Sight & Sound June 2021 issue

It’s the issue they didn’t want you to read! Sight & Sound avoids the censor’s scissors, but can’t resist the sinster draw of Prano Bailey–Bond’s wicked yet darkly beautiful Censor.

Mark Kermode joins Bailey–Bond in discussing the 1980s tabloid frenzy surrounding so-called ‘video nasties’ – unrated VHS horror releases that snuck past the beady-eyed BBFC – and her debut feature Censor, an 80s period piece dripping with paranoia and psychological scares.

Also, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas refutes the claim that horror is “fundamentally unladylike” by tracking the genre in female filmmakers’ work throughout film history, and Kim Newman highlights six of the best British ‘nasties’.

If you can bear to keep looking, there’s more from Newman, who takes on Mary Whitehouse et al and presents a history of the ‘video nasty’ moral panic – which the ever-measured Daily Mail deemed “sadism” and “rape of our children’s minds”.

Then a change of speed, from hysteria to history. Kelly Reichardt transports us to 1820s America in First Cow, her take on the dawn of capitalism in the Pacific Northwest. Speaking to Ryan Gilbey, Reichardt espouses the virtues of slowness: “You can take your time. It’s the difference between showing an audience something, and letting an audience see something.”

21-year-old Suzanne Lindon wrote her debut feature Spring Blossom when she was 15, and directed it at 19. James Mottram spoke to Lindon, daughter of French actors, about her love of dance and her film’s age-gap romance. 

Geoff Andrew gets lost in Nashville. Recalling his first trip into Robert Altman’s sprawling portrait of 1970s America, Andrew tentatively crowned it the greatest American film since Citizen Kane – but has this feeling remained?

And from our archive, a 1974 interview with Jack Nicholson, in which he speaks to John Russell Taylor about directing, collaborating with Roger Corman, the social responsibilities of being an actor and America’s waning interest in arthouse cinema.

Features

Prano Bailey-Bond interviewed

In the realm of Censor

Prano Bailey Bond’s razor-sharp psychological horror Censor is a paean to the blood-spattered delights of the much maligned ‘video nasties’ of the 1980s. Mark Kermode talks to the director about challenging mainstream morality and seeking solace in savagery and slaughter.

+ Isles of the dead

Kim Newman on six British ‘nasties’.

+ We spit on your grave

Alexanda Heller-Nicholas on women and video nasties.

Turning nasty

Turning nasty

The arrival of uncensored horror films on video cassette in the early 1980s thrilled fans and appalled the nation’s moralists. Kim Newman traces the history of the ‘video nasty’ controversy.

Kelly Reichardt interviewed

The quiet American

Set among fur-trappers in the Pacific Northwest in the 1820s, Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow captures the origins of modern American entrepreneurial culture with the same deceptive quiet and rich detail she has brought to all her work. She talks to Ryan Gilbey about how seeing, not showing, has been her motto, and why she has never watched Star Wars.

Suzanne Lindon interviewed

“I was bored with people my age”

As the daughter of French acting royalty, Suzanne Lindon was born into the cinema, but her tender debut Spring Blossom reveals a perspective that’s all her own. She talks to James Mottram about romance, dancing and Maurice Pialat.

Country life: the sprawling brilliance of Robert Altman’s Nashville

Country life: the sprawling brilliance of Robert Altman’s Nashville

Robert Altman’s extraordinary impressionistic portrait of Tennessee’s country music capital was his crowning achievement, a film in which he sought to offer nothing less than a microcosm of America itself. Geoff Andrew explores the dizzying ambition, creative ingenuity and technical innovation that went into the making of the 1975 classic.

+ “I don’t think it was commercial”: Altman on Nashville

From the archive: Jack Nicholson interviewed

From the archive: Profession – Actor

In this interview originally published in our Summer 1974 issue, Jack Nicholson reflects on his work as a director, the social responsibilities of being an actor, collaborating with figures as varied as Roger Corman and Michelangelo Antonioni, and on America’s waning interest in arthouse cinema. The interview captures the actor during his artistic peak, before he became the larger-than-life star known to all simply as ‘Jack’.

+ Jack of all trades

James Bell on Jack Nicholson as writer and director.

Regulars

Editorial

Seal of approval

Rushes

Our Rushes section

Gimme Shelter

The directors of pandemic-prescient films The Pink Cloud and Apples talk about the way lockdown has changed the films they made, and how making the films changed the ways they approached lockdown. By Jonathan Romney.

+ New wave: pandemic stories. By Pamela Hutchinson.

Rising star: Aneil Karia

The director of Surge in profile. By Will Massa.

A time capsule of trans life

How does A Change of Sex, the trans documentary series in Adam Curtis’s Can’t Get You out of My Head, stand up 40 years on? By Rachel Pronger.

