For this month’s issue, and for the very first time in our near-90 year history, we at Sight & Sound hand the reins over to a guest editor. And we couldn’t be prouder or more excited to say that the special guest in the hot-seat is none other than… Mr Bong Joon Ho, whose latest film, the worldwide critical and commercial smash Parasite, arrives in UK cinemas this week – and is also in the running for the Best Picture at the Academy Awards later this month. So, over to man-of-the-moment Director Bong to introduce the issue:
Posted to subscribers and available digitally 3 February
On UK newsstands 6 February
This is Bong Joon Ho, director of Parasite. I’m elated to have been selected as the guest editor for this issue of Sight & Sound.
I feel strange and dumbfounded that this moment in my life has come. I remember reading and studying Sight & Sound 30 years ago as a young college student aspiring to become a filmmaker. I was part of the cinema club, and we used to read the magazine, or a pirated copy, together at school. We would scour the articles and special features for information and later look up films mentioned in them. I have fond memories of seeing the illegal VHS copies of those films. (Note: piracy is bad).
Since then I’ve become a filmmaker, and this year will be the 20th anniversary of my feature film debut. And I am guest-editing the March 2020 issue. The numbers have obviously aligned for this opportunity!
I hope venerable film publications like Sight & Sound, Cahiers du cinéma, Film Comment, Japan’s Kinema Junpo and Korea’s Cine 21 will continue to persevere in the future, and I hope, as guest editor, I am able to contribute.
The S&S editorial team worked closely with Bong to shape the issue, and Bong hand-picked a selection of articles he wanted to see in the magazine. Alongside a major survey of Bong’s career to date by Asian cinema expert, and longtime champion of Bong’s work, Tony Rayns, Bong himself discusses some of the formative influences that first ignited and then shaped his love of cinema, including a profile piece on the great Korean director Kim Kiyoung, whose classic 1960 film The Housemaid is regularly voted the greatest ever Korean film in polls, and which was a key influence on Parasite. Bong also talks us through an exclusive selection taken from the more than 200 pages of intricate storyboards that he created in the pre-production for Parasite.
It’s now 20 years since Bong’s first feature, Barking Dogs Never Bite, which marked the first step on his own ascendancy. To mark the anniversary, Bong has selected 20 relative newcomer directors whose films he believes will shape our viewing for the next 20 years.
Away from the special material chosen by director Bong, the issue also comes laden with the usual riches. We talk to the great Portuguese director Pedro Costa about his luminous, award-winning latest feature, Vitalina Varela.
We also look back at the life and work of one of the greatest of all American filmmakers – and arguably its greatest ever director of actors – Elia Kazan.
And we talk to the French director Céline Sciamma about her masterful new period romance with a difference, Portrait of a Lady on Fire – a film with a lesbian romance at its centre, and taking place in a work almost entirely devoid of men.
Elsewhere, we review all the month’s new cinema releases, including Todd Haynes’s Dark Waters, Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang and Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe. And we catch up with the latest Blu-ray releases – including a terrific new release collecting together many of the films made by the American cult favourite Curtis Harrington. And spotlight the highlights from new TV and streaming, including a broodingly atmospheric adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘horror noir’ The Outsider.
In our book reviews pages we hail a magnificent new book about a magnificent film – Sam Wasson’s The Big Goodbye, about the making of Chinatown.
And we return to director Bong to round things off, as our Endings column looks again at the haunting closing moments of Bong’s influential 2003 thriller Memories of Murder – a moment that recent real life events have cast in a new light.
All this and more. As Bong himself would say, “gamsahabnida” – thank you for reading.
Parasite, the thrilling new film by Bong Joon Ho, has taken the Korean director’s distinctive dark humour and meticulously crafted suspense to new heights – captivating critics and audiences around the world with its tale of a poor family who inveigle their way into the lives of a wealthy household. Tony Rayns – Asian cinema expert, and champion of Bong’s work since the beginning, Tony Rayns looks back over his career, while Bong himself talks us through some of the obsessions and influences that ignited his own love of cinema.
“My brain is optimised for cinema”
Bong Joon Ho talks through a selection of some of the 200-plus pages of intricate storyboards he sketched for Parasite, explaining his working methods and outlining the key thematic concerns of the film.
“Kim Kiyoung is truly a master”: Bong Joon Ho on The Housemaid
Parasite owes a major debt to Kim Kiyoung’s shocking 1960 study of class and desire, The Housemaid. Here Bong Joon Ho explains how he first discovered what is now widely regarded as Korea’s greatest ever film.
