Sight and Sound: the November 2023 issue

We explore 50 years of The Exorcist’s blasphemy and obscenity and pay tribute to director William Friedkin. Plus: Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese on Powell and Pressburger, the best films from Venice 2023 and Carol Morley on Typist Artist Pirate King

3 October 2023

Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound, November 2023

Fifty years after its release, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist retains all of its power to shock and provoke. To mark the anniversary, Friedkin’s biographer Nat Segaloff recalls his time with the late director, while Adrian Martin journeys through his varied and often underappreciated oeuvre.

Elsewhere in the issue, Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese pay tribute to the ebullient filmography of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Kieron Corless reports from Venice Film Festival and finds consensus with the jury’s prize-giving, and author Sinéad Gleeson speaks to Carol Morley about her portrait of outsider artist Audrey Amiss.

Plus: the Black Film Bulletin looks at the legacies of Fespaco and Ousmane Sembène and revisits a classic Arther Jafa interview; Tim Burton on his works-in-progress; Molly Manning Walker on How to Have Sex; Nicolas Philibert on On the Adamant; an archive interview with Rouben Mamoulian; and much, much more.

Features

Ride with the devil

Ride with the devil

As William Friedkin’s The Exorcist turns 50, the writer of the firebrand director’s authorised 1990 biography Hurricane Billy remembers his time with him in the weeks – and years – after the film’s release. By Nat Segaloff.

+ Designing the demon

In an extract from Segaloff ’s new book The Exorcist Legacy: 50 Years of Fear make-up artists Dick Smith and Rick Baker detail how they transformed Linda Blair into the devil.

Shock tactics: William Friedkin

Shock tactics: William Friedkin

The director, who died in August aged 87, combined the classical storytelling strengths of 1950s American cinema with a taste for modernism derived from the nouvelle vague and other art-film movements of the 60s, writes Adrian Martin.

Do look now

Do look now: Festival report, Venice 2023

Great films by Yorgos Lanthimos, Hamaguchi Ryûsuke and Agnieszka Holland were the deserving winners of the top prizes at the festival, which also saw strong work by David Fincher, Richard Linklater and newcomer Luna Carmoon. By Kieron Corless.

Thelma Schoonmaker interviewed

Thelma Schoonmaker: A personal journey through Powell & Pressburger’s movies

A passionate custodian of the legacy of the great English director and Hungarian writer, the editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who was married to Michael Powell until his death in 1990, offers an insider’s guide to the bewitching world of these giants of 1940s and 50s cinema. Introduction and interview by Pamela Hutchinson.

+ Kings of the movies: Scorsese on Powell & Pressburger

A new documentary drawing on the archives of Michael Powell, Thelma Schoonmaker and
Martin Scorsese explores the magic of the duo’s films. Here Scorsese talks to Philip Horne about his childhood memories of their films and the mysterious alchemy of their partnership.

+ Putting on The Red Shoes

As The Red Shoes is rereleased in the UK, alongside a BFI exhibition about it, we publish another entry from BFI film archivist David Meeker’s posthumous diary. Here he recalls restoring the film and his friendship with Michael Powell.

Carol Morley interviewed

Finding Audrey Amiss

A talented artist whose career was derailed by mental illness, Audrey Amiss left behind an astonishing archive of paintings and journals. Carol Morley draws on this in her latest film to create a portrait of a vivid, tragic, hilarious heroine. By Sinéad Gleeson.

Rouben Mamoulian interviewed

From the archive: Hollywood legend

One of the greats of 1930s Hollywood cinema and onwards, Rouben Mamoulian spoke to
Sight and Sound at the tail end of his career, as he looked back on his journey from pre-Soviet Georgia to directing stars such as Greta Garbo and Fred Astaire in a string of indelible masterpieces. Interview by David Robinson, S&S Summer 1961.

Black Film Bulletin

Black Film Bulletin

Fespaco: past, present and future

Since its founding in 1969, the Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Télévision de Ouagadougou – popularly known as Fespaco – has built a reputation as Africa’s most important film festival. Earlier this year, a panel of key Fespaco contributors convened in London to honour the festival’s legacy. Nadia Denton, the driving force behind the ‘Beyond Nollywood’ initiative, was present to capture the highlights.

