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Sight & Sound July 2019


A fresh crop of exciting films have arisen at this year’s Cannes, led by Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die. Plus, we bask in the glow of the golden age of Mexican cinema, drop in for Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls, and celebrate the legacy of Pauline Kael.

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Jim Jarmusch led the genre takeover of this year’s Cannes film festival, which opened with his zom-semble comedy The Dead Don’t Die. While it may seem like a dip into the mainstream for the indie icon, Geoff Andrew maintains that this thoroughly enjoyable film is simply a continuation of Jarmusch’s concern for the walking dead of our society, and talks to him about environmental angst and how to stay hopeful, with the inevitable allusions to life under Trump. 

Relentless zombies, neo-cowboys, mind-controlling plants and dour detectives were – surprisingly – a welcome sight at Cannes this year. Nick James found that the shift towards genre cinema on the Croisette coincided with a marked rise in the quality and range of the competing films, and gives an overview of the festival which saw the latest films from Quentin Tarantino, Terrence Malick, Pedro Almodóvar, Céline Sciamma, Ken Loach, Bong Joon-ho, the Dardenne brothers and many more. Meanwhile, Isabel Stevens reports on the exciting films making their mark from the fringes of this year’s festival, which have proved to be just as varied and innovative as the Competition entries – from Robert Eggers’s gothic sea shanty The Lighthouse to the pilgrimage of a plucky severed hand in Critics’ Week Grand Prize-winner I Lost My Body.

This month sees the release of the new film from another mainstay of the American indie scene, Andrew Bujalski. Support the Girls focuses on the friendships and plights of female workers at a Hooters-style restaurant, and may prove to be Bujalski’s long-deserved commercial breakthrough, while staying true to the vulnerability and unconventional dramatic rhythms of his previous works, suggests Jamie Dunn. Here, Bujalski reflects on his oeuvre and his new film’s unexpected relevance, as well as piling praise on his charming leading lady, Regina Hall.

On the centenary on her birth, we take a look back at the career and legacy of the peerless Pauline Kael. Farran Smith Nehme finds inspiration in the enduring insights, controversial witticisms and energetic prose that made Kael one of the most influential critics of the last century. Also featured here are excerpts from a previously unpublished transcript of Kael taking questions from an NFT audience in 1982, in which the same energy felt in her writing shines through. With stark honesty and cool eloquence, Kael recalls what ignited her love of films, challenges the charges of cynicism put against her, and gives her candid opinion on De Palma, Spielberg, Carpenter, Godard and Lynch.

Our latest Deep Focus season dives into the golden age of Mexican cinema, an era in which Mexico became a powerhouse of film production, and where the cinema reflected the fears and aspirations of a country in flux. Chloë Roddick, programmer at the Morelia Film Festival in Mexico, charts the history and films of this fertile period of expression. From the revolutionary spirit in the 1930s, through the influence of noir in the 40s, to the mythic fantasies of the 60s, these films are so vivid and affecting that they helped define the very concept of Mexican identity. Experience them for yourself at the BFI Southbank throughout July.

In our Rushes section, the familiar unease of David Lynch’s surreal moving images spills onto his canvases, with a selection of his artworks on exhibition at HOME Manchester this summer; Charles Gant weighs in on the clash between those titans of arthouse cinema, Picturehouse and Curzon; and to coincide with the rerelease of Don’t Look Now, we talk to its DP Anthony Richmond about his work and his experience working with the likes of Roeg and Godard.

In the Wide Angle section, MoMA film curator Anne Morra wonders why on earth most people have never heard of Stephanie Rothman. A contemporary of Coppola and Scorsese, and trained by Roger Corman, Rothman made exploitation cinema that engaged honestly and empathetically with the struggles of independent women. Though popular with audiences, she was held back by the industry and subsequently ignored by canonising critics, an injustice that is finally being rectified.

Also in Wide Angle this month, Pamela Hutchinson offers on appreciation of Clarence Brown’s The Signal Tower – a silent railroad picture that has been restored and screened at San Francisco Silent Film Festival to much jubilation – and Henry K. Miller looks back at a monumental moviegoing evening in 1934, when London’s Film Society put on a showcase of radical, experimental cinema so significant that it is being recreated this month at the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image.

