Sight and Sound: the June 2023 issue

Paul Schrader holds court in the latest S&S. Plus: Ari Aster, Spike Lee and Sydney Sweeney interviewed; a deep dive into the BFI Film on Film festival programme; and much more.

9 May 2023

Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound: The Gospel of Paul Schrader

“Ahead of Master Gardener’s UK release, on a sunny April morning I sat down with Schrader in the restaurant on the top floor of his Manhattan apartment building. Over coffee and croissants, we discussed his new film, his love of occupational metaphors, the enduring importance of Pickpocket, and a topic of great interest to both him and this magazine: the shape of the film canon and the significant reshuffling of the rankings in last year’s Greatest Films of All Time poll.” So writes Erika Balsom as she introduces our latest cover feature, an interview with a typically incisive and opinionated Paul Schrader.

Joining Schrader in this issue are a host of stars, running the gamut from living legends to rising stars. Arjun Sajip hears from Spike Lee, Roger Luckhurst speaks to Ari Aster about Beau Is Afraid, and Beatrice Loayza interviews Reality director Tina Satter and star Sydney Sweeney.

Also in this issue is a deep dive into the modern world of celluloid, inspired by the BFI’s upcoming Film on Film festival, an interview with Patricio Guzmán on the release of his new documentary My Imaginary Country, Nick Bradshaw’s report from CPH:DOX, a history of videogames at the movies and, as always, much more – see below for all the details.

Features

The Gospel of Paul

The Gospel of Paul

In a wide-ranging interview in New York on the eve of the UK release of Master Gardener, Paul Schrader discusses his Bressonian roots, the transcendental style, the Taxi Driver template and his gripes about Sight and Sound’s Greatest Films of All Time poll. Introduction and interview by Erika Balsom. Photography by Matthew Salacuse.

+ Great expectations

Paul Schrader’s voting history across five editions of Sight and Sound’s Greatest Films of All Time poll records the fascinating evolution of his critical taste.

Beau’s travails

Beau’s travails

Ari Aster’s surreal dark comedy Beau Is Afraid might see the director moving away from the grisly horror that made his name, but his enthusiasm for Freudian subtexts, family dysfunction, decapitation, grief and guilt – not to mention traumatic scenes in bathrooms – shows no sign of abating. By Roger Luckhurst.

+ Aster’s eye

The director discusses some of the rich visual influences that helped to define the style and tone of Beau Is Afraid.

Reality check

Reality check

Tina Satter’s first feature, a recreation of the events surrounding the arrest of whistleblower Reality Winner, is both rigorously accurate and smartly inventive – the perfect expression of and antidote to our post-truth era. The director talks to Beatrice Loayza.

+ “I felt like I was walking into a moment in history”

For rising star Sydney Sweeney, Reality presented a new challenge: playing an actual person, with all her complexities and contradictions. By Beatrice Loayza.

Adapt or die: videogames at the movies

Adapt or die: videogames at the movies

As The Super Mario Bros Movie storms the box office, and in the wake of acclaimed prestige television series such as Arcane and The Last of Us, we explore the evolution of videogame adaptations over almost 40 years, from early duds to recent triumphs. By Thomas Flew.

Keeping it real

Keeping it reel

The way we watch films now may be dominated by digital projection and streaming, but nothing beats the glow of a movie projected from real, physical filmstock. As BFI Southbank launches its first festival of Film on Film, we take a look at what makes celluloid so special – and where its future lies. By Philip Concannon.

+ Taking stock: how projecting on film is making a comeback

In recent years, what was once a niche pursuit largely confined to older audiences has found growing popularity with a younger, more diverse cinema crowd eager to experience the authentic flicker of celluloid on the screen. By Charlie Shackleton.

+ The flicks list

UK cinemas, film clubs and festivals keeping alive the art of projecting on film. Compiled by Isabel Stevens and Thomas Flew.

Spike got game

+ Spike got game

During a trip to the UK to receive a BFI Fellowship and look in on the restoration of his 1992
epic Malcolm X, the director spoke to Sight and Sound about his influences, collaborators and favourite films – and explains why he believes he’s always been ahead of the curve. Introduction and interview by Arjun Sajip.

