Sight & Sound: the November 2019 issue

Martin Scorsese talks The Irishman, ‘youthifying’ Robert De Niro, filmmaking for Netflix and more in an exclusive extended interview. Plus Joaquin Phoenix behind the Joker’s mask, Alejandro Landes’s breakthrough war story Monos, and our latest Deep Focus season – on Maurice Pialat and the New French Realism.

In print and digital from 7 October 2019. Get the digital editionbuy a print edition or subscribe.

In our new issue, Martin Scorsese opens up on how and why he and Robert De Niro came to make The Irishman, their startlingly fresh late-career take on the life of Frank Sheeran, the man who claimed to have shot Jimmy Hoffa. “We had wanted to make a film together since Casino,” he told Philip Horne in an expansive three-and-a-half-hour interview. “Bob said, ‘I’d rather with the time we have left, revisit that world we feel comfortable in.’”

Across ten pages, Scorsese expounds on gangsters, power and politics, the digital ‘youthification’ process they developed to film De Niro’s character across half a century of American politics, the long road to bringing Al Pacino into the Scorsese fold, why he made the film for Netflix, what he learned from his Bob Dylan documentaries, and much more.

Also in this issue, Ryan Gilbey looks at behind the Joker’s mask at the career of Joaquin Phoenix, surely right now the most compelling actor in American film. (“Vulnerable though Phoenix often appears, he has seemed never to want anything from the audience, least of all their approval.”) 

Colombian-Ecuadorian director Alejandro Landes and composer Mica Levi talk to Isabel Stevens about their work on Monos, their disorientingly abstract war story set amongst child soldiers in the Andean jungle. “People are attracted to making WWII films because there seems to be a clear line as to who’s good and bad,” observes Landes. “In war today, there’s a lot more moral ambiguity.”

And in our latest Deep Focus season (with corresponding screenings at the BFI Southbank, London, from mid-October through the end of December), we champion the groundbreaking work of the late, great Maurice Pialat, looking at both his own vital body of work and its impact on the new generation of young French realists who broke through in the 1990s. Not the least of them, Olivier Assayas adds his own insights to those of David Thompson and Ginette Vincendeau.

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Features

Three and a half hours with Martin Scorsese

Three and a half hours with Martin Scorsese

The gangland thriller The Irishman is in some ways a return to familiar territory, reuniting him with old friends like Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci. But at 76 Martin Scorsese is – as he tells Philip Horne in this wide-ranging interview – as inspired as ever, still hunting for fresh ideas, fresh methods, fresh ways of telling stories. By Philip Horne.

+ Scorsese on… the references and inspirations behind The Irishman

+ Scorsese on… random digressions from a lifelong cinephile

 

Behind a painted smile

As his sociopathic clown antihero in Todd Phillips’s Joker confirms, right now Joaquin Phoenix is the most compelling actor in American film – a star, whether or not that’s what he wants.

 

Law of the jungle

Law of the jungle

Alejandro Landes’s surreal, unsettling war story Monos follows a squad of adolescent guerrillas fighting for an unknown cause in an unnamed country. Here the director explains the challenges of a remote shoot and why he was determined not to trade on pity in his portrait of child soldiers. By Isabel Stevens.

+ Settling the score

The Oscar-nominated composer Mica Levi discusses the art of fitting sounds to landscapes in Monos, why trippy music usually feels wrong and what her secret ingredient is for the film. By Isabel Stevens.

 

Deep focus: Maurice Pialat and the new French realism

Maurice Pialat’s stark, unsentimental films left a mark on French cinema that arguably outweighs even that of the nouvelle vague. A director who thrived on conflict, he captured moments of searing emotional power on screen, inspiring a generation of French directors and actors. As Sight & Sound brings the first complete Pialat retrospective in the UK to BFI Southbank, alongside a programme of films by the Pialat-influenced young French filmmakers of the 1990s, David Thompson explores the pugnacious realist’s career.

+ Testaments of youth

Heavily indebted to the spirit of Maurice Pialat, a wave of young French talent found its voice in the 1990s with some raw realist gems. By Ginette Vincendeau.

+ A filmmaker under the influence

Cold Water director Olivier Assayas reflects on the impact Maurice Pialat had over him and a generation of French filmmakers. Interview by James Bell.

 

Regulars

 

Editorial

A personal journey: Mike Williams on taking the helm at S&S

 

Rushes

Our Rushes section

Our Rushes section

 

On our radar

It’s showtime – BFI Musicals! The Greatest Show on Screen. Plus female kung-fu legends, Euzhan Plcy, African in Motion, Vampires from Dravula to Buffy, FilmFear, The Castle on Sunset, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen, Vampir Cuadecuc, Pixote and the S&S FrightFest podcast.

