Sight & Sound: the September 2018 issue

Spike Lee on BlacKkKlansman, Hollywood’s history of racism, the importance of love and hate in his work and how contemporary far-right violence gave his film its ending.

Plus the indomitable Joan Crawford, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War, Mark Cousins on Orson Welles, the Mission: Impossible series, Marlene Dietrich and Von Sternberg, Idris Elba and more.

In print and digital from 6 August 2018. Log in / sign up, subscribe or buy a print edition.

“What Hollywood did to Native Americans is a disgrace: fuck John Wayne, fuck John Ford. I know they tried to make up for it with The Searchers, but too damn late.” In the September issue, BlacKkKlansman director Spike Lee talks to Kaleem Aftab about Hollywood’s history of racism, the importance of love and hate in his work, and how the violent protests of modern-day far-right thugs gave his latest film its ending.

As a season of Joan Crawford films opens at BFI Southbank, Farran Smith Nehme revisits the remarkable career of this indomitable Hollywood star. “Crawford wasn’t genteel like Norma Shearer, she was less mysterious than Garbo, and she was far more earthy and sexy than Jeanette MacDonald.”

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War charts the highs and lows of the love affair between a composer and a folk singer, trying to adapt to the harsh vagaries of life under Communist rule in post-war Poland. Jonathan Romney praises this “moving, mature drama about modern European history, the vagaries of art in a political world and the ways in which love can find itself contending with pressures of the state,” and talks to the director. 

For his first feature as director, the gangster thriller Yardie – which is based on a novel published in 1992 – Idris Elba tapped into his memories of growing up in Hackney in order to capture the distinctive flavour of life within London’s Afro-Caribbean community in the 1980s. “I remember being in awe of [the book] because it was a novel about someone I could relate to, almost someone I knew, coming from East London, Hackney and Dalston. So much of the story was set in areas I knew – like Peckham, my auntie lived in Peckham,” he tells Gaylene Gould.

“Should movie directors be able to draw?” Mark Cousins asks, having just completed a new film about the drawing and paintings of Orson Welles. Drawing was the creative thread of Orson Welles’s life, Cousins explains, his sketches and paintings offer a back door to the cathedral of his imagination – an opportunity to glimpse his brilliant visual instincts in action. 

“Unbounded by borders or language, at home everywhere and nowhere, fleet of foot above all else, Tom Cruise has given us the first great post-Cold War superspy.” As the sixth instalment of the Mission: Impossible series comes out, Nick Pinkerton makes the case for the most consistently cinematic franchise of the last 25 years. 

Fifty years on from the events of May ’68, the queer feminist collective Club des Femmes has curated a nationwide tour of films that expands our understanding of that summer and explodes some of the myths surrounding it. Anna Coatman delves into the radical films in the Revolt, She Said programme.

A traumatic true crime provided the basis for A Sicilian Love Story, an unconventional fairytale about a young girl hunting for a vanished classmate. Pasquale Iannone speaks to the filmmakers, Antonio Piazza and Fabio Grassadonia

Also this issue: the cinema of Pakistani director Jamil Dehlavi, an interview with The Heiresses director Marcelo MartinessiRené Clair, a report from the annual Flaherty Seminar, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg and much more… 

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Features

Deep Cover

Deep Cover

Spike Lee, the director of BlacKkKlansman, the unlikely true tale of an African-American police officer who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan, discusses Hollywood’s history of racism, the importance of love and hate in his work, and how the violent protests of modern-day far-right thugs gave his film its ending. By Kaleem Aftab.

 

Sapphires and Steel

Sapphires and Steel

In a career that ran from the silents to Spielberg, Joan Crawford’s relentless effort, incredible self-discipline and poise under pressure saw her triumph in a long series of demanding roles, eliciting sympathy from audiences even when playing deeply flawed, hard-edged characters. By Farran Smith Nehme.

 

A Time to Love

A Time to Love

With great economy and a powerful emotional depth, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War charts the highs and lows of the love affair between a composer and a folk singer, trying to adapt to the harsh vagaries of life under Communist rule in post-war Poland. Jonathan Romney talks to the director. 

☞ See also Cold War first look: Pawel Pawlikowski’s seductive tale of love in an age of borders

 

Top Ranking

Top Ranking

For his first feature as director, the gangster thriller Yardie, Idris Elba tapped into his memories of growing up in Hackney in order to capture the distinctive flavour of life within London’s Afro-Caribbean community in the 1980s. Interview by Gaylene Gould.

 

Taking a Line For a Walk

Taking a Line For a Walk

Drawing was the creative thread of Orson Welles’s life, far more than radio, theatre or film, and his sketches and paintings offer a back door to the cathedral of his imagination – an opportunity to glimpse his brilliant visual instincts in action. By Mark Cousins.

