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Sight & Sound July 2018 Sight & Sound July 2018

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The irrepressible Agnès Varda: S&S contributors discuss the artist and filmmaker’s influential role in the French New Wave, her visual and linguistic style, love of play and sense of place.


Plus a debrief on this year’s memorable Cannes festival, the anti-authoritarian Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio, Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince, Budd Boetticher… and much more.

The irrepressible Agnès Varda: S&S contributors discuss the artist and filmmaker’s influential role in the French New Wave, her visual and linguistic style, love of play and sense of place.


Plus a debrief on this year’s memorable Cannes festival, the anti-authoritarian Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio, Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince, Budd Boetticher… and much more.

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The Irrepressible Agnès Varda is on the cover this month. Working at the vanguard of world cinema for over six decades, the artist and filmmaker has been a major influence on moving-image culture, from the French New Wave to far beyond. Having just turned 90, she is finally gaining the mainstream recognition she deserves. Her earlier films prefigure many of the aesthetic, social and political concerns of the present moment, and today Varda seems as busy as ever. She was recently awarded an honorary Oscar, premiered her latest film Faces, Places at least year’s Cannes and led 82 women in protest at this year’s festival. A season of her films begins at BFI Southbank in June and an installation at the Liverpool Biennial opens the following month. In this special issue, our writers discuss the key aspects of her brilliantly idiosyncratic career.

Ginette Vincendeau writes about Varda’s unjustly overlooked role as a pioneer of post-war French cinema, combining New Wave techniques with a unique feminist gaze, and Catherine Wheatley explores the ways in which her portraits of friends, lovers, strangers and invented characters are “double-portraits”, on which her own image is superimposed. Pamela Hutchinson describes Varda’s joyfulness, and the way she cannily plays the role of, in her own words, a “plump and chatty little old lady”, while Rebecca J. Deroo explains how she has quietly woven references to histories of art, photography and film throughout her work. So Mayer celebrates Varda’s linguistic playfulnness, and Isabel Stevens outlines the filmmaker’s distinctive and varied visual style. Finally, Adam Scovell talks about the importance of place in Varda’s films.

In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, this year’s Cannes was quieter and more introspective than usual. But – as well as the protests on the red carpet – a selection of oustanding, politically-conscious Asian films from Lee Chang-dong, Bi Gan, Jia Zhangke and Palme d’Or winner Koreeda Hirokazu made the festival very memorable nonetheless, reports Nick James. “This was Cannes at its most joyous: a savvy jury responded to a programme of the highest quality with good choices,” he writes. Plus Nick Bradshaw relays the highlights from Critics Week and Director’s Fortnight, which turned 50 this year.

Marco Bellochio’s career spans more than half a century, and is steeped in Italian history and firey left-wing politics. Henry K. Miller looks back over Italian filmmaker’s ouevre, from his controversial debut, Fists in the Pocket (1965), to his late career peak, Dormant Beauty (2012), identifying a common thread: “the allure of power, even among its victims”. Miller also talks to the director about the time he spent in London, where he discovered British cinema – and began writing his first film.  

Leave no Trace is the powerful third feature film from Debra Granik, the director of Winter’s Bone. The story of a teenager living off-grid in the wilds of Oregan with her military veteran father, the film taps into the pioneer spirit of the American past, as well as neorealist traditions of filmmaking. But it’s also distinctly the product of our own times, argues Ryan Gilbey, who talks to the director and finds similarities between her political filmmaking and the work of contemporaries Kelly Reichardt and So Yong Kim. All three filmmakers create “flyover cinema”: films about the neglected parts of America between the east and west coasts, which focus on female characters surviving economic hardship and homelessness. 

Our Home Cinema section features Budd Boetticher, whose western movies starring Randolph Scott are, Robert Hanks argues, “small miracles of craft”. Plus Pamela Hutchinson extols the cinephile sparkle of Olivier Assayas’s Irma Vep (1996) and Kat Ellinger revisits Czech director Zbynek Brynych’s haunting holocaust drama The Fifth Horseman Is Fear (1965).  

