Sight & Sound: the October 2019 issue

Brad Pitt straddles the stars in James Gray’s spectral odyssey Ad Astra. Plus the moving Syrian documentary For Sama, British-Nigerian growing pains in Shola Amoo’s The Last Tree, and Britain’s early cinema pioneer R.W. Paul.

In print and digital from 2 September 2019. Get the digital editionbuy a print edition or .

Our October issue follows Brad Pitt to the furthest reaches of the solar system, as the star plays an astronaut tasked with saving the Earth in acclaimed American director James Gray’s mysterious, visually splendid science fiction film Ad Astra. Gray tells Nick Pinkerton how his film tells a myth of man rather than a myth of the gods.

Back here on Earth, we marvel at Syrian filmmaker Waad al-Kateab’s For Sama (co-directed with Edward Watts), a powerful documentary made in Aleppo while the bombs fell, and when al-Kateab was a new mother.

We hail the arrival of director Shola Amoo, whose film The Last Tree, about the growing pains of a British-Nigerian boy, marks him out as an exciting new voice in British cinema.

And we travel right back to the very beginnings of cinema, with a profile of the British visionary R.W. Paul, a man who more than almost anyone foresaw the possibilities in the then new novelty of motion pictures, but has never quite received his due.


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Faraway, So Close

Faraway, So Close

In James Gray’s Ad Astra Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who travels to the furthest reaches of the solar system to track down his father in a bid to save the Earth. Here the director explains why he created a sci-fi tale that tells a myth of man rather than a myth of the gods. By Nick Pinkerton.

+ The man who would be king

Brad Pitt’s coronation as Hollywood’s golden boy in the early 1990s was soon complicated by a series of darker, more complex roles that challenged his status as heir apparent to Robert Redford. By Anne Billson.


Love Among the Ruins

Love Among the Ruins

Filmed as the bombs fell in Aleppo, often with her infant daughter in her arms, Waad al-Kateab’s For Sama is an unmissable, harrowing document of the war in Syria from the point of view of those who suffer most. By Jason Burke.

+ “Every minute was important”

Waad al-Kateab discusses the perils of filming inside Aleppo and why she feared every day might be her last, while British co-director Edward Watts explains his part in the making. By Isabel Stevens.


The Man Who Foresaw Cinema

The Man Who Foresaw Cinema

If anyone recognised the true potential of animated photography to become more than a passing novelty, it was Robert Paul, whose visionary role in the history of British cinema – alongside his wife Ellen – remains profoundly undervalued. By Ian Christie.


Smalltown Boy

Smalltown Boy

Shola Amoo explains how he sought to confound audience expectations in his semiautobiographical The Last Tree, the tale of a British-Nigerian boy who leaves an idyllic life with foster parents in the English countryside to join his birth mother on a London council estate. By Will Massa.





The long goodbye: our editor Nick James bids farewell



Our Rushes section

Our Rushes section


On our radar

This year’s BFI London Film Festival is unveiled.


Street fighting woman

A martial arts expert has to save her daughter from organ-harvesting child snatchers in Furie, the highest-grossing Vietnamese movie ever. By Kim Megson.


Dream palaces: The Gimli Theatre, Manitoba

Guy Maddin, the Canadian director of My Winnipeg and The Forbidden Room, recalls the anarchic joys of a rural cinema of his youth.


Global discovery: A sting in the tale

Honeyland, a luminous documentary about a rural beekeeper in North Macedonia, offers a powerful allegory about capitalist greed. By Graham Fuller.


Preview: Troubles in mind

For a young man from Belfast, the first glimpse of Stephen Rea on screen in Neil Jordan’s Angel in 1982 caused the world to shift. By Mark Cousins.


The numbers

Once upon a Time… in Hollywood looks set to deliver Quentin Tarantino his biggest box-office success in the UK. By Charles Gant.


Films in production

New projects for Steven Soderberg, Jia Zhangke, Kristen Stewart and Jordan Peele.


Obituary: D.A. Pennebaker, 1925-2019

In a series of astonishing films, the great observational documentary filmmaker created high drama from the fabric of everyday life. By Roger Graef.

+ Tributes from Joan Churchill and Nick Broomfield


Wide angle

Our Wide Angle section

Our Wide Angle section


Nonfiction film: A week in utopia

This year’s Flaherty Seminar pushed its participants to think about the way in which film can change the world – and vice versa. By Jemma Desai.


Primal Screen: About a boy

Armando Iannucci’s new version of David Copperfield is one of many attempts to put Dickens’s favourite among his novels on screen. By Michael Eaton.


Artists’ moving image: Chronicle of a shimmer

Rainer Kohlberger’s abstract, sensedefying works, programmed into a computer rather than filmed, feel like nothing on earth. By Matt Turner.

Our Festivals section

Our Festivals section



Syros International Film Festival

This celebration of cinema clings on to the utopian spirit of the earliest film festivals and makes fine use of its Greek island setting. By Kieron Corless.



Our Reviews section

Our Reviews section


Films of the month

La Flor
Hard Paint

plus reviews of 

American Factory
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion
The Big Meeting
The Bravest
The Farewell
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
For Sama
For the Birds
Good Boys
Good Posture
Killer Kate!
Killers Anonymous
The Kitchen
The Last Tree
Mission Mangal
Neither Wolf nor Dog
Night Hunter
Ready or Not
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Sea of Shadows
The Shiny
The Shock of the Future
The Sun Is Also a Star


Home cinema features 

Our Home Cinema section

Our Home Cinema section


The thing with leathers: Cruising

Reviled on release, Cruising is both a schlocky thriller and an unsettling examination of fear and loathing among and toward gay men. Reviewed by Alex Davidson.


Revival: The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

Forty years after it was released, Fred Schepisi’s epic about Australian racism doesn’t seem any less relevant or powerful. Reviewed by Michael Brooke.


Nicolas Philibert: Les Films, Le Cinema

Compassionate and curious, the French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert nudges us towards profound questions about our lives. Reviewed by Geoff Andrew.


Lost and found: Pola X

Leos Carax’s wild romance, loosely adapted from Herman Melville, hasn’t lost its power to shock and entrance. By Beatrice Loayza.


plus reviews of

Crime and Punishment
Daïnah la Métisse
The Ear
High Noon
Hold Back the Dawn
A Kid for Two Farthings
Ida Lupino: Filmmaker Collection – Not Wanted / Never Fear / The HitchHiker / The Bigamist
One Deadly Summer



Robert Hanks on Armchair Theatre Archive



Our Books section

Our Books section


Hitchcock and the Censors by John Billheimer (University Press of Kentucky) reviewed by Philip Kemp

The Films of Elaine May edited by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Dean Brandum (Edinburgh University Press, ReFocus series) reviewed by Ian Mantgani

The Dynamic Frame: Camera Movement in Classical Hollywood by Patrick Keating (Columbia University Press) reviewed by Nick Pinkerton



Our Endings section

Our Endings section

Paul Schrader’s prognosis for cinema – in 1993

Rescuing A Damsel in Distress

More bright fright films

Steve Ditko-esque Spidey business

Penny Slinger’s beauty




Andrei Rublev

The finale of Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic portrait of life in 15th-century Russia creates heartstopping suspense from the unveiling of a bell. By Nick James.


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