Sight & Sound: the December 2016 issue

“Once you get a taste for really good directors”: actor of the moment Adam Driver on working with Jim Jarmusch, Martin Scorsese, Lena Dunham (and JJ Abrams).

Plus Jarmusch on his two new movies – Paterson and Gimme Shelter; the epic resurrection of Abel Gance’s Napoleon; big in Japan with Shinkai Makoto (Your Name) and Kurosawa Kiyoshi (Creepy); Peter Morgan on his Netflix drama The Crown; the Dardennes’ The Unknown Girl, and film noir’s debt to black culture. 

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In our December issue we sit down for a chat with with one of the most exciting and fascinating actors of the day, Adam Driver, who has rocketed to global fame in the Star Wars franchise only a few short years since first appearing in his breakout role in Lena Dunham’s Girls.

In a landscape of dispiritingly symmetrical and blandly interchangeable leading men, notes our writer Nick Pinkerton, Driver is a refreshingly different presence, one who stands out for his crooked handsomeness, his relaxed onscreen naturalism and for possessing that increasingly rare of virtues – an honest-to-goodness voice, deep and mellow and without the nasal twang of so many of his contemporaries.
It’s that natural, offbeat quality makes Driver the perfect onscreen foil for American indie cinema godfather Jim Jarmusch, whose beautifully gentle, observant and deadpan funny new film Paterson sees Driver play a poetry-writing bus driver in the eponymous small New Jersey town with which he shares his name. Star Wars may have put Driver on the cusp of serious movie stardom but, he tells Pinkerton, his only real game-plan is to work with great directors – his next role is in Martin Scorsese’s eagerly awaited film Silence, which comes out in the new year. “Once you get a taste for really good directors”, Driver admits, “you just want to only do that.”
To accompany our interview with Driver, Geoff Andrew catches up with Jarmusch, who gives the lowdown on capturing poetry through cinema, the lie that you should never work with animals or children and the pleasure he had working with Driver and his Paterson co-star Golshifteh Farahani. They also discuss Jarmusch’s other new film out in UK cinemas this month, Gimme Danger, a documentary about The Stooges, whose iconic lead singer Iggy Pop has, says Jarmusch, “not settled into anything. He’s still hungry in the most beautiful way.” Much like the director himself, then.
If Paterson celebrates the importance of quiet, everyday creativity, then Abel Gance’s monumental silent epic Napoleon is – both in subject and form – a chronicle of ambition of an altogether grander scale. As Gance’s epic is released by the BFI into UK cinemas and for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray, Paul Cuff charts the extraordinary story of the film’s production – and of the decades-long efforts to reconstruct it from surviving prints, and reveals a magnificently gripping tale of single-mindedness and megalomania to compare with the emperor himself.
The grand sweep of history also provides the focus of writer Peter Morgan’s latest project The Crown, a $100-million, ten-part series for Netflix that charts the story of the royal family from Elizabeth II and Prince Philip’s marriage. Morgan has been fêted for his remarkable ability to animate the personal conflicts behind historical events but, he tells Trevor Johnston, the broad canvas offered by the series format has offered thrilling new opportunities.
We turn to Japan for two of this month’s features, as Nick Bradshaw talks to the man sometimes hailed as Miyazaki’s heir, Shinkai Makoto, about his film Your Name, a time-bending teenage body-swap romance that confirms his status as Japanese anime’s big new thing.  And Jasper Sharp surveys the films of Kurosawa Kiyoshi, whose many genre experiments all share a fascination with the dark, invisible forces at work beneath the surface of things – an obsession Kurosawa revisits in his latest feature out this month, Creepy.
Elsewhere, Sight & Sound Editor Nick James talks to co-directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne about their latest film The Unknown Girl, which  borrows the structure of a classic detective story for the tale of a doctor determined to uncover the identity of a dead woman, and Angelica Jade Bastién peers through the shadows at American film noir, and finds a genre that has always had a complex relationship with people of colour. But, Bastién argues, noir’s coolness, style and unmistakable milieu have always been heavily indebted to black culture.
We review all of the month’s new cinema releases, including the Amy Adams-starring sci-fi Arrival, Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Clint Eastwood’s Sully, explore the fascinating documentaries of Japanese filmmaker Ogawa Shinsuke, and have an audience with 99-year-old black British actor Earl Cameron, whose feature debut Pool of London – made back in 1951 by Basil Dearden – is released on Blu-ray this month.

All this plus the month’s essential new film books and DVDs, news and events, and much more besides… 

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The Natural: Adam Driver

The Natural: Adam Driver

In only a few short years, Adam Driver has rocketed to global fame in the Star Wars franchise from his role in HBO’s Girls. But as he hits the screens as a poetry-loving bus driver in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, he insists that his only game-plan is to try to work with great directors. By Nick Pinkerton.


Poetry in Motion

Poetry in Motion

With two new films, Paterson and Gimme Danger, released in UK cinemas this month, Jim Jarmusch discusses the echoes of Ozu in his work, his longstanding passion for Iggy Pop and why he hates zombies on mobile phones. By Geoff Andrew.


The Man of Destiny

The Man of Destiny

The tale of the making of Abel Gance’s extraordinary 1927 masterwork Napoleon – and of the painstaking, decades-long efforts to reconstruct the film from surviving prints – displays some of the fearless single-mindedness and megalomaniac ambition of the emperor himself. By Paul Cuff.


