Mark Cousins is a truly lovely guy with such a deep love for cinema that it’s truly infectious. He first became known to the public when he took over from Alex Cox as the host of Moviedrome and later on the exceptional interview series Scene By Scene, which needs a DVD release badly. In the last decade or so he has turned his hand to being a filmmaker, with much-acclaimed documentaries like The Story of Film and I Am Belfast. He travels the world going to film festivals as both a featured filmmaker and a lover of cinema.
It therefore brings me no delight to admit that his first foray into “narrative filmmaking” is a dreary affair, and its problems start off pretty much immediately. It stars the singer Neneh Cherry, who is just wandering around Stockholm, Sweden. Not much else goes on. Through mostly narration, you learn about her past, a traumatic event that she is trying to overcome, and the grief that came out of it. The architecture of Stockholm also plays a key part in the film and in relation to the character Cherry plays.
The film was shot by Christopher Doyle, who is of course a master cinematographer, best known for his work with Wong Kar-Wai. Cousins and Doyle have worked together previously as well. The film is really an exercise in nice shots of the architecture of Stockholm and doesn’t really add up to much in the end. The shots they use aren’t actually as interesting as the filmmakers think they are, and it flashes in between different resolutions of high-definition video, which is really distracting and at times frankly ugly.
The running time really starts to drag around the 50-minute mark, at which point it starts feeling like the worse kind of Terrence Malick film imaginable. The project probably should have been a 30- to 40-minute short film—by dragging it out to feature length it loses any freshness. Hopefully Cousins, who has such a vast knowledge of cinema and good taste (though we don’t always agree on taste) will make something more satisfying in narrative filmmaking, because I believe he has it in him to do such a deed.
The disc by BFI has a series of featurettes detailing the making of the film, and a booklet with writing on the film from Ian Christie and Cousins himself.