Sight & Sound: the December 2017 issue

Robert Pattinson roams a rotten Big Apple in the Safdie brothers’ heist drama Good Time; plus Sean Baker’s The Florida Project; Dee Rees’s Mudbound; Gloria Grahame, Annette Bening and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool; and William Friedkin on Sorcerer at 40.

In print and digital from 6 November 2017. Log in / sign up, subscribe or buy a print issue.

“The Safdies make movies set in the particular New York City where your ceiling almost caves in on your girlfriend and your landlord calls you a Jew.” So says Nick Pinkerton in a summary of what Josh Safdie tells him about the authenticity of the brothers’ new thriller Good Time, which stars Robert Pattinson as Connie Nikas, the smarter half of a not very smart bank heist duo. After the heist goes wrong and Connie’s learning disabled brother and partner Nick has been arrested, Connie spends the rest of a frazzled night moving from one goof-up to the next, all the time evading the cops. 

Pinkerton evokes the film by teasing out the specific geography of the shoot and the research materials that led to such a vividly fractured long night’s journey into day and that also amounts to a complete change of approach for our cover star Pattinson. “There’s still this public perception of him as a pretty vampire,” says Josh Safdie. “He was worried about that. So he had to learn on his feet, to carry himself like Connie to avoid the embarrassment of his own insecurities.”

Good Time is our cover feature but, just between us, our new issue is secretly a US Indie Special, featuring two more slice-of-American-life dramas – we didn’t want to shout about it, it’s all part of the service.

Which is perhaps what the Magic Castle motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) might say in Sean Baker’s unsettling portrait of the city of Orlando’s hidden homeless, The Florida Project. Not that Dafoe is the star, any more than bright newcomer Bria Vinaite is as Hailey, a vivacious but down-at-heel motel resident. No, that title belongs to six-year-old Brooklyne Prince playing Hailey’s daughter Moonee, about whom Baker says, “I can’t even imagine this film without Brooklyne – this is her movie. And the fact that it’s still happening… We were meeting kids Brooklyne’s age who had grown up their entire lives in motels.”

Searing in a different way is the post-World War II Mississippi set rural drama Mudbound, the new feature by rising star director Dee Rees that fizzes with terrific performances, not least from singer Mary J. Blige as the matriarch of a black sharecropping family. They inherit new white masters when Henry McAllen (Jason Clarke) buys the farm, with both families soon receiving back war veterans (Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund) determined to challenge the status quo. “Without the language to articulate their trauma,” says contributor Kelli Weston, “they each try to acclimatise to their new situation, with little success.”

We couldn’t resist using the release of Paul McGuigan’s affectionate drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool as a double opportunity, first to interview Annette Bening, who plays the underrated movie star Gloria Grahame in later life, and second to celebrate Grahame herself and her wonderful career in such classics as The Big Heat, The Bad and the Beautiful and In a Lonely Place.

And how could we resist Mark Kermode’s in-depth interview with William Friedkin about the re-release of his long overlooked but terrific remake of The Wages of Fear, Sorcerer. “I originally wanted to call the film ‘Ballbreaker’,” says Friedkin. To which we can only add, thank goodness you didn’t.

 

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Features

A Thief in the Night

A Thief in the Night

The frenetic power of Josh and Benny Safdie’s Good Time rests on a superb hyperactive performance by Robert Pattinson as a smalltime crook on a nighttime odyssey through the mean streets of New York seeking to rescue his brother from the clutches of the law. By Nick Pinkerton.

 

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

Following the success of his iPhone-shot buddy movie Tangerine, Sean Baker returns with another tale of lives blighted by poverty in The Florida Project, depicting the adventures of six-year-old Moonee, who lives in a rundown motel in the shadow of Disney World. By Philip Concannon.

 

Delta Blues

Delta Blues

Dee Rees’s Mudbound tells the tale of two families – one black, one white – in Mississippi in the aftermath of World War II, exploring how shared experiences and tentative friendships count for nothing against a toxic social system determined to keep communities divided. By Kelli Weston.

 

Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition

Forty years after the release of the masterful Sorcerer, William Friedkin’s blistering remake of The Wages of Fear, about a group of men driving a cargo of explosives across perilous terrain, the director reminisces about how a brutal shoot gave way to an equally brutal critical reception. By Mark Kermode.

 

Catch a Falling Star

Catch a Falling Star

Paul McGuigan’s bittersweet love story Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is a warm-hearted portrait of the affair between a young Scouse actor and the one-time queen of noir Gloria Grahame. Here Annette Bening, who plays her in the film, discusses her decades-long preparation for the role. By Will Lawrence.

