Sight & Sound: the February 2016 issue

Tarantino on Tarantino (and so much more)! Plus Kent Jones on the best of Jean-Luc Godard, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s ravishing The Assassin, new torn-from-the-headlines feature releases Spotlight and Room and the return of The X Files.

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Quentin Tarantino has never been one lost for words, and discussing his thrilling new western The Hateful Eight in our February issue he’s on characteristically impassioned, provocative, enthusiastic and free-flowing form. As The Hateful Eight hits UK cinemas and a retrospective season of Tarantino’s other movies starts at BFI Southbank, Kim Morgan visited the director at his Los Angeles home, where they sat down for a long, lively conversation that ranged over Tarantino’s career from Reservoir Dogs to today, delved deep into his love of westerns, the joys of seeing films in original format prints, the impact of seeing Deliverance as a boy, race and policing in America today and a whole lot more besides.

Staying with iconic (and iconoclastic) figures, the issue also features a piece on the great Jean-Luc Godard. Kent Jones considers the arch modernist behind the enigmatic sunglasses, who for the best part of the 1960s was in glorious alignment with his times, his films perfectly capturing the sense of new freedoms in the air and the rebellious atmosphere that would explode in 1968 – in society and Godard’s cinema itself.
If Godard’s 1960s films were the perfect expression of their time, The Assassin, Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s ravishingly beautiful wuxia set in the Tang dynasty (voted by Sight & Sound contributors as the best film of 2015), attempts something altogether different – a poetic examination of antiquity. Tony Rayns, who worked on The Assassin’s English-language subtitles with Hou, lifts the film’s sumptuous veil to explore how it defies expectations at every turn and how, though it may be light on action, it internalises the spirit of wuxia movies to present the ancient past as a world we can observe but never fully comprehend.
Issues of a more contemporary and troubling kind are tackled by two other films covered in our Features section this month. Firstly, Philip Concannon talks to Tom McCarthy about his Oscar-tipped film Spotlight, which dramatises the true story of how a group of journalists at the Boston Globe exposed shocking child abuse by Catholic priests. Alongside that Trevor Johnston talks to Irish director Lenny Abrahamson about his wrenchingly powerful film Room, which although not directly ripped from the headlines, was partly inspired by the Josef Fritzl case for its story about a mother and son imprisoned from the outside world.
To conclude this month’s features in more celebratory fashion, Keith Uhlich heralds the return of Mulder and Scully as The X-Files returns to TV screens for a new series. The show may have been one of the icons of the 1990s but, argues Uhlich, its influence has been enduring and deep on the new Millennium’s much-discussed ‘Golden Age of US Television’.
Elsewhere in this month’s issue, we have reviews of every new UK cinema release, including David O. Russell’s Joy, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth and a little picture called Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Our Wide Angle section reports from 2015’s Viennale festival and more.

Our Home Entertainment section includes a review of a new boxset of every episode in Alfred Hitchcock’s fascinating but often under-discussed Alfred Hitchcock Presents… TV series. The section also includes reviews of two new collections of very different, though equally pioneering, Japenese cinema in Fukusaku Kinji’s Battles Without Honour and Humanity yakuza series and Yoshida Kiju’s great, challenging films of the 1960s, such as Eros + Massacre.

Our book reviews hail a groundbreaking study of feminist cinema and a new study of the life of Walter Brennan, and we close out the issue with an Endings column focused on a very early – though influential – film, Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery from 1903.

All this and much more besides. Happy New Year!


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The Interview: Quentin Tarantino

The Interview: Quentin Tarantino

An ill-assorted collection of bounty hunters, outlaws and fugitives with competing agendas take shelter in a stagecoach stop-off during a blizzard in The Hateful Eight. In an exclusive interview, in which the director’s famously garrulous enthusiasm for films of all stripes remains undimmed, he discusses his new western’s countless influences, and recalls the early works that made his name. Interview by Kim Morgan.


Taipei Tang

Taipei Tang

Many years in the making, The Assassin is Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s shot at the distinctively Chinese genre of the wuxia movie. But it defies expectations at every turn. So let’s try to figure out what’s really going on behind the film’s sumptuous veil. By Tony Rayns.


A World Apart

A World Apart

The source novel for Lenny Abrahamson’s Room might have been partly inspired by the horrific Josef Fritzl case in Austria, but don’t be deceived into thinking the film is a harrowing exposé of human evil – instead, it’s a fable that allows us to relive the innocence of childhood. By Trevor Johnston.


Notes on a Scandal

Notes on a Scandal

A dramatisation of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2002 exposé of child abuse in the Catholic Church, Tom McCarthy’s gripping Spotlight eschews grand theatrics and stylistic frills in favour of a detailed examination of the painstaking processes of journalistic investigation. By Philip Concannon.


Close Encounters

Close Encounters

With a new miniseries of The X-Files set to air, it’s time to remind ourselves that for all the pleasures of its preposterous labyrinthine narrative, the real key to the show’s success is the deep emotional sustenance provided by Mulder and Scully’s relationship itself. By Keith Uhlich.