 

Thrill of the Hunt

Thrill of the Hunt

A contender for the most consistently cinematic franchise of the last 25 years, the Mission: Impossible films also offer a case study in the idea of the actor as auteur, with Tom Cruise continuing to present himself as a fearless screen immortal in the sixth instalment, Fallout. By Nick Pinkerton.

 

Regulars

 

Editorial

The jostling for February’s Academy Awards has begun. 

 

Rushes

Our Rushes section

Our Rushes section

On our radar

Black and Banned, Eric Rohmer, Liverpool Biennial, London Feminist Film Festival, The Dark Page. 

 

Interview: Spirit of Youth  

A traumatic true crime provided the basis for A Sicilian Love Story, an unconventional fairytale about a young girl hunting for a vanished classmate. Pasquale Iannone speaks to the filmmakers, Antonio Piazza and Fabio Grassadonia

The numbers: Summer 2018 Box Office 

Charles Gant on a period that’s tricky for major films but an opportunity for independant cinemas.

 

Discovery: Sacred Hunger 

Though his films are not often seen in his homeland, Jamil Dehlavi remains an essential presence in Pakistani filmmaking. By Timothy P.A. Cooper. 

 

First sight: Poverty of Riches 

The Heiresses director Marcelo Martinessi on his debt to Fassbinder and why simply being able to make a film in Paraguay is a miracle. By Lou Thomas. 

 

Wide Angle

Our Wide Angle section

Our Wide Angle section

Preview: Kicking Against the Pricks

Commemoration of the events of May ’68 has masked a wider context of political agitation – in particular, the radicalism of women. By Anna Coatman. 

 

Primal screen: The Clair Watch Project 

Recent revivals of films by René Clair are a reminder that this deliciously clever filmmaker deserves more attention. By Bryony Dixon. 

 

Documentary: What’s Up, Docs?    

Over the five days of the annual Flaherty Seminar, a meeting to discuss realism in the documentary, things can get rough. By Matthew Barrington.

 

Festivals 

Voyage to Italy: Cinema Il Ritrovato   

Bologna showcased a heartrending wartime doc, touching melodramas and an unheralded female member of the nouvelle vague. By James Bell. 

 

Reviews

Films of the month

Distant Constellation
The Guardians

plus reviews of

Our Reviews section

Our Reviews section

Ant-Man and The Wasp
The Apparition
Bad Samaritan
BlacKkKlansman
Braguino
C’est la vie!
The Children Act
Cold War
Damascus Cover
Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings
Dhadak
Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey
The Equalizer 2
The Eyes of Orson Welles
The First Purge
The Heiresses
Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation
In Darkness
Leaning into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
The Man from Mo’Wax
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
The Negotiator
One Note at a Time
Searching
Sicario 2: Soldado
Sicilian Ghost Story
Skyscraper
Spitfire
Tag
Uncle Drew
Under the Tree
Yardie 

 

Home Cinema features

Our Home Cinema section

Our Home Cinema section

Fatal Attraction: Dietrich and Von Sternberg in Hollywood 

The sexual sophistication of Josef von Sternberg’s films with Marlene Dietrich makes modern cinema look tame and childish. By Graham Fuller. 

 

Revival: A Touch of Class 

In the early 1960s, Woodfall Films transformed the way the British working classes were portrayed on screen. By Philip Kemp.

 

Television: Heimat 

Edgar Reitz’s great chronicle of 20th-century Germany. By Robert Hanks. 

 

Lost and Found: Wuthering Heights  

A radically reimagined Japanese version of Emily Brontë’s classic novel of amour fou deserves a lot more attention than it’s had. By Jeff Billington. 

 

plus reviews of

The Addiction
Black Peter
Dark Blue
Detective Bureau 2-3: Go To Hell Bastards!
Two Films by Roger Donaldson: Sleeping Dogs/Smash Palace
Footsteps in the Fog
The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick
It Happened Here
King of Jazz
The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey
Neon Bull
Personal Problems

 

Books

Our Books section

Our Books section

The Midas Touch: How did Lubitsch Do It? By Joseph McBride (Columbia University Press), reviewed by Dan Callahan. 

Magnificent Obsession: The Outrageous History of Film Buffs, Collectors, Scholars, and Fanatics By Anthony Slide (University Press of Mississippi), reviewed by Henry K. Miller. 

 

Letters

 

Endings

Kings of the Road

Wim Wender’s elegiac road movie, beautifully shot by the late Robby Müller, ends with the parting of its melancholy travelling companions. By David Perrin. 

 

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