What is This Film Called Love? (4 stars)

What is This Film Called Love?

Mark Cousins’ charming, witty and very personal film about travel, film and Mexico City

Filmmaker, broadcaster, writer, former EIFF artistic director and the festival’s latest patron Mark Cousins’ new film is a supreme piece of self-indulgence. Finding himself grounded in Mexico City for three days, Cousins, who by his own admission can’t bear to be inactive, hits on the perverse idea of doing nothing during his stay in the largest city in the western hemisphere. He soon modifies that to undertaking a walking tour and doing a bit of people-watching. Then he has a dream about one of his heroes, the Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein (who once visited and was beguiled by Mexico City), and decides to take Eisenstein along with him, in spirit and in the form of a laminated photograph, which Cousins ruminates to about, variously, filmmaking, history and the modern world. Having turned doing nothing into doing quite a lot (the walking tour will turn out to be 16 miles long on the first day), Cousins decides to film the whole thing. Subsequently, he intercuts the new footage with other recent footage he took while visiting Eisenstein’s Moscow and travelling around North America with his girlfriend, where, in Monument Valley, he gets his kit off and clambers about the buttes made famous by John Ford stark bollock naked.

As I say, What is This Film Called Love? is supremely self-indulgent. And why not? As Cousins says at the outset, he made the film as an ‘ad lib’ during three days off work following six long years making his exhaustive world cinema history The Story of Film. What is This Film Called Love? is everything The Story of Film is not: it’s fun, cheeky and daft, and it’s personal, emotional and a bit sad. And it’s got Cousins in almost every scene and Cousins (or a female surrogate) narrating almost every scene. In keeping with a film that was largely made up on the hoof it veers and swerves from being cute and charming to rude and crude to witty and wise to pretentious and ridiculous. But, perhaps thanks to some judicious editing decisions made back home in Edinburgh, there’s more going on in these 77 short minutes than you get in several hours of cinema/travel film and television programming. And that isn’t a dig at The Story of Film.

Showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival, Tue 26 & Sat 30 Jun.

Film Trailer: What Is This Film Called Love

What Is this Film Called Love?

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • Mexico / US / UK / Canada / Germany
  • 1h 17min
  • Directed by: Mark Cousins

A supremely self-indulgent film in which filmmaker Mark Cousins takes his imaginary companion Sergei Eisenstein on a walking tour of Mexico City. Made on a whim after being grounded in the city for three days, Cousins creates a film that is cheeky, fun, personal and a bit sad.

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