Sight & Sound gets bookish this month as our contributors select 100 novels on cinema. In a special summer feature, writers wax lyrical about their favourite novels and short stories about filmmaking, from Hollywood to Bollywood and beyond.
In his introduction, Nick James muses on literarature’s (occassionally ambivalent) “love and fascination for what ends up on the screen”. Ultimately, he argues, “the proof is in the amazing variety of fictions that use film as a subject.” The works under discussion include Blonde (2000) by Joyce Carol Oates, The Day of the Locust (1939) by Nathanael West, The Accidental (1995) by Ali Smith, The Disenchanted (1950) by Budd Schulberg, Eve’s Hollywood (1974) by Eve Babitz, Flicker (1991) by Theodore Roszak, The Last Tycoon (1941) by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ponti (2018) by Sharlene Tao, Wise Children (1991) by Angela Carter and many, many more…
Critic, screenwriter and director Paul Schrader has long been fascinated with questions of spirituality and tormented loners. His latest film draws these threads together. First Reformed tells the tale of an angry Christian pastor (Ethan Hawke) who has a crisis of faith. “I had never intended to write or direct such a film,” he confesses to Philip Concannon. “I was too intoxicated by action and empathy, sex and violence.”
With crisp dialogue that is at once laconic and verbose, Harold Pinter’s phenomenal screenplays, the focus of a forthcoming season of films at BFI Southbank in London, are among the most influential in the English-speaking world. “Pinter’s characters have few words, and yet hardly shut up; they prattle about nothing, but every word is weighted with meaning; they fill the silence, and in doing so create new voids,” writes Robert Hanks.
Daniel Kokotajlo’s Apostasy draws on the director’s experiences growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, exploring the tensions provoked within a family when a daughter pushes against the strictures of the religion. “I didn’t set out to make an angry film,” he tells Will Massa.
In Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s brutal, authentic A Prayer Before Dawn, an expat Brit in a Thai jail has to learn Muay Thai boxing to survive. “I’m trying to find a way to release my own violence,” he explains to Philip Concannon.
To the very end of her life, the great Ukrainian director Kira Muratova remained committed to her fierce, uncompromising vision of cinema. Mark Cousins pays tribute.
Our Home Cinema section features a box-set of films by Samuel Fuller, one of Hollwwood’s maverick talents, the early films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, and a selection of television dramas – the products of a competition organised by Alan Bleasdale.
Also in this issue: long reviews of Cocote, Ex Libris and Pin Cushion; the haunting, burning imagery of Martha Colburn, the sea as metaphor in film, the symbiotic relationship between fashion and film, the quiet disappointment that closes Splendour in the Grass (1961) and more…
S&S contributors pick their favourite novels and short stories about filmmaking, from Hollywood to Bollywood, via Britain, France, Germay, Italy and beyond. Introduced by Nick James.
First Reformed, the tale of an angry Christian pastor’s crisis of faith, brings Paul Schrader’s career as critic, screenwriter and director full circle, drawing together a lifelong fascination with questions of spirituality with his obsession with tormented loners. By Philip Concannon.
With crisp dialogue that is at once laconic and verbose, Harold Pinter’s phenomenal screenplays, the focus of a forthcoming season at BFI Southbank in London, are among the most influential in the English-speaking world. By Robert Hanks.
☞ See also Where to begin with Harold Pinter on screen
Daniel Kokotajlo’s Apostasy draws on the director’s experiences growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, exploring the tensions provoked within a family when a daughter pushes against the strictures of the religion. By Will Massa.
The relationship between memory, cinema and social media.
On our radar
Cinema Rediscovered, Maurice, Joan Jonas, Film4 Summer, Sheffield Doc/Fest podcast.
Interview: A fighting chance
An expat Brit in a Thai jail has to learn Muay Thai boxing to survive, in Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s brutal, authentic, A Prayer Before Dawn. By Philip Concannon.
The numbers: McQueen
Charles Gant on Peter Ettedgui’s documentary about the fashion designer at the UK box office.
Dispatches: Savage grace
To the very end of her life, the great Ukrainian director Kira Muratova remained committed to her fierce, uncompromising vision of cinema. By Mark Cousins.
Preview: Marine parade
For filmmakers, the sea has been a setting for romance, an element for man to conquer – and an inexhaustible source of metaphor. By Erika Balsom.
Primal screen: Dress codes
The symbiotic relationship between film and fashion is as old as cinema itself. Its history is now coming under the microscope. By Bryony Dixon.
Artists’ moving image: Disquiet American
Martha Colburn’s animated collages rarely last more than three minutes – but they keep on burning long after that. By Michael Pattison.
Films of the month
plus reviews of
The Butterfly Tree
Hearts Beat Loud
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
El mar la mar
One or Two Questions
A Prayer Before Dawn
Racer and the Jailbird
The Secret of Marrowbone
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Veere Di Wedding
Home Cinema features
Play it again, Sam: Samuel Fuller at Columbia, 1937-1961
One of Hollwwood’s maverick talents is showcased in a box-set of early films written or directed by Samuel Fuller. By Kim Morgan.
The best of youth: Early Hou Hsiao-Hsien
A trio of films from the early years of his career shine a light on a great filmmaker on a steep learning curve. By Michael Brooke.
Television: Alan Bleasdale Presents…
Self Catering, Requiem Apache, Blood on the Dole and Pleasure. By Robert Hanks.
plus reviews of
The Ancient Law, Animera: 1001 Nights / Cleopatra
The Children’s Hour
Inherit the Wind
No Way Out
There Was a Crooked Man
Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna (Random House) reviewed by Nick Pinkerton
Stairways to Heaven by Geoffrey Macnab (I.B.Tauris) reviewed by Will Massa
The modern trend for murky cinematography
The impact of Netflix
Film in Derry during the Troubles
An appalling scene in Witchfinder General
Splendour in the Grass
The poignant final moments of Elia Kazan’s tale of doomed romance offer a quiet lesson in stoicism and dissapointment. By Peter Tonguette.