 

The Flicker in Her Eyes

The Flicker in Her Eyes

Gloria Grahame’s effortless ability to switch between coquettish innocence, worldly bitterness and smouldering sensuality helped create her screen legend in the golden age of noir in the 1950s – before tabloid infamy and her own insecurities started to take their toll. By Serena Bramble.

 

 

Regulars

Editorial

Film festivals of resistance

 

Rushes

Our Rushes section

Our Rushes section

On our radar

Animation festivals; Modigliani and early cinema; Cinecity, Underwire and Into Film Festivals; save the Cinema Museum

 

Interview: In the company of men

Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats follows the growing pains of a gay teenager in a macho blue-collar world of sun, sea, sand and sex. By Christina Newland

 

The numbers

In Between and Israeli/Palestinian films at the UK box office. By Charles Gant.

 

Industry: What next after Weinstein?

Key figures from the UK film industry on what steps need to be taken in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. By Heather Stewart, Jennifer Stewart, Ramy El-Bergamy, Daniel Battsek, Rebecca O’Brien, Kate Muir, Amanda Berry, Alison Owen, Kate Kinninmont and Elizabeth Karlsen.

 

Dispatches: Body and soul

Music has often explored the amorphous boundary between the sacred and the sexual – but which films probe similar terrain? By Mark Cousins.

 

Wide Angle

Our Wide Angle section

Our Wide Angle section

Preview: The other of invention

Ana Mendieta’s brief, visceral films transcend boundaries between earth and air, human and animal, self and other. By Becca Voelcker.

 

Festival: Adventures in bandit country

Berwick-upon-Tweed’s film festival has become an international destination, but still manages to stay true to local roots. By Erika Balsom.

 

Primal screen: The smorgasbord jungle

This year’s silent film festival in Pordenone ranged wider than ever before – but a little focus would have been even better. By Geoff Brown.

 

Reviews

Films of the month

Blade Runner
Happy End
The Ornithologist

plus reviews of

Our Reviews section

Our Reviews section

Antiporno
Battle of the Sexes
Beach Rats
Bill Viola: The Road to St Paul’s
Boy
Brakes
Félicité
Ferrari: Race to Immortality
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Fireworks
Flatliners
The Florida Project
Geostorm
Good Time
Heartstone
Jane
Kaleidoscope
Lost in Paris
Manifesto
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Marshall
Most Beautiful Island
No Stone Unturned
Only the Brave
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
School Life
The Snowman
Strangled
Suburbicon
Thor: Ragnarok
Trophy
Wet Woman in the Wind

 

Home Cinema features

Our Home Cinema section

Our Home Cinema section

Mysteries of the organist: Carnival of Souls

Herk Harvey emerged from the shadowy world of instructional films to make a haunting classic of life after life. By Kim Newman.

 

Rediscovery: Films by Sergio Martino

A cluster of new releases – The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh; All the Colours of the Dark; Torso; The Suspicious Death of a Minor – brings into focus a neglected Italian master of genre movies: you’re not ready for these gialli. By Virginie Selavy.

 

Lost and found: Black Hair

Lee Man-hui’s 1964 crime drama puts a South Korean spin on Western noir, and presents a femme who is the opposite of fatale. By Ben Nicholson. 

 

plus reviews of

The Chase
Italian Genre Classics: Don’t Torture a Duckling, Kill, Baby… Kill!
Buster Keaton: 3 Films Sherlock Jr., The General, Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Life Is Sweet
Three Films by Ken Loach: Riff-Raff, Raining Stones, Ladybird Ladybird
Miracle Mile
Le Plaisir
Vampir Cuadecuc
The Wages of Fear

 

Books

Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio by David Thomson (Yale University Press) reviewed by Philip Kemp

Metaphors on Vision by Stan Brakhage & P. Adams Sitney (Anthology Film Archives/Light Industry) reviewed by Nick Pinkerton

Miss D and Me: Life with the Invincible Bette Davis by Kathryn Sermak with Danelle Morton (Hachette Books) reviewed by Dan Callahan

Silent Cinema: Before the Pictures Got Small by Lawrence Napper (Wallflower Press) reviewed by Pamela Hutchinson

 

Our Endings section

Our Endings section

Letters

Hegemony tortured in Dunkirk’s Enigma variations

Getting your aspect ratio on

Reclaiming the lowbrow in Hitchcock

Ridley Scott versus Jóhann Jóhannsson?

World cinema on British TV: nostalgia and its discontents

 

Endings

American Gigolo

Paul Schrader’s film seems obsessed with surface gloss and the trappings of luxury, but in its last moments it reveals an inner beauty. By Christina Newland

 

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