Sight & Sound: the October 2020 issue

The inside story of Tenet; plus Charlie Kaufman, Miss Juneteenth, The Devil All the Time and Gloria Swanson in her own words.

Sight & Sound October 2020 issue

Our October issue runs the rule over Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s slippery fish of a time-twisting blockbuster and the movie Hollywood is hoping will save cinema as we know it. James Mottram goes inside Nolan’s dazzlingly ambitious high-concept film to ask if it can bear the weight of expectation.

Also in this issue, we talk to Charlie Kaufman about his new book Antkind and film I’m Thinking of Ending Things, to Antonio Campos about his adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All the Time, to Channing Godfrey Peoples about his tenderly authentic debut Miss Juneteenth and to Lilting director Hong Khaou about his expat gay love story Monsoon.

We also look at the impact of coronavirus on both international archives and the box office for drive-in cinemas; road-test the BFI diversity standards; investigate the rich strain of anarchist cinema; bid goodbye to the late Alan Parker and Linda Manz; and reprint a classic 1969 interview with Gloria Swanson to mark the 70th anniversary of Sunset Boulevard.



It’s about time…

Our Tenet feature

Christopher Nolan’s dizzyingly ambitious Tenet, set in a world on the brink of apocalypse in which people and objects can move backwards through time, is a high-concept film that makes even ‘Inception’ look simple-minded, writes James Mottram.

+ A brief history of time

How Nolan’s films disrupt our expectations of chronology.

“That’s always my goal, to put people off”: an interview with Charlie Kaufman

Our Charlie Kaufman feature

This summer brings two very different offerings from Charlie Kaufman: his sprawling debut novel Antkind and his claustrophobic new feature I’m Thinking of Endings Things – a pair of fascinating ventures into the esoteric, singular imagination of a true American original. By Jonathan Romney.

+ “The universe does not have questions” 

An extract from Kaufman’s novel Antkind.

+ Consider the globster

A Kaufman glossary.

Mother courage

Our Miss Juneteenth feature

Channing Godfrey Peoples’s tenderly authentic debut feature Miss Juneteenth is a beautifully observed, empathetic portrait of the intergenerational ties and tensions that exist between a mother and her teenage daughter in the Texas town of Fort Worth, set against the backdrop of the town’s annual Juneteenth beauty pageant. By Jourdain Searles.

+ “It shows what families really look like” 

Lead actress Nicole Beharie on the hard graft of Texan realism.

The devil in disguise

Our The Devil All the Time feature

Antonio Campos’s unflinching adaptation of author Donald Ray Pollock’s acclaimed, brutal American gothic novel The Devil All the Time journeys deep into the heart of darkness of the religion-soaked mid-century Midwest. The director talks to Philip Concannon.

+ Bad religion

Bogus preachers and corrupted religion in US cinema.

“I am NOT going to write my memoirs!” 

Our Gloria Swanson feature from our archive

To mark the 70th anniversary of the premiere of Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard in August 1950, we here reprint an edited version of a classic interview its legendary star Gloria Swanson gave us in 1969. Swanson is on majestic form as she reflects on a storied life spent as one of the greatest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Era – a time before the pictures got small. By Rui Nogueira.



Back to the future


Our Rushes section

The lovely bones

Francis Lee discusses excavating an unconventional palaeontologist’s life and queering the British period genre in his new film Ammonite. By Isabel Stevens.

“It’s been challenging programming into a void” 

BFI London Film Festival director Tricia Tuttle on this year’s event.

Costume design: ensemble performance

As Clueless turns 25, Mona May explains how she created show-stopping outfits for the classic fashion-forward comedy. By Abbey Bender.

Interview: Coming home

Hong Khaou talks about his new film Monsoon, which offers a fresh look at Vietnam via a very modern gay love story. By Devika Girish.

Diversity: Raising the bar

The new Diversity Standards for measuring representation on and off screen must go further in pursuit of equality. By Clive Nwonka.