 

Rising star: Rose Glass

The 30-year-old British filmmaker has just premiered her debut feature Saint Maud at the Toronto International Film Festival and is nominated for the £50,000 IWC Schaffhausen prize at the BFI London Film Festival.

 

Classical Hollywood: Sympathy for the diva

Judy is the latest in a wave of films about stars in decline. Why are all these compassionate portraits of ageing divas appearing now? By Pamela Hutchinson.

 

The pictures: Tate Gallery

A selection of unseen archive photos of Sharon Tate reveal the star behind the legend seen in Once upon a Time… in Hollywood. By Isabel Stevens.

 

The numbers: Bait

Mark Jenkin’s stunning black-and-white Cornish fishing drama has been reeling in huge audiences across the UK. By Charles Gant.

 

Films in production

New projects for Andrew Dominik, Colin Farrell, Sally Potter and Christian Petzold.

 

Festivals

Our Festivals section

Our Festivals section

 

Venice

Contentious as some of the choices may have been, this year’s festival has lit the fuse for the Oscars with a series of towering performances. By Nick James.

 

Toronto

The festival’s concerted efforts to tackle gender imbalances paid dividends with a lively and inspiring – if colossal – selection. By Tom Charity.

 

Wide angle

Our Wide Angle section

Our Wide Angle section

 

Profile: Shirley Clarke

A love of avant-garde dance and jazz inform Shirley Clarke’s complex, kinetic portraits of lives lived at the margins of American society. By Sophia Satchell Baeza.

 

Primal Screen: Thoroughly modern Betty

The mesmerising allure of Betty Balfour in Love, Life and Laughter, lost for almost a century, can now be enjoyed in a sparkling restoration. By Pamela Hutchinson.

 

Artists’ moving image: The revolution, televised

TV archive material, like the 70,000 VHS tapes recorded by an activist in the US, offers artists a fascinating window on the recent past. By Matthew Harle.

 

Reviews

Our Reviews section

Our Reviews section

 

Films of the month

By the Grace of God
The King
Non-Fiction

plus reviews of 

Ad Astra
After the Wedding
American Woman
Angel Has Fallen
The Beach Bum
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Chained for Life
The Day Shall Come
Downton Abbey
Driven
Farming
The Goldfinch
A Good Woman Is Hard to Find
Hitsville: The Making of Motown
Hustlers
The Informer
It: Chapter Two
Joker
Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
The Laundromat
Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound
Monos
Mystify: Michael Hutchence
Official Secrets
The Peanut Butter Falcon
Skin
Sorry We Missed You
Tehran: City of Love
What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?

 

Home cinema features 

Our Home Cinema section

Our Home Cinema section

 

A winding path: The Koker Trilogy

Gorgeous, compassionate and elusive, the three films that made Abbas Kiarostami’s international reputation remain a rich pleasure. Reviewed by Nick James.

 

Rediscovery: The road to hell

Jissoji Akio’s transgressive, despairing Buddhist Trilogy of This Transient Life, Mandala and Poem, never before released in the West, make for a stunning experience. 

 

Lost and found: The Lost People

In 1949, this film about the plight of refugees in post-war Europe met with indifference. But perhaps now is a good time to hear its message. By Jo Botting.

 

plus reviews of

Comes a Horseman
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
The Extraordinary World of Charley Bowers
Fragment of an Empire
The Incident
Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life: The Decameron/The Canterbury Tales/Arabian Nights
They Made Me a Fugitive

 

Archive television

Robert Hanks on At Last the 1948 Show and Do Not Adject Your Set

 

Books

Our Books section

Our Books section

 

Letters from Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Moviemaking compiled and edited by Rocky Lang and Barbara Hall (Abrams) reviewed by Pamela Hutchinson

Show People: A History of the Film Star by Michael Newton (Reaktion) reviewed by Robert Hanks

Three Books on Chantal Akerman, all reviewed by Catherine Wheatley:

  • My Mother Laughs by Chantal Akerman (translated by Daniella Shreir) (Silver Press)
  • The Chantal Akerman Retrospective Handbook edited by Adam Roberts and Joanna Hogg (A Nos Amours)
  • Chantal Akerman: Afterlives edited by Marion Schmid and Emma Wilson (Legenda)

 

Letters

Our Endings section

Our Endings section

 

Endings

 

Angel Heart

The road to hell is paved with good intentions for doomed detective Harry Angel, in Alan Parker’s diabolically effective horror noir. By John Bleasdale.

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