Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What is This Film Called Love (Mark Cousins) at Belfast Film Festival

Stuck in Mexico City for an unexpected three day layover while promoting his epic fifteen hour documentary The Story of Film, filmmaker Mark Cousins decided – in the middle of a press-up – to go out and make a film.

He took with him the laminated photograph of Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein. Walking fifteen or so miles a day, he pounded the pavements of the bustling city like a melancholic flâneur, exploring it with Sergei, and filming only using his pocket Flip camera.

I talked to Mark after the tonight’s screening at the Belfast Film Festival, appropriately filming him using a Flip camera (for the second time) to find out how his limited equipment had influenced his ad hoc film.

A male and a female voice talk over the shaky pictures taken by Mark as he marches all around the city. Sometimes he’ll stop for a rest and a drink. Sometimes the camera will rest on some facet of nature and stare for a minute or two.

With a fixed wide angle lens, a short battery life and only a built in mic, the Flip camera is limited to just two kinds of shots – wobbly and stable – depending on whether a tripod was used.

The voiceovers are fabulously detailed, referencing poetry and history as well as musing on the meaning of ecstasy. While the slow pace of the film grated at the start, I relaxed into the easy going, free-flowing narrative and warmed to the peculiar plot-less tale.

What is This Film Called Love has flashbacks galore – and flashbacks within flashbacks – along with dreams and at least three twists in the last ten minutes of the film.

Shot in three days without a thought-out plan, and edited in just nine days, the 77 minute film is a remarkable example of what you can achieve if you give a creative mind a camera and the space to think. Film buffs will love the auditory and visual references to classic movies and soundtracks. You can read more about the editing process on the film’s website and read through the storyboard that Mark crafted and (re)sorted on A6 index cards.

Sitting in the soft QFT seats watching Mark and Sergei take a gander around Mexico City, I remembered a weekend in September when I spent long periods walking through Boston city centre and over the bridge to Cambridge to wander around MIT. Fond memories of being solitary in a city, of having time to think and read and watch. Memories shattered as I returned home from the QFT to hear the news of explosions and the unfolding tragedy at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in a city I grew to love so quickly.

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