Mark Cousins' impressive overview of the last 100+ years in world cinema is both engaging and meticulously researched. Unlike the frustrating collective anthology "1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", "Story" is very much a personal project; as Cousins writes, his goal is to "open a door to the world of cinema and describe *a* reliable path through it" (emphasis mine). He's quick to point out that many beloved films and directors are missing from the text, and it seems pointless to try to quibble with his selections -- indeed, omissions seem inevitable in such a massive undertaking.
With that said, the book is not an entirely successful venture, primarily due to Cousins' frequent references to technological and stylistic innovations which the average reader (even the "intelligent general audience" member he appeals to) will find obscure, and which the more informed reader may quibble with. On page 482, for instance, he references "the unflattering honesty with which [Nan Goldin] films people and her habit of non colour-correcting sodium lighting" -- the majority of readers will have no idea what "sodium lighting" refers to, while photography buffs will argue that the available natural lighting Goldin relies on is likely tungsten, not sodium. Similarly, on pages 250-251, Cousins mentions that the lens used to film several sequences in Bresson's "Pickpocket" was "50 mm, which approximates human vision"; this estimation is only accurate for 35 mm still photography, but, more importantly, his point will likely be lost altogether on most readers. Ironically, I believe Cousins' explanations would benefit from *less* detail and more strategic scaffolding of the basic ideas he'd like to get across to interested readers.
Keeping in mind once again that Cousins very clearly stipulates that he's taking a "certain path" through world cinema, readers should note that many of the selections in his book will not necessarily be enjoyable to the average (again, even the average "intelligent") cinephile. Cousins' appreciation is more that of an art historian than a moviegoer. With that said, it's undeniably refreshing to see the more obscure gems of "third world" cinema given their due, even if most viewers will never find copies to rent.
In sum, this meticulously crafted book (albeit one full of typos, which should be addressed before a second printing) will excite and inspire most readers to watch -- and re-watch -- literally hundreds of diverse films. Years after taking my first film appreciation course in college, I've been reminded about the meta-narrative of movies over the ages, about how cinema often reflects diverse sociological concerns, and about how directors tend to build upon (or diverge from) their predecessors. It's an exciting story, and Cousins is a worthy, dedicated storyteller.