Obituary: Linda Manz, 1961-2020

The actress who gave Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven its soul created unforgettable characters in performances of great intimacy.By Nick Pinkerton.

Obituary: Alan Parker, 1944-2020

A working-class devotee of Ken Loach who specialised in studio musicals, Alan Parker was a fascinatingly diverse filmmaker. By Michael Brooke.

Dream palaces: Showcase Cinema, Nantgarw, Cardiff

Actor and writer-director of Eternal Beauty Craig Roberts recalls Heath Ledger, pick ’n’ mix and the all-American cinema experience in Wales.

Rising star

White Riot’s Rubika Shah

Covid fallout: “Weeks of closure did their damage” 

The coronavirus pandemic has had serious consequences for international archives and our global film heritage. By Isabel Stevens.

The numbers: Drive-in cinemas

This summer, exhibitors turned to vintage inspiration amid the privations of lockdown – but can they keep the motor running? By Charles Gant.

Our Wide Angle section

Wide angle

Political film: Against the rules

For Hollywood – as for Trump – ‘anarchist’ is often shorthand for violent agitator. But there is also a rich strain of anarchist cinema.

Primal screen: The neoreal deal

As both director and star of the 1915 Neapolitan melodrama Assunta Spina, Francesca Bertini was decades ahead of her time. By Tamsin Cleary.

Profile: Stephen Broomer

Chemically and digitally transforming found footage, the Canadian filmmaker creates looping, hypnotic new works. By Ben Nicholson.



Our Reviews section

Film of the month

She Dies Tomorrow

plus reviews of

  • Away
  • Eternal Beauty
  • Get Duked!
  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things
  • Matthias & Maxime
  • Les Misérables
  • Miss Juneteenth
  • Monsoon
  • Nocturnal
  • Papicha
  • Pinocchio
  • Real
  • Rocks
  • Sócrates
  • Summerland
  • White Riot
  • Young Ahmed

Television of the month

Lovecraft Country

plus reviews of

  • Disclosure
  • I Hate Suzie
  • Mrs America
  • The Plot Against America
  • A Suitable Boy
  • The Umbrella Academy: Season 2

Home cinema features

Our Home Cinema section

Ghosts of Christmas past: The Woman in Black

This made-for-TV adaptation of Susan Hill’s terrifying novel has lost none of its power to paralyse its audience in fear. Reviewed by Trevor Johnston.

Revival: Britannia Hospital

Critics loathed Lindsay Anderson’s vicious, incoherent satire. How right they were and also, how very wrong. Reviewed by Robert Hanks.

Audie Murphy Collection:
The Duel at Silver Creek / Ride a Crooked Trail / No Name on the Bullet

Puppyish Audie Murphy made for an unlikely movie cowboy, but his soft face belied the instincts of a fierce combatant. Reviewed by Nick Pinkerton.

Lost and found: Blessed Event

Lee Tracy, forgotten star of the 1930s, lets rip as a scandalous gossip columnist in this fast and furious Pre-Code comedy. By Rick Burin.

plus reviews of

  • Al Adamson: The Masterpiece Collection
  • Buster Keaton: 3 Films (Volume 3) – Our Hospitality/Go West/ College
  • The City Without Jews
  • Equus
  • Five Graves to Cairo
  • The Juniper Tree
  • The Mad Fox
  • Tenderness
  • Watermelon Man


Our Books section

Made Men: The Story of GoodFellas by Glenn Kenny (Hanover Square Press) reviewed by Christina Newland

Chasing the Light: How I Fought My Way into Hollywood: From the 1960s to Platoon by Oliver Stone (Monoray) reviewed by Nick James

Unquiet by Linn Ullmann, translated from the Norwegian by Thilo Reinhard (Penguin Books/Hamish Hamilton) reviewed by Hannah McGill



Our Endings section



The close of Kurosawa Akira’s 1950 classic shows that truth is as elusive and unknowable as the mysteries of the human heart. By Kambole Campbell.