Sight and Sound: the December 2023 issue

Sofia Coppola on Priscilla – Emma Seligman on Bottoms – David Fincher on The Killer – Todd Haynes on May December – Justine Triet on Anatomy of a Fall – tributes to Horace Ové and Terence Davies – Joanna Hogg interviewed

3 November 2023

Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound, December 2023

“It looks like a fairytale, she’s got everything a woman could want, but it’s lonely.” Sofia Coppola is speaking to Nicole Flattery about Priscilla for our cover feature, her beautiful biopic of Mrs Presley, which spans the couples tumultuous relationship. This exploration of teenagedom and young adulthood affected by proximity to superstardom has all of the delicate accents that make Coppola’s films so distinct, as the pair discuss in a fascinating conversation.

Elsewhere in this packed issue: Isabel Stevens speaks to Emma Seligman about Bottoms, her boisterous high-school comedy starring Rachel Sennott and Ayo Adebiri; Jonathan Romney hears from David Fincher about his stripped-back revenge film The Killer; Amy Taubin interviews Todd Haynes for the compelling and provocative May December; Justine Triet on her Palme d’Or-winning Anatomy of a Fall; and Roger Luckhurst takes a trip to the movies with Joanna Hogg, digging into her inspirations and influences.

Plus: tributes to two icons of British cinema, Horace Ové and Terence Davies; Agniia Galdanova on the documentary Queendom; Maite Alberdi on The Eternal Memory; dozens of pages of reviews.

Features

Priscilla and me

Priscilla and me

With Priscilla, a biopic of Priscilla Presley, wife of Elvis, Sofia Coppola adds to her catalogue of subtle, thoughtful, gorgeous-looking films about women struggling to make a place for themselves in a world run by men’s rules – women who, like the director herself, aren’t taken nearly as seriously as they deserve. By Nicole Flattery.

+ The Cailee Show

The star of Priscilla on how she landed her career-making role, and how it felt to meet Priscilla Presley herself. By Nicole Flattery.

Smells like teen spirit

Smells like teen spirit

Emma Seligman’s Bottoms, the follow-up to her feature debut Shiva Baby, sees the director turn up the volume with a raucous, filthy, take-no-prisoners high-school comedy about a pair of nerdy gay girls setting out to snare themselves cheerleaders. By Isabel Stevens.

‘It was about making a ghost’

‘It was about making a ghost’

The Killer, the tale of an assassin taking revenge on the people who hired him, offers a spare philosophical portrait of a cold-blooded murderer who finds his life thrown into turmoil when he misses his target. David Fincher explains what put the subject in his sights. By Jonathan Romney.

Court marital

Court marital

Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or-winning courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall follows the trial of a woman charged with murder following the suspicious death of her husband. Here the director and the film’s star, Sandra Hüller, discuss the complexity of language, the art of storytelling and the elusive nature of truth. By Hannah McGill.

Terence Davies, 1945-2023

Terence Davies, 1945-2023

One of England’s greatest filmmakers, the director sculpted a series of indelible works out of the raw trauma of his childhood in Liverpool and went on to create a host of searingly beautiful literary adaptations and portraits of poets. By Michael Koresky.

A man for all seasons

A man for all seasons

Todd Haynes’s May December is – thanks to the compellingly repellent women at its heart – a piquant departure for the director. Here he talks about fictionalising the fallout from a seamy, steamy real-life tabloid tale. By Amy Taubin.

At the movies with… Joanna Hogg

At the movies with… Joanna Hogg

As Joanna Hogg’s haunted house tale The Eternal Daughter reaches UK screens, the director discusses the ghost stories that inspired her and outlines her selection of films for an accompanying BFI season that explores her influences more widely – from David Lynch and Ulrike Ottinger to Martin Scorsese. Introduction and interview by Roger Luckhurst.

From the archive: In memoriam, Horace Ové

From the archive: In memoriam, Horace Ové

Following the death of the pioneering director Horace Ové in September at the age of 86, we revisit a career-spanning interview with him published in the Black Film Bulletin in 1996, in which he reflected on 30 years making films and television in Britain, the US and the Caribbean. Interview by June Givanni.

