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Mark Cousins On ‘What Is This Film Called Love,’ PJ Harvey, 'Prometheus' & “The Sadness Of Time Passing”

Photo of Jessica Kiang By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist July 14, 2012 at 12:33PM

Having seen and loved Mark Cousins’ almost unreviewably subjective “What Is This Film Called Love” on its international premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival last week (read about that experience here), we got to sit down with Cousins in person pretty much immediately afterwards. And it felt rather like walking straight back into the film we had just left: ‘What Is This Film’ is so unapologetically personal that it’s difficult to escape the feeling that, like him or not, you kind of know Cousins by the end of it.

What Is This Film Called Love
As something of an expert on Classical cinema now, how do you view technological developments like digital and 3D?
“First of all I would say that the art of cinema itself is at a very high level right now...I think 3D and digital haven’t changed cinema fundamentally, it is always going to be about the joys and sorrows of being alive. Right from first moment cinema had an impulse toward reality, and toward dreams, and it still does -- you still see very realistic work and very dreamlike work. So I would argue there hasn’t been a fundamental change in cinema, what has changed is how we watch it.”

A positive answer, but are there trends in current filmmaking you dislike?
“I hate the last acts in American cinema. Nearly always I feel as if [I wish] I’d walked out. The first 40 minutes of ‘Prometheus’ I thought was spectacular then it just piled on the plots too much. As Ozu said, as Cesare Zavattini, the great neo-realist said, ‘plot can become a bully,’ and strongarm the film in a certain direction. I like a bit of plot but it needs to be balanced within the narrative -- action and stasis is a balance that I love in cinema. So I wouldn’t say there’s a filmmaker that I hate, but there’s a tendency to overplot which I hate.”

And finally, you collaborate with Tilda Swinton on various art- and movie-related projects. What can we expect next?
"Each thing Tilda and I do is a one-off. We did the Ballerina Ballroom, we did that whole [mobile cinema driving through the Scottish Highlands], then we went to China and created a magical forest in the China Film Archive, and then we did a flash mob Laurel and Hardy dance. Each one is its own thing, each one is quite childlike in its approach, like a little experiment...We’ve been talking to some activists in Libya who want to bring some old cinemas back to life and have asked if we could help out, I’d love to maybe go and do that, and try and help local filmmakers and activists to create a filmgoing scene.”

Thanks for your time. And for your film, come to mention it.
“I didn’t think I’d be talking about it -- this is really the first time I’ve talked about ‘What Is This Film Called Love,’ so thank you. It’s really helpful for me to talk about the film.”

This article is related to: Mark Cousins, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, What Is This Film Called Love, Interviews

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