Sight & Sound Summer 2021 issue

Our contributors wander down the untrodden pathways of cinema history, celebrating 100 figures behind the scenes of film’s finest hours.

The 100-strong crew we’ve spotlighted spans the full width of cinema history, from the costumes and stunts of silent cinema to the cutting edge of modern special effects. You may not know their names, but you are sure to recognise their often iconic work. And, of course, putting the films themselves together is only one part of the business; we tip our hats too to poster designers, film programmers, archivists, restorationists and even an infamous censor.

Elsewhere, Anton Bitel stumbles into the sinister world of Ben Wheatley’s In the Earth and speaks to the ever-industrious director about creating and shooting his film under Covid conditions and the freedom that a low budget can bring.

Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby mixes claustrophobic, thriller-style tension with a scalpel-sharp script to create a new brand of New York comedy. The director speaks to Sophie Monks Kaufman about sound design, sugar daddies and taking pride in her millennial audience.

Pigs, cows and a one-legged chicken abound in Victor Kossakovsky’s Gunda, a human-free slice of farmyard life. Nick Bradshaw probes the Russian docu-maestro on stripping back to a smaller scale, relinquishing control to his animal stars and why telling stories isn’t enough.

As Ben Sharrock’s humanising comedy Limbo heads from its Hebridian asylum-processing purgatory into cinemas, Agnes Woolley examines 20 years of refugees in film, from the stylised London of Dirty Pretty Things to Aki Kaurismäki’s ongoing refugee trilogy.

50 years ago Jane Fonda starred in the suppressed documentary F.T.A., about the eponymous theatre troupe of anti-war activists. Upon its rerelease the legendary actress speaks to Phuong Le about the joy of activism, her memories of Hanoi and why the Vietnam War’s after-effects are still felt in the US today.

And from our archive, a 1992 feature on Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho by Amy Taubin, who presciently heralded the arrival of a New Queer Cinema classic now approaching its 30th birthday.

Features

100 hidden heroes of cinema

100 hidden heroes of cinema

We turn the spotlight on 100 of the undersung geniuses who make film possible, from casting directors to layout artists to stuntpeople to publicists. James Bell introduces our list.

Including:

Hidden heroes featured in Sight & Sound Summer 2021 issue
  • Ivor Beddoes, sketch artist
  • William Chang, costume designer
  • Anne V. Coates, editor
  • Marion Dougherty, casting director
  • Arthur Freed, producer
  • June Givanni, archivist
  • Joan Harrison, writer, producer
  • June Mathis, screenwriter, executive
  • Isolde Monson-Baumgart, poster designer
  • Jack P. Pierce, make-up artist
  • Walter Plunkett, costume designer
  • Dorothy ‘Dot’ Ponedel, make-up artist
  • Sergei Urusevsky, cinematographer
  • Perc Westmore, make-up artist

+ 86 more!

Ben Wheatley interviewed

“I wanted to make something that fits the moment”

When the pandemic struck, the ever-prolific Ben Wheatley was undeterred, and quickly shot In the Earth, a horror film set deep within an isolated forest. The director tells Anton Bitel about shooting during Covid, carving out his own space and why he wasn’t trying to make a folk horror.

Emma Seligman interviewed

Millennial tension

Emma Seligman’s painfully tense Shiva Baby watches on as a college student finds herself trapped by prying family and friends at a wake. Sophie Monks Kaufman talks to the director about millennial-boomer conflicts, the benefits of having a sugar daddy, being influenced by Cassavetes, and only turning to her Jewish comedic Rolodex selectively.

Victor Kossakovsky interviewed

Call of the wild

Gunda, by Russian documentary master Victor Kossakovsky, is an intimate portrait of a pig family, a one-legged chicken and some cows, shot in lustrous black and white. He talks to Nick Bradshaw about the power of cinema and why using it to tell stories just isn’t enough.

+ Victor Kossakovsky in five films

Strangers in a strange land

Strangers in a strange land

Ben Sharrock’s Limbo is a tragicomic portrait of a group of asylum seekers passing time on a remote Scottish island. As it arrives in UK cinemas, Agnes Woolley examines a growing body of films over the past two decades that have sought to reframe our understanding of the refugee experience.

+ The facts: refugees and asylum seekers in the UK

Jane Fonda interviewed

“People power can win”

Shot 50 years ago and suppressed by a nervous establishment, F.T.A. captured Jane Fonda on the eve of her ‘Hanoi Jane’ notoriety, while she was part of a performing troupe protesting against the Vietnam War. As the documentary is rereleased, Fonda tells Phuong Le how the period changed her life.

+ Divide and rule: Hollywood and the anti-war movement

Objects of desire

Objects of desire

As Gus Van Sant’s celebrated tale of street hustlers My Own Private Idaho turns 30, we revisit an engrossing examination of the film’s themes that appeared in Sight & Sound on the eve of its UK release – a deft appraisal of a New Queer Cinema classic that brought marginalised lives, and narcolepsy, into the mainstream. By Amy Taubin.

+ ”I guess I’m a postmodernist”: Gus Van Sant talks with Amy Taubin

Regulars

Editorial

The auteur limits

Our Rushes section

Rushes

Super Cannes

After Covid shuttered the festival last year, the Croisette is back in action this summer and a tantalising roster of films awaits. By Pamela Hutchinson.

Rising star: Akinola Davies Jr

The director of award-winning short Lizard in profile. By Katie McCabe.