Also in this issue: long reviews of Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince, The Endless and Lek and the Dogs, an interview with Jonas Carpignano about his film The Ciambra, the powerful use of silence in the films of Jane Campion and Manny Farber’s (much misunderstood) termites and white elephants theory. 

The Irrepressible Agnès Varda is on the cover this month. Working at the vanguard of world cinema for over six decades, the artist and filmmaker has been a major influence on moving-image culture, from the French New Wave to far beyond. Having just turned 90, she is finally gaining the mainstream recognition she deserves. Her earlier films prefigure many of the aesthetic, social and political concerns of the present moment, and today Varda seems as busy as ever. She was recently awarded an honorary Oscar, premiered her latest film Faces, Places at least year’s Cannes and led 82 women in protest at this year’s festival. A season of her films begins at BFI Southbank in June and an installation at the Liverpool Biennial opens the following month. In this special issue, our writers discuss the key aspects of her brilliantly idiosyncratic career.

Ginette Vincendeau writes about Varda’s unjustly overlooked role as a pioneer of post-war French cinema, combining New Wave techniques with a unique feminist gaze, and Catherine Wheatley explores the ways in which her portraits of friends, lovers, strangers and invented characters are “double-portraits”, on which her own image is superimposed. Pamela Hutchinson describes Varda’s joyfulness, and the way she cannily plays the role of, in her own words, a “plump and chatty little old lady”, while Rebecca J. Deroo explains how she has quietly woven references to histories of art, photography and film throughout her work. So Mayer celebrates Varda’s linguistic playfulnness, and Isabel Stevens outlines the filmmaker’s distinctive and varied visual style. Finally, Adam Scovell talks about the importance of place in Varda’s films.

In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, this year’s Cannes was quieter and more introspective than usual. But – as well as the protests on the red carpet – a selection of oustanding, politically-conscious Asian films from Lee Chang-dong, Bi Gan, Jia Zhangke and Palme d’Or winner Koreeda Hirokazu made the festival very memorable nonetheless, reports Nick James. “This was Cannes at its most joyous: a savvy jury responded to a programme of the highest quality with good choices,” he writes. Plus Nick Bradshaw relays the highlights from Critics Week and Director’s Fortnight, which turned 50 this year.

Marco Bellochio’s career spans more than half a century, and is steeped in Italian history and firey left-wing politics. Henry K. Miller looks back over Italian filmmaker’s ouevre, from his controversial debut, Fists in the Pocket (1965), to his late career peak, Dormant Beauty (2012), identifying a common thread: “the allure of power, even among its victims”. Miller also talks to the director about the time he spent in London, where he discovered British cinema – and began writing his first film.  

Leave no Trace is the powerful third feature film from Debra Granik, the director of Winter’s Bone. The story of a teenager living off-grid in the wilds of Oregan with her military veteran father, the film taps into the pioneer spirit of the American past, as well as neorealist traditions of filmmaking. But it’s also distinctly the product of our own times, argues Ryan Gilbey, who talks to the director and finds similarities between her political filmmaking and the work of contemporaries Kelly Reichardt and So Yong Kim. All three filmmakers create “flyover cinema”: films about the neglected parts of America between the east and west coasts, which focus on female characters surviving economic hardship and homelessness. 

Our Home Cinema section features Budd Boetticher, whose western movies starring Randolph Scott are, Robert Hanks argues, “small miracles of craft”. Plus Pamela Hutchinson extols the cinephile sparkle of Olivier Assayas’s Irma Vep (1996) and Kat Ellinger revisits Czech director Zbynek Brynych’s haunting holocaust drama The Fifth Horseman Is Fear (1965).  

Also in this issue: long reviews of Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince, The Endless and Lek and the Dogs, an interview with Jonas Carpignano about his film The Ciambra, the powerful use of silence in the films of Jane Campion and Manny Farber’s (much misunderstood) termites and white elephants theory. 

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