+ The eccentricities of Kim Kiyoung
Rediscovered within Korea after the fall of the military regime in the 1990s and long celebrated by Bong Joon Ho, Kim is now regarded as one of the country’s cinematic masters. Here Tony Rayns explains why it’s time the rest of the world caught up with the grotesque excess and brutal power of the director’s works.
No man’s land
In Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma’s exquisite love story set in pre-Revolutionary France, the director presents a female-centred vision of equality, solidarity, romance and sex. Here she explains to Isabel Stevens why she was determined to up-end the clichés and assumptions of traditional cinema.
Drawing from the real-life experiences of its lead protagonist, Pedro Costa’s luminous portrait of grief Vitalina Varela follows a woman from Cape Verde who arrives in Lisbon to search for her absent husband only to find he has just died. Christopher Small talks to the director.
Looking for America: the dramatic acts of Elia Kazan
In a handful of masterpieces in the 1950s and 60s the director Elia Kazan (1909-2003) revolutionised Hollywood screen acting. As the BFI launches a major retrospective, we consider some dimensions of his life and what his career meant for film, and for America. Introduction by James Bell, with James Bell on Kazan and acting, Christina Newland on Kazan the immigrant, Philip Kemp on Kazan and politics and Kelli Weston on Kazan and sexuality.
Beginnings and endings
To mark 20 years as a director, our guest editor Bong Joon Ho has chosen 20 emerging directors whose work he believes will be pivotal to the next 20 years.
Interview: Flower power
Jessica Hausner discusses her floral take on Frankenstein Little Joe, motherhood and why she only likes the first half of horror films
Dream palaces: Ragtag Cinema, Columbia, Missouri
Zhu Shengze’s Present.Perfect. explores live streaming in China, but going to the movies was a formative experience for the director, as she explains.
Festival: Fantastic beasts and where to find them
The eclectic programme of films at London’s Doc’n Roll Festival celebrates the music of the overlooked and the underground. By Leonie Cooper.
Obituary: Buck Henry, 1930-2020
Screenwriter of a clutch of classic films, Oscar nominee as both writer and director, and an admired character actor. By Hannah McGill.
The numbers: Awards season 2020
The usual January glut of films has given cinemas a strong start to 2020 – with Little Women and 1917 causing particular joy.
In production: Bonghive special
News from Edgar Wright, Tilda Swinton and the Bong back catalogue.
Primal screen: After the honeymoon
A newly restored dinner-party farce by Frank Borzage turns out to be as much in love with love as any of his straight-out romances. By Pamela Hutchinson.
Reconstruction: Moments in love
In 1970, an evening of avant-garde films in Soho tested the line between art and porn – and half a century on, nothing’s resolved. By Henry K Miller.
Soundings: music and silence
The near absence of music from most of his films might suggest Hong Sangsoo isn’t interested. But perhaps the opposite is true. By Sam Davies.
Films of the month
A Paris Education
plus reviews of
Color out of Space
Daniel Isn’t Real
End of the Century
A Guide to Second Date Sex
Ip Man 4
Like a Boss
Lucian Freud: A Self Portrait
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Spies in Disguise
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker
True History of the Kelly Gang
Home cinema features
On stranger tides: Night Tide
Curtis Harrington began his career as a darling of the avant garde, and ended it as a master of schlock – but how much had he really changed? By Andrew Male.
Streaming: The Outsider
Stephen King, one-time king of horror that taps directly into the zeitgeist, is resurgent. Bad news for the zeitgeist, good news for TV. By Kim Newman.
Lost and found: La Horse
Critics were unimpressed by this gritty rural thriller but French audiences loved it. The audiences got it right. By Adam Scovell.
plus reviews of
The Cotton Club Encore
The Miracle Worker
Scorpio Films – The Dutch Sex Wave Collection: Obsessions / Blue Movie / Frank & Eva / My Nights with Susan
Olga & Julie
Robert Hanks on Tommy Cooper and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Series 1 and 2
The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood by Sam Wasson (Faber & Faber) reviewed by Tom Charity
Shivers by Luke Aspell (Devil’s Advocates Auteur Publishing) reviewed by David Cairns
Mr Murder: The Life and Times of Tod Slaughter by Denis Meikle, Kip Xool and Doug Young (Hemlock Books) reviewed by Jasper Sharp
Stanley Kubrick’s men without women
Doctor Who on tap
In praise of Nick Pinkerton
The John Farrow rediscovery will continue
Small screen Little Women women
Missing Lorenza Mazzetti and her peers
Memories of Murder
A real-life twist has cast the final moments of Bong Joon Ho’s 2003 portrait of a series of unsolved murders in a chilling new light. By James Bell and Bong Joon Ho.