I’ve just completed a movie that was made like a 20-year-old might. It’s lo-fi, bedroom art. Amateur. Shot for a tenner. Experimental like first films often are, adolescently in love with shots and cuts. Stuffed—overstuffed—with influences and thoughts, like a film made in the 1920s, when cinema was still young. Plus it’s about me, so it’s self-centered too, a classic trope of young work. Instead of taking stock, or moving forwards in a career path kind of way, I’ve jumped backwards.
I shot What Is This Film Called Love? in three days, in Mexico City, without a budget, crew, script, schedule, equipment or even a plan to shoot anything. I was supposed to do nothing for three days but, instead, I walked for 45 miles, imagining that I was chatting to the great director Sergei Eisenstein, who had some of his best ideas about happiness and art in Mexico in the 1930s. I filmed the city, myself, kids, animals and street life. I lay in bed, got drunk, listened to music and filmed the whole shebang.
The camera I used cost a hundred quid. If I’d been born a generation earlier, the chances are that I wouldn’t have gotten within smelling distance of filmmaking. But now, the most popular art is also among the most meritocratic.
After decades in film, I now have the confidence to make something amateur. I no longer feel the need to look or sound professional. Nor am I afraid of making something with nakedly personal emotions in it. Over the years I’ve gathered notebooks full of ideas and influences and never quite known what to do with them. In music it’s cool to talk about the bands you listen to, but in film people often hide that kind of thing in order, maybe, to make their work seem more original. This is wrong, and so I am happy to admit that my film is full of the influence of Virginia Woolf, Sergei Eisenstein, Norman MacCaig, Frank O’Hara, PJ Harvey, Simon Fisher Turner and Joan Didion. Quite a brew! I’m scared to think of how people will react to What Is This Film Called Love? (I’m expecting two-star reviews) and this fear is exciting, like a fairground ride.
Mark Cousins is a filmmaker, author, curator and wanderer. He was a BBC TV presenter for five years and was director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
WHAT IS THIS FILM CALLED LOVE?
England, 2012, 78m
Director/writer: Mark Cousins