If you’re familiar with a certain streak of transgressive independent cinema, you’re likely familiar with the films of the producer Jeremy Thomas, even if you don’t know his name: Jonathan Glazer’s “Sexy Beast,” Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor,” Nagisa Oshima’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” with David Bowie, and several works byDavid Cronenberg and Nicolas Roeg, including Cronenberg’s controversial adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1973 novel “Crash.”
Thomas is, by all accounts, a filmmaker’s producer, and his dedication to pushing the envelope of big-screen entertainment is the focus of Mark Cousins’s latest documentary, “The Storms of Jeremy Thomas.”
Cousins, the man behind the behemoth documentary series on the history of cinema, “The Story of Film,: An Odyssey,” seems more than determined to make Thomas into a household name.
Presented as a road movie, “The Storms of Jeremy Thomas” follows the two men as they wind their way through France toward the Cannes Film Festival, where Thomas is promoting his latest project, Takashi Miike’s 2019 crime thriller “First Love.” Cousins presents the audio of his interviews with Thomas over footage of their travels — in subject-focused chapters titled “Sex,” “Politics,” and the like — edited together with clips from the films Thomas has produced and a plethora of other cinematic references and influences.
The whole effort comes across more as an advertisement for Thomas’s genius — and Cousins’s obsession with him — than a true portrait of a discerning producer of outsider cinema. Even Tilda Swinton, a star of the Thomas-produced Jim Jarmusch film “Only Lovers Left Alive,” can only offer platitudes, characterizing Thomas as a “storm” within the industry.
You may come away from “The Storms of Jeremy Thomas” thinking of him as a fascinating man, but perhaps not as the cinematic prince that Cousins insists on crowning him.
The Storms of Jeremy Thomas
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. In theaters.