You can acquaint a lot about Mark Cousins from his tattoos. The Edinburgh-based, Belfast-born presenter, analyzer and film-maker, whose abundantly anapestic A Story of Accouchement and Blur has aloof premiered to best reviews at Cannes, has accoutrements inscribed with words. There’s “Forough” on his right. That’s Forough Farrokhzad, “the aboriginal abundant Iranian blur director,” he says. “Her The House Is Black is one of the greatest movies anytime made.” On his left there’s “Le Corbusier”, the French architect; and “Eisenstein”, the Russian administrator about whom he afresh fabricated a blur while adventure a three-day baggage through Mexico City.
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Then, on the central of his larboard arm, are the words “the oar and the winnowing fan”. This is a advertence to Homer: Odysseus is told by the astrologer Tiresias that, afterwards he alcove home, he charge set out on addition journey, accustomed an oar, until he comes to a abode area the citizenry accept no ability of the sea and aberration it for a winnowing fan. It is this mistaking of one affair for addition that leads us to the apple of metaphor, of dreams, of poetry. Cousins’s artistic acclamation is accounting on his body.
In A Story of Accouchement and Film, he leads us on an adventure about his imagination. One day in February, his niece and nephew Laura and Ben were blockage with him, and he filmed them in his advanced allowance as they played, blithe about with plastic tubes and marbles. “I anticipation annihilation would appear of it,” he says. “Then you ball it back, and attending at all the tiny details, and think: ‘Wow!'” Blur has a knack, he says, of addition – of “making the moment more than it seems”.
Those 12 account became a “little bedrock basin in which I was seeing so abounding things”. In the footage of Laura and Ben, he begin dozens of ancestry appropriate of accouchement in the movies: they were playful, destructive, daring, adventurous, watchful, performative. At one point, their grandmother pads through, her head out of attempt – a admonition of the absence, or near-absence, of adults in many of the best children’s stories. At the end, Ben blithely topples over a tower.
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Cousins, now 47, bound mapped out a plan for a blur essay, application his footage as a way into his own favourite scenes of accouchement in the movies, cartoon from abstract such as Kes, ET, Fanny and Alexander, Abundant Expectations and Meet Me in St Louis; but additionally from works that will be discoveries for abounding admirers – the 1974 Albanian blur The Newest City in the World, for example; or the 1922 blur Finlandia by Erkki Karu. Then there’s Palle Abandoned in the World, the adorable 1949 Danish blur by Astrid Henning-Jensen, in which a boy wakes up to acquisition that all the grownups accept disappeared, abrogation him to drive Copenhagen’s trams and alike fly a spaceship.
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Cousins’s aftertaste is absolutely international: the films he quotes additionally appear from Iran, Burkina Faso, China and Japan. A key assignment for him was Ten Account Older, Herz Frank’s deceptively simple 10-minute blur from Latvia in which a novel’s account of affections (“the abhorrence and admiration of childhood,” as Cousins puts it) ball over a boy’s face. Gently, aloft and about these clips, Cousins’s adapted Northern Irish articulation leads us through his selections: a agenda on the bend of a child’s face here, a acknowledgment on a colour palette or camera bend there.
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The blur curlicues through its material. “Usually,” says Cousins, “when my editor and I accomplish a film, we accomplish a timeline and stick that on the wall. This time, I took a reproduction of one of my favourite paintings of Mont Sainte-Victoire by Paul Cézanne and ashore that on the wall. I was absorbed in authoritative article that wasn’t linear, wasn’t a alley movie. We were authoritative a blur of altered colours.”
His best acknowledged antecedent blur is actual abundant a alley movie: 2011’s The Story of Film, a 15-hour documentary that took him about the apple in following of a adventures of the art form. Cousins has been authoritative films for ages, but it’s in these accomplished brace of years, one feels, that he has absolutely begin his voice. A axis point was his 2009 blur about accouchement in Kurdish Iraq, The Aboriginal Movie. “We couldn’t get a administrator of photography to come, because they were all too feartie,” he says. So he attempt it himself, application the tiny handheld camera that he now takes everywhere.
Even actuality in Cannes, he has attempt about 20 account of addition blur essay, about Orson Welles. “What I acclimated to abhorrence about filming is that I’d appetite to get up afore aurora in Calcutta and blur the sunrise. But you’d accept to go animadversion on the aperture of the administrator of photography, who’s sleeping, and say, ‘Please can you get up?’ This tiny camera, no bigger than a adaptable phone, has become like a pen, he says: he can assignment alone, with the abandon of a book essayist. “Now is the time of the article film: that way of demography an abstraction for a walk. Aloof as the 1990s was the era of the Dogme manifesto, I anticipate addition – maybe I – should address a acclamation for the film-essay form.”
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What’s missing from so abundant blur of the moment, he says, “even Iron Man 3, which I enjoyed, is ideas”. Is it too abundant to apprehend account from Iron Man 3? “No, it isn’t. Cinema is so ablaze at so abounding things. It’s a multiverse. It can accept action, explosions, ball – and ideas. You watch so abounding Hollywood films with things exploding or morphing into aggregate else, and with all that ‘everything’ there is nothing.”
There is a accurate quality, as anyone who goes to the cinema knows, to how accouchement behave in advanced of the camera: article unselfconscious and ungovernable. Films, argues Cousins, can aback truths about adolescence that alike the best abstract can’t match, aback the scenes “are co-authored in some agency by the kids. They accompany their own agency. It’s accurate of alike actual authoritative admiral like Steven Spielberg: you see him activity with what the adolescent is accomplishing in ET.”
He adds: “When you attending at kids in absolute activity or in cinema, you realise that, because they haven’t absolutely formed out the way they are declared to be, it agency they can mix up emotions. They are not abashed of bawl or arrant aloof because they appetite article – and switching it off and axis at already to laughter. They don’t feel they accept to beard the dishabille of those emotions. It’s not aloof that we affectation and they don’t – they are faster in their feelings, I think.”
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Here Cousins comes to what is the capital anticipation of the film: that accouchement and movies (a active art form, afterwards all) are in some axiological way similar. “Children’s affections are like blur edits: they cut to about absolutely different. Walter Benjamin and Virginia Woolf allocution about this: if you appetite to say something, say not the affair itself, but the adjoining thing. I knew that if I capital to allocution about children, I would allocution about cinema; and if I capital to allocution about cinema, I would allocution about kids.” We are aback to the oar and the winnowing fan, to the abode in Cousins’ arch area one affair is translated into another, and balladry springs out.
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