Like Schrödinger’s cat, cinema seemingly exists in simultaneous states of life and death; its imminent demise has been heralded for over a century. Technological upstarts from radio to television to VHS to DVD have all come for the crown, and now streaming is the big-hitting rival supposedly set to end our ongoing relationship with the big screen.
Yet for many of us in the past 18 months, our love of screens has become polygamous, full of yearning for the dusty, flickering light of projectors, yet comforted by the flow of new films and series onto our TVs. It may at times be an uneasy relationship – to which Cannes director Thierry Frémaux’s snide jabs at Netflix attest – but perhaps some semblance of harmony and friendly rivalry will eventually settle.
What better time, then, to take the temperature of our ‘ailing’ art, and who better to ask than some of the most influential and opinionated filmmakers around – many of whom are wandering around in the no man’s land between film, TV and streaming themselves. This issue’s cover feature is a seven-question survey of filmmaking stars, which brought back responses both optimistic and pessimistic, thoughtful and playful, long and short, and we’ve crammed in as many as possible.
Many of these philosophical quandaries informed debates at the long overdue Cannes film festival but thankfully took a backstage seat to the films themselves, of which there were plenty. Isabel Stevens runs down the best of the fest, including the second ever Palme d’Or winner by a female director: Julia Ducournau’s full-throttle masterpiece Titane.
With Nia DaCosta’s long awaited reboot of Candyman finally arriving, Kelli Weston follows the ripples of “the distinguished heritage of Black horror” that can be felt throughout the film, and James Bell speaks to the director.
And, from our archive, a career-spanning conversation with the legendary Bette Davis, published in 1971, when the young upstarts of New Hollywood were sparking revolution in a stagnant industry.
Inside and out, this issue brings a new look for Sight and Sound – although eagle eyed readers may recognise our new title font, inspired by our 1970s covers. Keep scrolling for further peeks inside our fresh redesign. Looking good for an 89-year-old magazine, we’d say.
The future of film
Where is film at in 2021, how did it get here and, most importantly, where does it go next? To mark this special issue of Sight and Sound, we gathered together a number of interesting and important filmmakers to ask for their views and to help us take the temperature of film, cinema and the surrounding culture, with in-depth discussions with our cover stars Chloé Zhao, Steve McQueen, Sofia Coppola and Luca Guadagnino.
Do they think cinema needs saving? What gives them hope? Are the big screen and small screen squabbling siblings or mortal enemies? And how will things look in ten years’ time? Their answers are fascinating.
Chloé Zhao is on the crest of a wave: this year the 39-year-old Chinese-born, US-based filmmaker saw her documentary-inflected filmmaking triumph, when her third feature Nomadland swept the Oscars. With her forthcoming Marvel blockbuster Eternals marking a move to the other end of the industry, who better to reflect on where cinema – at whatever scale – might be heading next. By Guy Lodge.
Since he first made his name as a Turner Prize-winning artist in the 1990s, through to his debut feature Hunger in 2008 and his Oscar-winner 12 Years a Slave in 2012, Steve McQueen has been in the vanguard of international art and filmmaking. But with last year’s vital and masterful five-film anthology Small Axe being made for and screened on television, what does McQueen see cinema’s future lying? By Kaleem Aftab.
Sofia Coppola made an immediate impact with her 1999 debut The Virgin Suicides, and confirmed her cult status with Lost in Translation in 2003. Her projects since have ranged from stylish period dramas to examinations of contemporary relationships, but with an Edith Wharton adaptation for Apple TV+ in the works, does she see the future on the big screen, or the small? By Pamela Hutchinson.
Italian director Luca Guadagnino first broke through to international arthouse acclaim with his 2009 film I Am Love, following that success with 2015’s A Bigger Splash, 2017’s swoonsome romance Call Me By Your Name and 2018’s remake of Suspiria. With upcoming projects including both TV series and features, what does the future hold for this avowed cinephile? By Thomas Flew.
The Cannes dispatch
With the 2020 event cancelled due to the pandemic, expectations were high for a film-packed riviera extravaganza like no other – and Cannes didn’t disappoint. By Isabel Stevens.
+ more highlights from Cannes 2021
Blood lines: a history of Black horror
With the release of Nia DaCosta’s Candyman reboot, Kelli Weston traces the distinguished heritage of Black horror – as written and created by Black filmmakers.
+ Nia DaCosta interviewed by James Bell
From the archive: “We will never see that Hollywood again”
In this piece from our Winter 1971/72 issue Margaret Hinxman sits down with Bette Davis – the grande dame of cinema herself – as she reflects on a life in the movies, and how the Golden Age Hollywood she knew has gone forever.
Going with the grain
This year at Cannes there was a surprising increase in movies shot on film. What has sparked this rise and why do some filmmakers still favour film over digital? By Guy Lodge.
+ Cannes prizes: judging the winners. By Isabel Stevens.
Recommendations from the Sight and Sound team.
In production: Infinite Storm
New films by Malgorzata Szumowska, Luca Guadagnino, Andrey Zvyagintsev and Claire Denis. By Thomas Flew.
News: Another Screen
Another Gaze founder Danielle Schreir talks about the streaming service’s upcoming programmes. By Pamela Hutchinson.