My brilliant career

From the archive: My brilliant career

The formidably talented and still somewhat underrated Robert Aldrich, director of classics such as Kiss Me Deadly and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, looked back candidly at the highs and lows of his career in an in-depth interview from the late 1960s. By Joel Greenberg, Sight and Sound, Winter 1968-69.

Opening scenes

Opening scenes

The social explosion

A new documentary by Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán, My Imaginary Country, examines the recent mass protests against inequality and poverty that have both blighted and empowered his home nation. By Mar Diestro-Dópido.

In production: Quays to the kingdom

Eighteen years after their last feature, twins Stephen and Timothy Quay, the celebrated animators behind Institute Benjamenta, Street of Crocodiles and Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ video, return with Sanatorium, based on a 1937 story by Bruno Schulz, their second adaptation of the Polish author’s work. By Thomas Flew.

In conversation: Tom Hardiman

The cut-throat world of hairdressing is the subject of murder-mystery Medusa Deluxe. By John Bleasdale.

The ballot of… Hlynur Pálmason

Each month we highlight a voter in our Greatest Films of All Time poll. Here the Icelandic director of A White, White Day and Godland shares his choices.

CPH:DOX: Youth in revolt

In Copenhagen this year, the focus fell on those left behind to resist in Putin’s Russia, including a soaring study of Gena, a walking work of art, in Queendom. By Nick Bradshaw.

Talkies

Talkies

The long take

Let’s celebrate the real-life immigrant women who inspired Joan Micklin Silver’s Hester Street. By Pamela Hutchinson.

TV eye

The Roys in Succession are trapped in a hell every bit as claustrophobic as anything Sartre imagined. By Andrew Male.

Poll position

Crunching numbers to find out who prefers Kurosawa to Kubrick reveals a peculiar kind of diversity. By Kevin B. Lee.

Flick lit

Why settle for heroines who are blandly likeable when they can be unruly and outrageous? By Nicole Flattery.

Editorial

Regulars

Editorial

Paul Schrader is a symbol of cinematic purity – just don’t mention the poll. By Mike Williams.

Rediscovery: Laurin

Robert Sigl’s rich gothic portrait of adult betrayal and childish resilience in the face of ambiguous, irrational peril is a German-language Night of the Hunter and a modern Grimm’s fairytale. By Hannah McGill.

Archive TV: Tightrope

Back in the 1970s, of course, children were expected to take a convoluted 13-part Cold War spy thriller in their stride. We didn’t have to be spoonfed the plots, like kids these days.

Lost and found: The Terror and the Time

This explosive film details an under-reported episode from the latter days of the British Empire – the 1953 military intervention to remove the democratically elected government of British Guiana. By Jonathan Ali.

Wider screen

Wider screen

Unknown country: the films of Patricia Mazuy

The French director’s bracing films are little known in the UK, but a recent Blu-ray of her dazzling 1989 debut, Peaux des vaches, offers a chance to reappraise her fascinating career. By David Thompson.

Norwich Women’s Film Weekend archive

The online archive for this key UK festival, which ran from 1979-89, offers a chance to drink from the twin wells of activist and cinephile nostalgia. By Pamela Hutchinson.

Reviews

Reviews

Film

Our critics review: Under the Fig Trees; Beau Is Afraid; The Old Man Movie: Lactopalypse, Plan 75; Master Gardener; Little Richard: I Am Everything; The Eight Mountains; Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie; Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.; Reality; A Crack in the Mountain; My Imaginary Country; Harka; The Plains; Love According to Dalva; Polite Society; Sisu; Portrait of Kaye; Medusa Deluxe; Brainwashed: Sex Camera Power; The Dam; Nam June Paik: Moon Is the Oldest TV.

DVD and Blu-ray

Our critics review: Twilight, Two films by Ernst Lubitsch, Everything Everywhere Again Alive, Full Circle: The Haunting of Julia, Two films by Jerzy Skolimowski, Croupier, The Virgin Suicides, The Bullet Train, Dance Craze, Martin.

Books

Our critics review: Feminist Worldmaking and the Moving Image, A Few Personal Messages, Adrian Brunel and the British Cinema of the 1920s: The Artist Versus the Moneybags