Mark Cousins is something of a divisive figure. No one can doubt his enthusiasm or expertise when it comes to cinema, but I think here he makes a couple of classic mistakes which somewhat spoil what could have been an otherwise great documentary. His idea to use footage of his own family as a starting point, analysing how children behave in front of a video camera, is a great idea, although he relies a little too heavily on it. His choice of movies is very interesting too. What irritates is the way he attempts to analyse them and impose meanings. He often can’t resist the temptation to simply describe what we can already see for ourselves is happening in the images. And he gives the directors too much credit for things over which they can’t reasonably have had any control. As if it were a deliberate aesthetic choice to have the sky be blue in a given shot.
The main strength of this movie is simply the amount of clips from amazing-looking movies, most of them pretty obscure. The film’s official website lists them all in full, and I’m already trying to track some of them down on DVD. So in that sense I guess you can say Cousins has done his job.
As per the last lines of the review, I spent this morning trying to track down DVDs of some of the amazing movies featured in the documentary, helped by the comprehensive list posted on the film’s official website. I managed to find three of them (one Dutch, one Swedish, one Senegalese) on amazon, and then hit a dead end. I was particularly keen to find the Danish classic “Palle alone in the world”, but it seems to be completely unavailable, which is a crying shame considering what I saw of it last night. Although I did find the site of an organisation which campaigns for the release of obscure films, and they had this one on their list. Ditto the Czech film “Long live the revolution”.
It’s good every now and then to be reminded that most of the culture on offer in cinemas, book and music shops only represents the tiniest fraction of what’s actually available. And in terms of cinema especially it’s worth remembering that 75% of box office takings in Europe come from American films, so this film promoting work from the whole history of cinema and all the continents of the globe was a breath of fresh air.