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Sight & Sound November 2015

We go once more over the threshold with Guillermo del Toro – further honing his gothic gifts with the wonderful Crimson Peak; with Andrei Tarkovsky – the Russian film seer who opened whole new realms of film poetry for others to follow; and with Yorgos Lanthimos, the young Greek satirist whose latest spiky parable The Lobster comes studded with stars.
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Our November issue ventures into the haunted netherworld of gothic cinema as we speak to Guillermo del Toro about his magnificently spooky new film Crimson Peak – which stars Mia Wasikowska as a young American woman who in the early 20th century travels to a grand, ornate mansion in the Lake District, home of the mysterious baronet Sir Thomas Sharpe (played by Tom Hiddleston) and his icy sister Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain).


Del Toro has long drawn inspiration from the deep well of the gothic, not least in his earlier masterful ghost and fantasy tales The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, but Crimson Peak is the Mexican director’s most richly gothic movie yet – and a creative triumph that may be his best film so far. He talks to Mar Diestro-Dópido about how he wanted to capture the same atmosphere as the big Hollywood gothic fantasies of the 1940s – films such as Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Lean’s Great Expectations – and about his own encounters with ghosts.

Andrei Tarkovsky may never have explored the Gothic tradition, but in his seven films he helped to create a new space in cinema that reached beyond realism and the everyday and into a more poetic realm. As the BFI Southbank holds a full Tarkovsky retrospective and an accompanying Sight & Sound Deep Focus season that explores the Russian director’s legacy, Nick James considers how Tarkovsky helped to redefine the possibilities of arthouse cinema, and traces the threads of his influence through 12 films by different filmmakers who, in varying ways, owe him a debt – from Lars von Trier and Terrence Malick to Claire Denis and Béla Tarr.
The Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest film The Lobster takes a rather different approach to exploring a cinematic terrain beyond straight realism. It’s a wry, satirical fantasy about a world in which singletons are forced to pair up or face being turned into animals. Lanthimos talks to Trevor Johnston about making his first film outside his native Greece, and about working with stars like Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell.
Our other features this month concern films or subjects more rooted in the tough realities of real life. Michael Atkinson considers how Denis Villeneuve’s new drug cartel drama Sicario sits in a growing line of films set amid the violent and unstable US-Mexico borderlands. Isabel Stevens talks to Carey Mulligan about her role as a radical advocate of women’s rights in Sarah Gavron’s new film Suffragette; and John Wyver explores a new BFI-curated programme of little-seen television documentaries from the 1950s and 60s, and finds them fascinating not only for the window they give onto a vanished past, but also how personal and experimental such nonfiction television work could be in those years. Many of such TV films were directed by figures who went on to work in cinema – men such as Ken Russell, John Schlesinger and Peter Watkins; but there were also others who are yet to receive their due – something the forthcoming BFI Southbank season and two DVD boxsets will go some way to putting right.
Elsewhere in the issue, we report on the big titles that premiered at the Venice and Toronto film festivals in September – from Ben Wheatley’s J.G. Ballard adaptation High-Rise and Terence Davies’s Sunset Song to Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa and Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash.

Our Wide Angle section features a profile of Valeria Sarmiento, whose own work has often been overshadowed by her collaborations with her late husband, Raúl Ruiz. And Stewart Lee takes time out from his current stand up tour to pen a tribute to his “favourite British filmmaker”, Andrew Kötting.

Our Reviews section features in-depth reviews of every new theatrical release, while our Home Cinema section celebrates a magnificent new Blu-ray edition of John Ford’s magisterial western My Darling Clementine. Our Books pages consider a new study of David Lynch’s work, an exploration of American neo-noir films and early cinema studios.

Finally, David Thomson rounds out the issue with a consideration of the memorable final scene of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line. All this and more…




Ghost Hunter

A return to the gothic preoccupations of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is an ornate, carnal examination of a young American woman in the early 20th century looking to lay her childhood fears to rest. By Mar Diestro-Dópido.

See Guillermo del Toro’s top ten films in our 2012 Greatest Films of All Time poll

Read Guillermo del Toro on ‘children of the night’ in the BFI compendium Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film

☞ Read Guillermo del Toro’s essay Lessons in Darkness in our July 2012 issue or in the BFI compendium Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film”]]


 Animal Instincts

A surreal tale of a world where singletons are forced to pair up or face being turned into animals, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster offers an oblique, blackly comic look at a group of rebels resisting society’s pressure to conform – just don’t think it’s a comment on Greece’s plight, says the director. By Trevor Johnston.


Militant Tendencies

In Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette Carey Mulligan plays an ordinary Victorian woman awakened to the cause of women’s rights. Here the actress talks about the dearth of quality female film roles, the joys of watching blockbusters on the big screen and why Hollywood is a bizarre construction. By Isabel Stevens.

+ First among equals

An anthology of films documenting the rise of the women’s suffrage movement in the UK offers a fascinating portrait of shifting gender roles in the early years of the 20th century. By Pamela Hutchinson.


The Way We Were

The revival of a number of long unavailable television documentaries from the 1950s and 60s reveals how daring, personal and experimental nonfiction television of the time could be – as well as offering a poignant glimpse of Britain during a time of great change. By John Wyver.


Line in the Sand

Denis Villeneueve’s violent drug cartel drama Sicario is the latest in a long line of films to exploit the mythic potential of the lawless US-Mexico borderlands – an ethnocentric tradition which plants its feet firmly on American soil and looks south in despair. By Michael Atkinson.


 Deep focus: The Tarkovsky Legacy

The slim body of work produced by the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-86) – seven transcendent, spiritual films marked by exquisite visual imagery, mesmerising long takes, a near-pantheistic reverence for landscape and nature, and a seamless blending of real time, dream and memory – helped redefine the possibilities of arthouse cinema. His enduring influence can be seen in the eclectic array of filmmakers of the past 30 years whose work, in different ways, owes him a debt, from Lars von Trier and Terrence Malick to Béla Tarr and Claire Denis. By Nick James.


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