In focus: Enys Men

Fresh from the shoot, the Cornish director of Bait Mark Jenkin takes us behind the scenes of his new ecosophical horror. By Isabel Stevens.

In production

New film and TV projects by Mark Romanek, Cate Blanchett, Francis Lee, Noah Baumbach, Martin Scorsese and Emer Reynolds.

“It’s about expanding imagination”

Sheffield Doc/Fest’s new director Cíntia Gil reveals a change in programming ethos and priorities for the 2021 edition. By Nick Bradshaw.

+ Four to see: selected by Doc/Fest programmers

Call me by my name

As Thandiwe Newton reclaims her name, we explore the history of whitewashing film stars’ credits and how the tide is starting to turn. By Christina Newland.

+ “They can learn to say Uzoamaka”: why stars are keeping their names

Cinema paradiso

Take a tour through the BFI Southbank’s luminous history as the cinema reopens with a season of films chosen by filmmakers. By Pamela Hutchinson.

Dream palaces: BFI Southbank

Gurinder Chadha, the director of Bend It like Beckham and Blinded by the Light, reveals the pivotal role the NFT played in her film education.

A world just out of reach

Aleem Khan talks about how loss, Brexit and summers spent on the White Cliffs of Dover helped to shape his moving drama After Love. By Will Massa.

Obituary: Monte Hellman, 1929-2021

A cult legend and patron saint of cinephiles, Monte Hellman found his filmmaking road as stark as any of his protagonists’. By Brad Stevens.

+ Monte Hellman in his own words.

Obituary: Bertrand Tavernier, 1941-2021

A life-long champion of cinema, the bearish director, critic, publicist and historian applied his political convictions to a sweep of styles. By David Thompson.

What’s up, doc?

With the rise of the ‘docbuster’ and an archive-only BBC4, what is the future for quiet storytelling and new voices in documentary? By Jeanie Finlay.

Wide Angle

Our Wide Angle section

Artists’ film: Matthew passion

Wildlife management, cultural politics and Greek gods collide in the latest instalment of Matthew Barney’s personal mythology. By Ben Nicholson.

+ Barney’s version: three key works

Primal screen: local attraction

The past isn’t always a foreign country: a visit there from the alien world of lockdown can feel a lot like coming home. By Lawrence Napper.

Reviews

Films of the month

After Love

Reviewed by Pamela Hutchinson.

Zana

Antoneta Kastrati’s portrait of Lume, a woman yearning for pregnancy amidst oppresive patriarchal pressures, shows that it takes a village to conceive a child. Reviewed by Lisa Mullen.

Our Review section

plus reviews of:

Television of the month

Exterminate All the Brutes

Raoul Peck’s four-part series patiently, bluntly retells and reconstructs the grand history of human extermination that accompanied European expansion, from the Crusades to Columbian conquest and slavery to the Holocaust and Hiroshima. Reviewed by Paul Tickell.

plus reviews of:

Our Home Cinema section

Home cinema features

Counting for something: I Start Counting

Little noticed at the time and forgotten since, this British chiller of the late 1960s now looks like a dark, sly masterpiece. Reviewed by Trevor Johnston.

Rediscovery: Mandabi

Restored at last, Ousmane Sembène’s simple story of a man wrestling with a money order emerges as a magnificent parable. Reviewed by Kaleem Aftab.

Archive television: Between the Lines: Series 1

Robert Hanks rewatches Line of Duty’s grittier predecessor.

Lost and Found: Daddy Nostalgie

The late Bertrand Tavernier’s autumnal family drama is shot through with unspoken feeling and a sense of loss. Reviewed by Noel Hess.

plus reviews of:

  • The Chalk Garden
  • Flowers of Shanghai
  • Two Films by John Ford: Straight Shooting/Hell Bent
  • Journey to the Far Side of the Sun
  • Karloff at Columbia: The Black Room/The Man They Could Not Hang/The Man with Nine Lives/Before I Hang/The Devil Commands/The Boogie Man Will Get You
  • Two Films by Ken Loach: Fatherland/Carla’s Song
  • Nosferatu in Venice
  • Secrets & Lies
Our Books section

Books

Anton Walbrook: A Life of Masks and Mirrors by James Downs, Peter Lang reviewed by Pamela Hutchinson.

Grave of the Fireflies by Alex Dudok de Wit (BFI Publishing/Bloomsbury) reviewed by Michael Leader.

The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock: An Anatony of the Master of Suspense by Edward White (Norton) reviewed by Philip Kemp.

Letters

  • Knockout Raging Bull corrections
  • Pacifying multiplexes
  • Formulaic TV
  • No indexes – where’s the Senso in that?
  • Umberto Lenzi’s Hollywood hotch-potch
Our Endings section

Endings

Gun Crazy

Joseph H. Lewis’s taboo-busting 1950 B movie pushes the analogy between sex and violence all the way to a shattering climax. By Beatrice Loayza.