Mark Cousins on What is this Film Called Love?

ICA Cinema

11 Feb 2013
What is this Film Called Love? opens on Friday 15 February with a special Q&A with director Mark Cousins.

Dear ICA movie goers

I once made a film, in the commentary of which I mistakenly referred to the ICA as the CIA. People thought I was being weird. Some probably think the same about What is this Film Called Love?, which I am delighted is playing at the ICA (haven’t received an invitation from the CIA yet, but I’m sure it’s on its way).

Certainly if you know my work from The Story of Film: An Odyssey, then you’ll notice a few differences. At 15 ½ hours, The Story of Film was one of the longest films ever made. What is this Film Called Love? is one of the cheapest. It cost just £5.80 to shoot. The Story of Film took 6 years, the new film took 3 days. The Story of Film is a history of the movies in which I don’t appear or use the word “I” in the commentary. In the new film, I appear a lot – we even see my willy at one point.

Why these differences? Firstly because after the discipline and seriousness of The Story of Film, I wanted to make something more punky – fast, exciting to shoot and cut, an ad lib. Secondly, whilst making The Story of Film I had (a) spent a lot of time on my own and (b) turned 40. I’d noticed time passing and wanted to make a film about that, and I’d tasted the bitter-sweetness of solitude, and wanted to make something cinematic, visual, emotional, and discrepant about that.

I’d started to have encounters with brilliant creative people: PJ Harvey, who provides great music for What is this film Called Love? (and who is quite a masculine presence in the film, which contrasts with my quite feminine presence); the brilliant painter Alison Watt, who provides the voice of the film; Simon Fisher Turner and Espen Jorgensen, whose lovely edgy soundescapes we use; my friend and producer Catherine Aitken; my editor Timo Langer; a great sound designer called Ali Murray; and a great designer and filmmaker Luca De Salvia. These people were like a jazz band for me. We improvised and ad libbed.

The resulting film is a swirl, I think. A dancy thing – the sorta film which’ll either leave you cold or make you want to get your arse out and dance, as I do in it. If you are in the right mood, it might even touch you with its sense of the ongoing moment, its love of Virginia Woolf, and Frank O’Hara’s line “I want to be at least as alive as the vulgar.”

There’s loads more about the film, its references and production methods at www.whatisthisfilmcalledlove.co.uk. Come along and be at least as alive as the vulgar. And get naked afterwards.

Mark Cousins
Twitter @markcousinsfilm

What is this Film Called Love? opens on Friday 15 February with a special Q&A with director Mark Cousins.

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