Ousmane Sembène and African cinema now

Writer and filmmaker Tambay Obenson blazed a trail in early 2000s US film criticism, founding the prolific Black cinema blog Shadow & Act and going on to serve as IndieWire’s principal Black cinema staff writer until last year, when he established Akoroko – a media platform dedicated to discourse around African film and TV. As the birth centenary of Ousmane Sembène comes to an end, Obenson muses on the monumental legacy of a filmmaker widely hailed as the ‘father of African cinema’.

Arthur Jafa Revisited

Director of photography on Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, John Akomfrah’s documentary Seven Songs for Malcolm X and Spike Lee’s Crooklyn, Arthur Jafa has crafted an oeuvre that also encompasses music, philosophy and science-fiction art. He had a wide-ranging conversation with Black Film Bulletin co-founder June Givanni in London in February 1993, excerpts from which are reproduced below.

Opening scenes

Opening scenes

Horace Ové, 1936-2023

Whether working in drama or documentary, the pioneering director retained his political voice, revealing a fascination with the textures and social realities of Black British life in a multicultural nation. By Ashley Clark.

In Production: Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice…

New films by Tim Burton, Todd Haynes, Carla Simón and Joachim Trier.

In conversation: Molly Manning Walker

Cannes prizewinner How to Have Sex is an exuberant but devastating take on female friendship and teenage sexual awakening. By Rachel Pronger.

Interview: On the waterfront

Nicolas Philibert’s perceptive, patient and sympathetic documentary examines a Parisian day centre for people who are dealing with issues around their mental health. By Geoff Andrew.

Festival: Toronto

Even as the actors’ strike ground on, there was no shortage of stars to walk the red carpets. By Adam Nayman.

Talkies

Talkies

The long take

A rediscovered fragment of the lost 1917 Cleopatra reveals Hollywood excess at its finest. By Pamela Hutchinson.

TV eye

The pervasive malevolence in Evil makes even Friedkin’s take on demonic forces seem optimistic. By Andrew Male.

Poll position

As environmental concerns grow more intense, it’s time we formed a sustainable cinematic canon. By Kevin B. Lee.

Flick lit

In the slippery worlds of Bret Easton Ellis and Paul Schrader, beauty betrays as much as it beguiles. By Nicole Flattery.

Regulars

Editorial

There’s something rotten in the state of film discourse. Curation is the cure. By Mike Williams.

Rediscovery: Gothic

Concealed beneath the wild, trashy surface of Ken Russell’s account of the Swiss holiday that engendered Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a poignant portrait of haunted creativity. By Alex Ramon.

Archive TV: Oppenheimer

Rerunning this comparatively cheap, leisurely predecessor to Christopher Nolan’s big-screen blockbuster is a perfect example of the sort of thing the BBC should be doing with its unrivalled archive of television drama. By Robert Hanks.

Lost and Found: The Queen’s Guards

The royalist, imperialist elements of Michael Powell’s last major British production – set around the annual ceremony of Trooping of the Colour – left critics confused and irritated. But its Technicolor glories are still hard to resist. By Jo Botting.

Wider screen: Stanley Schtinter’s Last Movies

The artist-curator’s book and accompanying film programmes recalibrate the history of cinema according to the final films watched by a selection of its icons. By Iain Sinclair.

Endings: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Jon Voight’s cowboy hustler and his unlikely soulmate Ratso see their dreams crushed on a road to nowhere at the close of John Schlesinger’s classic buddy movie. By Sophia Satchell-Baeza.

Reviews

Reviews

Films

Our critics review: Killers of the Flower Moon, 20 Days in Mariupol, El Conde, Fair Play, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, The Pigeon Tunnel, Foe, The Miracle Club, Silver Dollar Road, Lies We Tell, Golda, On the Adamant, Our River… Our Sky, Typist Artist Pirate King, If the Streets Were on Fire, Dalíland, Beyond Utopia, Accused, 20,000 Species of Bees, How to Have Sex, Where the Wind Blows.

DVD & Blu-ray

Our critics review: Kira Mutatova: Brief Encounters and The Long Farewell, Wheel of Ashes, Gregory’s Girl, Night of the Hunted, Visible Secret, Partie de campagne, Door and Door II: Tokyo Diary, Targets, Messiah of Evil, L’Aventurier.

Books

Our critics review: The Cinema of Powell and Pressburger; The Red Shoes; Beyond the New Romanian Cinema: Romanian Culture, History, and the Films of Radu Jude.