Our February issue comes bulging with controversial takes on American history, recent and not too recent. Our cover star Jamie Foxx is the ex-slave who takes the reins in Quentin Tarantino’s highly entertaining western remix Django Unchained – and turns Eastwood’s Man with No Name on his head with gobbets of Tarantino oratory and humour, as Kim Newman explores.
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Across the picket fence, meanwhile, Steven Spielberg ventures his first biopic with Lincoln, with Daniel Day-Lewis as the iconic president leading the charge to the abolition of slavery; Graham Fuller ponders the film and its critics. Meanwhile, fast forwarding to 2011, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty affects a ‘boots on the ground’ procedural-thriller style in dramatising the hunt for Bin Laden, prompting Michael Atkinson to finger “a kind of all-American sociopathy usually… relegated to game-equipped suburban basements.”
Leaving the American crucible behind, Trevor Johnson talks to Ireland’s great chronicler Lenny Abrahamson about What Richard Did, his new portrait of Dublin’s stockbroker belt. With a major Roman Polanski retrospective underway at the BFI Southbank, Philip Horne essays the director’s command of the grotesque, while Michael Brooke revisits Polanski’s Polish apprenticeship and Charles Barr recounts his collaboration with Kenneth Tynan on 1971’s Macbeth. And in our Deep Focus primer section, Nick James spotlights 12 21st century films noir that revitalise the noir formulae for our new century. And that’s just our features…
COVER FEATURE: Black rider
In Django Unchained the two strands of the spaghetti western – the blood-soaked revenge saga and the jokey pastiche – are twisted together by Quentin Tarantino, with a modern seasoning of racial politics. But unlike Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, these westerners talk – a lot. By Kim Newman.
PLUS Tim Lucas on Django Unchained’s roots in a whole range of 1960s and 70s exploitation films dealing with race.
Hollywood didn’t get to grips with the Vietnam War until years after the event. In our rolling-news age, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty arrives only 18 months after the bin Laden kill mission it depicts. But is such haste at the expense of perspective? By Michael Atkinson.
Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, the story of the president’s struggle to pass the abolition of slavery before the end of the Civil War, has attracted praise in the US – and criticism for its white perspective. But how does the film – the director’s first biopic – fit into the Spielberg oeuvre? By Graham Fuller.
Boom and bust
Lenny Abrahamson’s two critically fêted films Adam & Paul and Garage examined the underside of Irish society. But What Richard Did, the director’s latest, sees him switch his attention to Dublin’s stockbroker belt to reflect on the fate of the Celtic Tiger.
Polanski and the grotesque
Violence and humiliation, sexual excess and transvestism, absurd humour and the transgression of taboos – Roman Polanski’s films, showcased in a BFI Southbank season, are laced with grotesquerie. But their power relies on a carefully crafted sense of reality. By Philip Horne.
PLUS Michael Brook on Polanski in Poland and Charles Barr on his work with Kenneth Tynan.
21st Century Noir
The crucial elements of film noir – violence, sex, memory and identity – remain as germane to today’s leading filmmakers as to last century’s, argues Nick James.
Michael Koresky celebrates the tone of effortless ease at the heart of screwball.
Object Lesson: Hannah McGill on film’s troubled treatment of changes to gender.
First Sight: Anton Bitel talks to Jen and Sylvia Soska about American Mary.
Dispatches: Mark Cousins on the architecture of Amour.
Development Tale: Charles Gant on the long gestation of The Liability.
The Numbers: Charles Gant reviews the year’s arthouse fortunes.
How It Works: Ashley Clarke on Gone Too Far, an innovative inner-city British comedy.
Profile: Nick Roddick talks to Russian film ambassador Catherine Mtsitourisze.
Nick James on Morelia’s unique charms.
James Benn reports from Tokyo and Simon Merle from Rome.
Brian Dillon previews the first UK survey of video artist Gerard Byrne.
Soundings: Frances Morgan on the innovative soundtrack of Performance.
Primal Screen: Matthew Sweet pays tribute to the first four-legged film stars.
Gonzalo de Lucas celebrates the heartfelt film criticism of Serge Daney.
Carlos Losilla finds fascinating signposts to new directions at Seville.
Bradlands: Brad Stevens asks what musicians offer when they make films.
Lost and Found: Chris Darke on Chris Petit’s knowing neo-noir Chinese Boxes.
Kieron Corless investigates the new currency of the newsreel format and hears from three filmmakers embracing its potential: Jem Cohen, Sylvain George and Alex Reuben.
PLUS: Rebecca Vick on the history of the newsreel; Letters.
Films of the month
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet
Zero Dark Thirty
Other new releases reviewed in this issue
Bullet to the Head
Code Name: Geronimo
Do Elephants Pray?
The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey
Hyde Park on Hudson
I Give It a Year
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
A Liar’s Autobiography The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman
May I Kill U?
Playing for Keeps
The Punk Syndrome
Song for Marion
What Richard Did
Philip Kemp on René Clément’s early promise.
Kate Stables discovers Pathé’s early colour ‘fairy film’ fantasias.
James Blackford has his appetite whetted by Zombie Flesh Eaters.
Plus reviews of
Les Amants de Montparnasse
In the Mood for Love
Nowhere to Go
Purple Noon (Plein Soleil)
Ramrod, Red Dust
Les Soeurs Brontë
Sunday Bloody Sunday
W+B Hein: Materialfilme 1968-1976
Luck – Season 1
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Kevin Jackson hails the loquacious charms of Richard Burton’s diaries.
Jasper Sharpe pries the lid off North Korean cinema culture.
Kim Newman assesses Taschen’s mammoth tome from the 007 files.
Ian Christie appraises a collection of essays on early cinema.
David Jenkins on Big Night.