In conversation: Michael Franco
The Mexican filmmaker discusses New Order, a provocative dystopian work that images his native country being torn apart by political violence. Interview by Paul Julian Smith.
Rising star: Ayten Amin
The Egyptian director of Souad in profile. By Thomas Flew.
The score: Sparks
The Mael brothers, Ron and Russell, discuss not quite working with Jacques Tati, the influence of Jacques Demy, and getting counterintuitive. Interview by Caspar Salmon.
Obituary: Menelik Shabazz, 1954-2021
In memory of the revolutionary filmmaker, writer and educator, who was a pioneer of Black British cinema. By Leila Latif.
Dream palaces: Cinema House, Tbilisi
Beginning director Dea Kulumbegashvili remembers her lost youth escaping the summer heat in a shabby old Soviet cinema in Tbilisi, Georgia. Interview by Pamela Hutchinson.
The long take
In the Heights captures New York in a state of flux – just as films have done for over 100 years. By Pamela Hutchinson.
Off the shelf
I am no fan of censorship, but do we need to issue gore guidelines? By Jonathan Ross.
The director’s chair
I have a simple proposal on how to revitalise cinema and boost box office. Sounds great, huh? By Ruben Ostlund.
Lockdown has reawakened the joy of drifting through city streets – both on screen and off. By Phuong Le.
Black Film Bulletin
In the first of a new quarterly supplement, the much missed Black Film Bulletin is revived, and explores the theme of legacies. Edited by June Givanni (founder), Jan Asante and Mel Hoyes.
Zak Ové on Horace Ové
The son of Horace Ové, the pioneering director of Pressure and Playing Away, celebrates his father’s tireless creativity and crucial contribution to British film culture.
Merawi Gerima on Haile Gerima
Ethiopian-born Haile Gerima was one of the forces behind the African cinema liberationists of the 1960s. A crucial move to the US in the 1970s led his exploration of colonialism’s legacies to new fields.
The indispensable Nadine Marsh-Edwards
In the first half of an extended two-part interview with the BFB editors, the pioneering producer Nadine Marsh-Edwards reflects on her work as part of the Black Film Workshop movement of the 1980s, and on her recent television productions, made during the pandemic.
We’ve changed the way we look but our passion for cinema is as strong as ever. By Mike Williams.
Rediscovery: The Amusement Park
Commissioning the great auteur of zombie films to make a documentary about the neglect of the elderly? Blandness was never a likely outcome. By Kim Newman.
Archive TV: The Westerner
Sam Peckinpah’s unorthodox cowboy series pays homage to the myth of the Old West, but isn’t afraid to show glimpses of its dark side. By Robert Hanks.
Lost and found: I Could Read the Sky
The Goldsmiths Prize-winning longs for a release of this topography of the landscape of exile inhabited by generations of Irishmen in England. By Kevin Barry.
This month in…1976
What was happening in the world of cinema 45 years ago, as seen through the prism of the Sight and Sound Autumn 1976 issue?
Endings: Bringing up Baby
The close of Howard Hawks’s 1938 classic is fresher than a happy-ever-after – a game of perpetual motion promising a future that will be anything but boring. By Molly Haskell.
- Annette reviewed by Giovanni Marchini Camia.
- Boys from County Hell reviewed by Kim Newman.
- CODA reviewed by Jessica Kiang.
- El Father Plays Himself reviewed by Ben Nicholson.
- Summer of Soul reviewed by Devika Girish.
- Security reviewed by Tim Hayes.
- Fear Street reviewed by Anna Bogutskaya.
- Cousins reviewed by Chris Hall.
- The Fever reviewed by Jason Anderson.
- I’m Your Man reviewed by Leila Latif.
- I Never Cry reviewed by Alex Ramon.
- The Last Letter from Your Lover reviewed by Anna Smith.
- Settlers reviewed by Kim Newman.
- Paris Calligrammes reviewed by Hannah McGill.
- The World to Come reviewed by Kate Stables.
- Shorta reviewed by Adam Nayman.
- New Order reviewed by Maria Delgado.
- Stillwater reviewed by Trevor Johnston.
- Souad reviewed by Ela Bittenboard.
- Wendy reviewed by Farran Smith Nehme.
- Wildland reviewed by Katherine McLaughlin
DVD & Blu-ray
- Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers reviewed by Anne Billson.
- Hammer Volume Six: Night Shadows reviewed by Trevor Johnston.
- Beauty and the Beast reviewed by Michael Brooke.
- But I’m a Cheerleader reviewed by Kate Stables.
- Deep Cover reviewed by Trevor Johnston.
- The Silence Before Bach/Mudanza reviewed by Ben Nicholson.
- Salaam Bombay! reviewed by Philip Kemp.
- The 317th Platoon reviewed by Michael Atkinson.
- Invincible reviewed by Trevor Johnston.
- The Woman One Longs For reviewed by Michael Atkinson.
- Profile: Mark Rappaport reviewed by Tony Rayns.
- A world seen and dreamt: Cinelimite reviewed by Ruairí McCann.
- Once upon a Time in Hollywood reviewed by Tom Charity.
- Coming to a bookstore near you: on novelisations. By Brad Stevens.
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Originally published: 29 July 2021