Opening scenes

Opening scenes

A screen queen in exile

Russian director Agniia Galdanova’s urgent portrait of trans artist Gena Marvin, Queendom, is a study of resplendent resistance to Putin’s horrors. By Nick Bradshaw.

In production: On the road with Carla Simón

New films from Simón, Paul Schrader, Michael Mann and Pablo Larraín. By Thomas Flew

Coming attractions: LFF highlights to watch out for

From ghostly tearjerkers and globetrotting epics to madcap mayhem and muted marvels, here are some of the films shown at the BFI London Film Festival that are heading for UK cinemas over the coming year.

In focus: Maite Alberdi

The Eternal Memory sees the Chilean director continue her graceful explorations of ageing, focusing this time on the joy that can prevail in the face of Alzheimer’s. By Thomas Flew.

In conversation: Christos Nikou

The Greek director’s second feature, Fingernails, is a dating-app satire that breathes strange new life into the romcom format. By Isabel Stevens.

The ballot of… Lila Avilés

Each month we highlight a voter in our Greatest Films of All Time poll. Here the Mexican director of The Chambermaid and this year’s Tótem shares her choices.

Mean sheets: Killers of the Flower Moon

Artist Addie Roanhorse, a direct descendant of an Osage tribe member who was murdered in the 1920s, has created three stunning alternative posters for Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. By Thomas Flew.

Talkies

Talkies

The long take

The work of a film historian is like that of a detective, poring over clues to unlock mysteries. By Pamela Hutchinson.

Flick lit

The daily grind of being a film critic can be tough, as a host of great novelists have discovered. By Nicole Flattery.

TV eye

Michael Gambon’s devastating portrait of Oscar Wilde offers a masterclass in physical performance. By Andrew Male.

Poll position

Do the twin polls suggest there is such a thing as a director’s film versus a critic’s film? By Kevin B. Lee.

Editorial

Regulars

Editorial

The myth of Elvis was always on my mind. After Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, it’s all shook up. By Mike Williams.

Rediscovery: Unman, Wittering and Zigo

Ruthless, murderous public schoolboys trampling over anyone who stands in their way: what is it about John Mackenzie’s adaptation of Giles Cooper’s play that seems so gnawingly familiar? By Trevor Johnston.

Archive TV: I, Claudius

The BBC dramatisation of Robert Graves’s novels, which had the nation glued to the screen in 1976, is still a gripping compilation of Roman scandals, and a fantastic showcase for great acting. By Robert Hanks.

Lost and found: Daddy

The first of only two films Niki de Saint Phalle directed, a fantasy of revenge on a sexually abusive father, Daddy is dragging, disturbing, relentlessly repetitive and joyously transgressive. What else do you need to know? By Sophia Satchell-Baeza.

Wider screen

Salvaged histories: António Campos

An overlooked figure in Portuguese cinema, this compassionate documentarian created a series of powerful works of visual anthropology that bore witness to the social and cultural changes of the second half of the last century, capturing traditional communities on the verge of their eradication. By Ben Nicholson.

Endings: Closely Observed Trains (1966)

Jiří Menzel’s Czech classic, an ironic coming-of-age sex comedy set during World War II, undercuts its wry humour with the shocking death of its young protagonist. By Philip Kemp.

Reviews

Reviews

Films

Our critics review: Fallen Leaves, Saltburn, Mami Wata, Fingernails, The Royal Hotel, The Eternal Daughter, The Killer, Tish, A Forgotten Man, Is There Anybody Out There?, The Lost Boys, May December, Tótem, Femme, Girl, Eileen, The Eternal Memory, Dream Scenario, Anselm.

DVD & Blu-ray

Our critics review: Three films by Yasujirō Ozu: Dragnet Girl, Record of a Tenement Gentleman, A Hen in the Wind; Pearls of the Deep; Coming Out; Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai; The Guard from Underground; Le Combat dans l’île; Cry, the Beloved Country; Cutthroat Island; King & Country; Lorenza Mazzetti Collection.

Books

Our critics review: Charlie Chaplin vs. America: When Art, Sex, And Politics Collided; God and the Devil: The Life and Work of Ingmar Bergman; John Akomfrah.