Identification of a Woman

Identification of a Woman

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s beautifully crafted The Unknown Girl borrows the structure of a classic detective story to tell the tale of a suburban doctor determined to uncover the identity of a young woman who is found dead near her surgery. By Nick James.


What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath

The diverse genre experiments of Japanese director Kurosawa Kiyoshi share a fascination with the dark, invisible forces at work beneath the surface of things – an obsession he revisits in Creepy, the disturbing tale of a suburban couple and their eccentric new neighbour. By Jasper Sharp.


Trading Places

Trading Places

Shinkai Makoto’s Your Name, a time-bending teenage body-swap romance, confirms his status as Japanese anime’s big new thing. Here he talks about provincial sky-gazing, adolescent heartache and animating Tokyo for posterity. By Nick Bradshaw.


Black Faces, White Spaces

Black Faces, White Spaces

American film noir – a genre that derives a lot of its power from the country’s deep-rooted uneasiness with itself – has had a complex relationship with people of colour. But the genre’s coolness, style and unmistakable milieu have always been heavily indebted to black culture. By Angelica Jade Bastién.


Drama Queen

Drama Queen

Peter Morgan has long been fêted for his remarkable ability to animate the personal conflicts that lie behind great historical events, but now he has finally been given a canvas commensurate with his true talents, in the ten-part Netflix series The Crown, which charts Elizabeth II’s early years. By Trevor Johnston.




Daniel Blake in the lion’s den



In the frame: Black in the Union Jack

A selection of films charting the history of Britain’s black population offers a celebration of diversity and a grim reminder of racial strife. By Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff.


Interview: Paris is burning

Houda Benyamina’s explosive Divines follows the criminal antics of a pair of schoolgirls from the wrong side of the tracks in Paris. By Simran Hans.


Object lesson: Masked and anonymous

Veiling a character’s face can unleash hidden aspects of the self, from unexpected heroism to monstrous violence. By Hannah McGill.


Dispatches: It’s all true

The ghost of the great Orson Welles loomed large during a chance encounter with a waiter in a small Arizona town. By Mark Cousins.


The Industry

Development tale: Bleed for This

A movie about one of the great boxing comebacks turned out to be a comeback for writer-director Ben Younger. By Charles Gant.


The numbers

My Scientology Movie and top British documentaries at the UK box office. By Charles Gant.


Wide Angle

Preview: Collective wisdom

Few political film movements have transformed the process of making and showing films as thoroughly as Ogawa Productions did. By Markus Nornes.


Soundings: In a minor key

Tony Conrad kept deliberately to the fringes of art, film and music – and that is precisely where his importance lies. By Frances Morgan.


Primal screen: The world of silent cinema

A lost genius of early American cinema was the biggest treat at Pordenone this year. By Geoff Brown.


Festival: The story so far

This year’s Wavelengths programme at Toronto offered typically bold, disorienting challenges to received ideas. By Jordan Cronk.


Our Reviews section

Our Reviews section


Films of the month

Doctor Strange
United States of Love

plus reviews of

The Accountant
American Pastoral
Burn Burn Burn
The Darkest Universe
Dog Eat Dog
The Dreamed Ones
The Edge of Seventeen
Ethel & Ernest
Gimme Danger
The Girl on the Train
Girls Lost
A Hundred Streets
The Innocents
Into the Inferno
I, Olga
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story
My Feral Heart
The New Man.
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang
A Street Cat Named Bob
A United Kingdom
The Unknown Girl
The Wailing
We Are the Flesh
Your Name


Home Cinema features

Our Home Cinema section

Our Home Cinema section

Duke of Earl: Pool of London

Ninety-nine year-old Earl Cameron, British cinema’s first black screen star, recalls his debut in Basil Dearden’s Pool of London. By Philip Kemp.


West end boys: The Small World of Sammie Lee

Anthony Newley gives a persuasive performance as a petty crook in 60s gangland – but the streets of Soho are this film’s true stars. By Andrew Male.


Lost and found: Rapahel, or the Debauched One

It may be minor Ford – but an early comedy of New York manners lays the foundations for the director’s later masterpieces. By Glenn Kenny.


plus reviews of

Almayer’s Folly
Assault on Precinct 13
The Captive
Electra, My Love
Little Fauss and Big Halsy
Odds Against Tomorrow
Paris Blues
People of the Mountains
Films by Douglas Sirk
The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum
Wild Horses



The Organization
The Justice Game
The Legend of King Arthur



Television: A Biography by David Thomson (Thames & Hudson) reviewed by Robert Hanks

The Oliver Stone Experience by Matt Zoller Seitz (Abrams Books) reviewed by Tim Hayes

Rituparno Ghosh: Cinema, Gender and Art edited by Sangeeta Datta, Kaustav Bakshi, Rohit K. Dasgupta (Routledge India) reviewed by Debika Ray

Play All: A Bingewatcher’s Notebook by Clive James (Yale University Press) reviewed by Henry K. Miller



Discrimination in British cinema, then and now

Carmen Jones’s multiracial dubbing

Nearly fully white Monty

Lessons in deafness for Mark Cousins

Now’s the time for late Robert Aldrich and Richard Brooks

Bare-bones Blu-rays for Andrei Tarkovsky

Thin pickings for out-of-London film fans


Our Endings section

Our Endings section




The implied ménage à trois that closes Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana sees his heroine forsaking the spiritual life for more earthly pleasures. By Peter William Evans.


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