Also in this issue:


With Bong Joon-ho’s darkly comic satire Parasite picking up the Palme d’Or and a marauding horde of zombies, crime thrillers, sci-fi films and quasi westerns following up the rear, this year’s festival saw a culture shift toward genre cinema – and a simultaneous boost in the quality and range of films on offer. By Nick James.

+ Daring buds of May
Alongside the Competition entries, this year’s Cannes had plenty of exciting, innovative filmmaking on offer from newer, less starry names. By Isabel Stevens.


A recent Variety article claims Tarantino saved Cannes, but does Cannes need saving?

Dream palaces:

The Fox Drive-In Cinema, Nairobi
Rafiki director Wanuri Kahiu recalls the magical thrill of a family visit to the drive-in as a young girl in Kenya in the early 1990s.

The Numbers:

Woman at War, activist dramas and Picturehouse vs Curzon
A quirky tale about an unlikely environmental activist has proved a small-scale hit for Picturehouse as it looks to boost its acquisition of titles. By Charles Gant.

Films in production:

New projects for Baz Luhrmann, Jane Campion, Guillermo del Toro and Sally El Hosaini.


Films of the month:

Apollo 11
Diego Maradona
In Fabric

plus reviews of:

 Avengers: Endgame
 The Captor
 The Corrupted
 The Curse of La Llorona
 Division 19
 Ferrante Fever
 The Flood
 The Hustle
 Ibiza: The Silent Movie
 I Love My Mum
 In Safe Hands
 John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
 Never Look Away
 Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
 Prisoners of the Moon
 A Season in France
 The Secret Life of Pets 2
 Support the Girls
 Vita & Virginia
 We the Animals

Home Cinema features:

Northern exposure: Room at the Top

Sixty years on, Jack Clayton’s melodrama of social ambition and sexual conflict still feels gripping and raw. Reviewed by Robert Hanks.

Revival: The Big Clock

A spiffy new edition of a classic noir thriller offers a reminder of a director whose career deserves a lot more attention than it’s had so far. Reviewed by Tony Rayns.


Orson Welles Great Mysteries, Volume One

13 episodes from a talented set of directors, including The Leather Funnel, which is jazzed up into a messy witch story, but a mess that gives you Christopher Lee, Simon Ward, Jane Seymour, and fabulous satanic library music. By Robert Hanks.

Lost and found:


Giorgi Shengelaia’s biopic is a stunning portrait of an isolated, unhappy man who is yet attuned to the world’s beauty. By Erica Eisen.

Plus reviews of:


Bellman and True
Everybody in Our Family
A Face in the Crowd
The Heiress
The Holy Mountain
How I Won the War
The Landlord
The Last Warning
No Orchids for Miss Blandish
One, Two, Three
Track 29
Under Fire


Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan by J. Hoberman (The New Press) reviewed by Nick Pinkerton

Swinging on a Star – The War Years 1940-1946 by Gary Giddins (Little, Brown and Company) reviewed by Dan Callahan

What Happened to Women in the Silent Film Industries? by Jane M. Gaines (University of Illinois Press) reviewed by Pamela Hutchinson

The Women Who Ran Hollywood by J. E. Smyth (Oxford University Press) reviewed by Pamela Hutchinson


Don’t forget about Wanda Tuchock!

Laurel & Hardy can still inspire wonder

Liberating the boundaries of what we call ‘film’

Has Picturehouse betrayed its ‘art cinema’ status?

Will Peter Jackson’s film trilogy consume Tolkein’s literary world? 

Bravo for Border, but the original short story deserves consideration


Kind Hearts and Coronets

The final moments of Robert Hamer’s jet-black comedy bring its antihero down to earth – and place Dennis Price among the stars. By Andrew Roberts.

Additional Information
More Information
SKU SSJuly2019
Publisher(s) BFI
Format Paperback
Original publication date June 2019
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