Written, directed and narrated by Mark Cousins, an off-beat grand tour that will take in landmarks and people connected to the producer’s life and films. Also starring: Debra Winger, Tilda Swinton and Rebecca O’Brien.
You only have to know very little about this documentary to know that it’s catnip for cinephiles, it has a clear target audience. Something which is intensified even more in the tone that it takes, it is the strongest of homages, utterly dedicated to celebrating its titular man. It’s a sweet quality but at the same time, it ultimately may be its downfall for some viewers. It’s extremely affectionate and adoring of Jeremy Thomas, which at a certain point feels like it’s tripping over itself to compliment him and that gets tired quite quickly. It feels indulgent and unnecessary, the adoration Mark Cousins has for Thomas is clear immediately, it would have been nice to see it take a step back and a wider view of his career rather than being so intensely up close.
For anyone not familiar with the name, you’ll likely be familiar with some of the titles he’s produced, including The Last Emperor and Crash. In that sense it does provide a more interesting perspective, when it goes away from Cousins’ praise to the opinions and experiences of Thomas’ colleagues, it’s an elite view into the world of producing. It’s not something that’s been explored much, with focus tending to always fall on the work of directors, so it gives a new angle to behind the scenes of filmmaking. Although if you’re not at all familiar with the oeuvre of Thomas, and plan to watch any of them, they will be spoiled for you but you can’t really blame them when a lot of the films it explores are over twenty years old, given that he’s been in the industry since 1976.
However, another difficulty it struggles with is pacing and forward movement, after a while it starts to feel repetitive, it’s hitting a very consistent tone throughout and it’s not the most entertaining combination. There’s not too much information to be learned so stretching it out to a 94-minute documentary does have its limitations. He has an undeniably impressive catalogue of work, he’s worked with a variety of different directors, writers, actors and clearly has made a memorable impression upon them. Regardless, it raises the question of whether that’s enough to fill an entire documentary without simply becoming a love letter from one fan to his idol, and sadly it feels like the answer is probably no, it’s not, interesting though it may be.
The style that it takes is a nice blend of talking heads and more handheld, in the action, which adds a nice context, switching from scenes with the man himself to more traditional talking heads. If the actual tone matched the variety of the visual style then it would likely be able to keep up a better pace. As it stands, it’s filmed well but is let down by repeatedly traveling the same terrain.
The Storms of Jeremy Thomas is a rare sneak peek into the world of filmmaking from a perspective other than a writer or director. It’s an unfaltering homage to Thomas and the work he’s done, if you weren’t aware that Mark Cousins was a fan of the producer before now, you certainly will be, soon after this documentary opens. Ultimately, it hits a repetitive tone and may provide a few interesting insights but it’s not enough to stop it feeling like it’s fawning over Thomas rather than giving a true look into his life and work.