Jean-Luc Godard: A Man of the 60s

Jean-Luc Godard: A Man of the 60s

Whether or not Godard, as some claim, disappeared into self-imposed obscurantist exile at the end of the 1960s, for the best part of that decade he was in glorious alignment with the spirit of the time, his films earning popular acclaim by perfectly capturing its rebellious atmosphere. By Kent Jones.






In the frame: Life during wartime

During World War II, stirring films about plucky civilians pulling together and making do were among Britain’s secret weapons. By Pamela Hutchinson.

Listomania: Coal-mining films

Object lesson: Take shelter

Whether as signifiers of maternal care or tools of male violence, umbrellas in films are far more than just a shield against the elements. By Hannah McGill.

The five key…: Newspaper films

As the Boston Globe drama Spotlight arrives in cinemas, we look back at the most memorable portraits of hacks in the newsroom. By Michael Brooke.

Interview: Crime scene investigation

Tobias Lindholm’s Afghanistan-set war crime drama A War offers some uncomfortable insights into the morality of modern warfare. By Wendy Ide.

Dispatches: Flying colours

Modulating a film’s colour palette offers the director a crucial way to suggest shifts within the emotional or physical terrain of the story. By Mark Cousins.


The industry

Development tale: Trumbo

The tale of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was no easy sell in America – not least because the hero was a communist. By Charles Gant.

The numbers: 2015 review

By Charles Gant.



A year in documentary: 2015 roundup

From Sheffield Doc/Fest to Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX and Amsterdam’s IDFA, the past year saw nonfiction cinema on the move. By Nick Bradshaw.


Wide angle

Festival: Viennese whirl

With posthumous works by cinema greats and exciting films from new names, the Viennale remains an essential festival. By Kieron Corless.

Viennale: Tribute

Since her death three years ago, the archives of super 8 diarist Anne Charlotte Robinson have revealed a filmmaker of raw genius. By Andréa Picard.

Festival: Tokyo FILMeX

While other festivals turn their backs on small, non-commercial movies, Tokyo’s FILMeX is still fighting the good fight. By Tony Rayns.

Soundings: Dark night of the pole

David Lynch’s collaboration with Marek Zebrowski is the most filmic music the director has made – and maybe that’s a problem. By Sam Davies.

Primal screen: the world of silent cinema

A superb new website reveals some of the mysteries and excitements of London cinema a century ago. By Bryony Dixon.


Our Reviews section


Films of the month

Innocence of Memories:  Orhan Pamuk’s Museum & Istanbul
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

plus reviews of

The Assassin
Attacking the Devil: Harold Evans and the Last Nazi War Crime
Being AP
Belle and Sebastian: The Adventure Continues
The Big Short
Bolshoi Babylon
The Crow’s Egg
Daddy’s Home
Essex Boys: The Truth
Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD
The Good Dinosaur
The Hateful Eight
In the Heart of the Sea
Janis: Little Girl Blue
The Last Diamond
Lee Scratch Perry’s Vision of Paradise
Lost in Karastan
The Night Before
The Revenant
Rise of the Footsoldier Part II
The 33
Victor Frankenstein
A War


Home Cinema features

Our Home Cinema section

Perfect murders: Alfred Hitchcock Presents…

Rehearsals for his movies perhaps – but Hitchcock’s TV mini-thrillers are remarkable works in their own right. By Robert Hanks.

Revival: Battles without Honour and Humanity

Fukasaku Kinji’s brawling saga of gang warfare on the streets of Hiroshima is crowded with characters and chaos. By Nick Pinkerton.

Rediscovery: Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism

Yoshida Kiju kept his distance from the rest of the Japanese New Wave – but his films mark the movement’s apogee. By Jasper Sharp.

Lost and found: The Dybbuk

A masterwork of fantastic cinema, The Dybbuk is a highlight of Yiddish-language filmmaking and a testament to a lost way of life. By Daniel Bird.

plus reviews of

All My Good Countrymen
The Angry Silence
The Birth of a Nation
Bob Roberts
Dangerous Game
Dragon Inn
A New Leaf
The Reflecting Skin
Robinson Crusoe on Mars
Thieves’ Highway
Walden/Lost Lost Lost



Our Books section

Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema by Sophie Mayer (I.B. Tauris) reviewed by B. Ruby Rich

A Real American Character: The Life of Walter Brennan by Carl Rollyson (University Press of Mississippi) reviewed by Edward Buscombe

Zombies: A Cultural History by Roger Luckhurst (Reaktion Books) reviewed by Anne Billson

Charters and Caldicott: As War Begins by Peter Storey (CreateSpace) reviewed by Nathalie Morris

Time and Place Are Nonsense: The Films of Seijun Suzuki by Tom Vick (Freer Gallery of Art/University of Washington Press) reviewed by Nick Pinkerton





Our Endings section


The Great Train Robbery

The gunshots fired at the audience by the bandit in Edwin S. Porter’s 1903 short are an act of violence that shatters the fourth wall. By Pamela Hutchinson.



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