The long goodbye

New films such as The Father and Supernova reveal both the sorrow and the disorienting strangeness of life with dementia. By Guy Lodge.

Telling stories for survival

Ivorian filmmaker Philippe Lacôte on how he turned the true history of an outlaw into a fantasy fable, performed in a notorious prison. By Jonathan Romney.

Knight moves

Filmmaker Nick Broomfield discusses new evidence of police corruption and murder, in his follow-up to Biggie and Tupac. By James Mottram.

Dream palaces: the Romanian Cinematheque

Malmkrog director Cristi Puiu recalls having his eyes opened to the transformative potential of film in communist Bucharest.

“We expected the coup every day”

A decade after Raúl Ruiz’s death, his widow is fighting to finish his film that predicted the terrible events that halted its production. By Neil Young.

In production

New projects by Léonor Serraille, Yorgos Lanthimos, Alice Rohrwacher and Anna Rose Holmer and Saela Davis.

Cool intentions

From fashion designer to photographer to pop video director – where will Tanu Muino’s explosive talent take her next? By Sydney Urbanek.

+ Women in music videos: more names worth knowing

“I don’t believe in art for art’s sake”

Meet Pietro Marcello, one of the most singular filmmakers in contemporary Italian cinema, and his audacious epic Martin Eden. By Jonathan Romney.

Dream Palace diaries

Two cinema workers reflect on a momentous week for movie theatres in the UK – when the doors finally reopened. By Jason Wood, creative director, film and culture at HOME, and Tamsin Cleary, usherette at the Prince Charles Cinema, London.

+ The films we’ve been waiting for

Come dine with me

Five years after the 2016 Brexit referendum, Marc Isaacs’s latest documentary turns his house into a microcosm of the country. By Isabel Stevens.

Kevin Jackson, 1955-2021

No subject was too large or too trivial for the polymathic critic and long-time Sight & Sound contributor. By Matthew Sweet.

+ Kevin Jackson in the S&S archive

A new dimension

After years of neglect and infantilisation, are cinema and TV finally giving actors with Down syndrome roles of substance? By Caspar Salmon.

A Hollywood wedding

A writer recalls making his nuptial vows in front of a movie legend: actor-producer-director Norman Lloyd, who has died aged 106. By David Cairns.

Our Wide Angle section

Wide Angle

Retrospective: People watching

A season celebrating her 90th birthday brings into focus the long and distinguished career of the Hungarian director Márta Mészáros. By Michael Brooke.

Film clubs: A void of discovery

For a brief while, a film club in London took all the predictability out of cinema-going. Will we ever see its like again? By Matilda Munro.

Women in film: The woman who did

Jill Craigie’s long marriage to Michael Foot has overshadowed her courageous, pioneering career in documentary film. By Lillian Crawford.

Books and film: Poetry in motion (pictures)

Some filmmakers have brought poetry to the screen, but have poets really done enough to bring movies to the page? By David Spittle.

Primal screen: Rules of attraction

Weimar Germany was far from the sexually liberated place sometimes depicted – but its restrictive laws inspired one of the first gay movies. By Tamsin Cleary.

Reviews

Films of the month

Deerskin

Reviewed by Jonathan Romney.

In the Earth

Reviewed by Hannah McGill

Our Review section

plus reviews of:

Television of the month

Mare of Easttown

Kate Winslet excels as grieving mother and weary police officer Mare in Brad Ingelsby’s examination of the oppressively tight binds within a close-knit community. Reviewed by Kate Stables.

plus reviews of

Our Home Cinema section

Home cinema features

September affair: Friendship’s Death

Middle Eastern politics and film theory meet the screen goddesses of the golden age in Peter Wollen’s visionary science-fiction film. Reviewed by Henry K. Miller.

Rediscovery: Maeve

At a time when films set in Northern Ireland invariably offered grim realism, Maeve was a startlingly radical experiment. Reviewed by Trevor Johnston.

Archive television: Play for Today Volume 2

Robert Hanks welcomes the second volume of the BFI’s Play for Today series.

Lost and Found: Still Life

Patient and humane, this moving portrait of an elderly couple cast adrift is the forerunner of the films of Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf. By Chris Shields.

plus reviews of:

  • Blood Ceremony
  • Columbia Noir #3
  • Doctor X
  • Ghost Hunting
  • The Hands of Orlac
  • Lake Mungo
  • Over the Edge
  • Films by Mario Ruspoli
  • Someone to Watch over Me
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Our Books section

Books

Shooting Midnight Cowboy: Art, Sex, Loneliness, Liberation, and the Making of a Dark Classic by Glenn Frankel (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux) reviewed by Hannah McGill.

Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper by Scout Tafoya (Miniver Press) reviewed by Martyn Conterio.

Celeste Holm Syndrome: On Character Actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age by David Lazar (University of Nebraska Press) reviewed by Pamela Hutchinson.

Billy Wilder on Assignment: Dispatches from Weimar Berlin and Interwar Vienna edited by Noah Isenberg (Princeton University Press) reviewed by Tom Charity.

Our Endings section

Letters

  • Marnie, that’s what I want
  • The truth about Charlie
  • Scalp treatment
  • The future’s bright
  • Belfast and loose
  • Dark side of the mood

Endings

Two-Lane Blacktop

The incendiary finale of Monte Hellman’s 1971 existential odyssey elevates this classic about searching for intimacy on the open road. By Adam Solomons.