A love like no other: What Is This Film Called Love?
by Laurence Boyce
04/07/2012 - After spending more than six years working on the epic 15-hour documentary The Story Of Film, director Mark Cousins found himself dealing with an increasingly rare commodity in his life: free time. With three days in Mexico City to kill, Cousins takes his mobile phone and begins to make a film. Wandering across the city, he muses on his hero Eisenstein (who had spent time in the city many years before), the nature of ecstasy and the pain of leaving. Across the way he films anything that catches his eye (including a gaggle of delighted children and a procession displaying Pope John Paul II’s body). Soon, other footage from Cousins’ other trips is introduced and the film becomes as much a treatise on the nature of identity as it is on the power of cinema. Oh, and he finds some time to walk in the Valley of the Gods in the nude.
In creating his abstract film essay, Cousins has set himself up for accusations of indulgence. What Is This Film Called Love? certainly is indulgent, but this is partly what makes it so joyful and engaging. Cousins is playing with the form of cinema – with an elliptical and shambling narrative and a constant stream of images and montages – while trying to understand just what it is that makes us tell stories and, just as importantly, what makes us empathise with them. It’s often funny (including a deadpan pronouncement that “Walt Disney turned out to be a bit of an arse”,), sometimes moving and – at its best – utterly thought-provoking. It’s a film made with love and passion and – even when it’s at its most rambling and abstract – the inherent spirit of freedom and joy makes it a wonderful experience.
With Cousins earning enormous good will internationally for The Story of Film, it should prove a popular festival hit though only the most adventurous distributors would pick up it for a theatrical run (though a limited UK theatrical release seems assured). But it should find a loyal and devoted audience, and deservedly so.