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Is this the best movie magazine on the planet?
What is Sight and Sound?
Sight and Sound is published montly by the British Film Institute (BFI). Cover price is £3.95, but an annual subscription is available for £38. For that, you get a well-designed, clearly laid-out, 100 page film magazine, offering reviews by some of the world's most interesting and insightful critics.
The reviews section is the main reason for buying Sight and Sound. It's no exaggeration to say that it often carries the most interesting appraisals of Hollywood blockbusters and European arthouse published anywhere. However its scope goes far beyond this, as it also covers world cinema, drawing attention to many films not on general release (and some that aren't even available to view in independent cinemas) that are well worth a watch.
This is not a 'zine for fanboys and fangals. You won't find Empire's sycophantic interviews in here, nor will you find the pages dripping in the writer's saliva as they contemplate yet another Star Wars movie. This is a magazine for movie fans who watch films from all periods and all countries, in all genres.
Film is treated respectfully, as an ideological medium which is full of important ideas, playing to a viewer who has the capacity to understand them. The tone is always intelligent, quiet, sometimes wry, and slightly (but not stuffily) academic. Full plot synopses are also given for each film, making this a valuable reference guide to keep, not just a magazine to read and recycle.
The magazine also contains several (i.e. five or six) longer features on particularly interesting pictures, often including interviews with actors and directors that really probe the thinking behind a film. Though these are of a more patchy quality than the reviews, they cover a wide range of topics from silent cinema to the present day, and the majority of them are well worth reading.
The weakest section is probably the front matter, which seems to be suffering something of an identity crisis of late. The editor doesn't seem to be able to decide whether this section should be devoted to industry-insider information, news about developing projects, reviews of film festivals, interviews or comment, so at present it's an odd mixed bag.
DVDs are given plenty of space towards the end of the magazine, and there's a brief, but useful books section also.
The magazine also contains a hilariously pretentious letters section, where readers write in to make pedantic corrections to articles, or to disagree with a critic's assessment of a film, or to complain that the boom mike was visible in too many shots of a picture. This is well worth the cover price for (unintentional) comedy value alone.
Unlike most of the film magazines on the market today, Sight and Sound remains consistently focused on the more academic, aspects of film. As a film student myself, i have found it invaluable to my studies, both as a resource for specific essays and assignments, and as a general tool for increasing my knowledge and awareness of film.
Not only does it review EVERY new film released in a way far surpassing the typical opinion of the reviewer, but it also allows space for essays on past directors, genre and focus on different countrys cinematic offerings.
The avaiability of the magazine is incredibly problematic, at least it appears to be around my area, even stores such as Fenwicks don't always manage to stock it, and so it can be a bit of a mission to discover a copy, however a mission worth embarking on.
For those without the academic interest, those simply interested in film as basic light entertainment i do not feel the magazine would be particularly useful, however for those interested in film it gives a great insight and deeper meaning to what is normally briefly mentioned in other competing magazines, even going so far as including complete credits for all films reviewed, this i feel can give you the impression of how serious Sight and Sound takes its film.
The internet archive also is a brilliant resource, with many past issues availble to view online for free, it is the magazine that just keeps giving!
I have been buying Sight and Sound for about three years now. For a film student like myself i find the magazine essential. The magazine is quite pricey at around three pound thirty but it is a quality read. It has an editorial, a news section and then articles and reviews. The letter's page is at the back (for people who want to make suggestions,amendments and complaints). The reviews for this magazine are really great because they give out lots of infomation. They give out a full synopsis,full cast and crew details,they even give the length in feet of how long the actual reels are. The reviews are very balanced and if a film is poor they will give a detailed analysis of why they think it is not a good film. I rate Sight and Sound highly because the actual articles and reviews are written by people who are intellectuals and extremely knowledgable about World Cinema. People like Mark Cousins, Lizzie Francke and Nick James write detailed and reliable reviews or articles. Over the past few months, the magazine as been exploring National Cinema's in certain periods in history. One month it can be on Berlin during the 1970's or Tokoyo in the 1950's. The magazine is always trying to educate and not merely sell the movies. If it is not focusing National Cinema then it will do retrospective's of films or directors. What i like about this magazine is that it introduces people to directors or films that you would normally never here of. How many people reading this will have seen a Bela Tarr movie? It also helps raise awareness for new technolgy especially digital video and other advances in film. My point being whilst other magazines are little more than fan boy reviews. This magazine explores and defines cinema. It sometimes can seem a little pretencious because it is saying more than "I like this film because it is good&qu
ot;. Some people can find the coldness of the magazine a little off putting. The language used is quite different than in most film magazines. It is quite academic in its approach and each review or article can come across as confusing and long winded. But those are only criticisms in consideration to the people who will not like the writing style of Sight and Sound. Also every now and again the magazine will give out free gifts, mostly books and screenplays of classic films. But once i got an amazing radio recording by Humphrey Bogart and the cast of "Casablanca", who were recreating the film for radio. This was a popular practice in 1940's Hollywood. The magazine is educational, well written and possibly the greatest film magazine in Great Britain.
Sight and Sound --------------- Film magazine stalwart Sight and Sound (S&S) certainly comes with a long pedigree. It was first published in 1935, when it was published on a quarterly basis. Meanwhile, a second mag, The Monthly Film Bulletin (MFB), had appeared in 1934, running monthly. In May 1991 the two publications climbed into the teleport together and fused to become a monthly mag with Sight and Sound as the title from that point on. Both publications have always lent towards the academic reader with a fondness for big words and foreign (paticularly French) turns of phrase. The MFB was essentially a list of all the movies released to the UK cinema chains in any given month. For each title full credits of cast and crew, a plot synopsis (including "spoilers" as we now say) and a critical review. I've always loved the smallest details of film production and no other information source has ever come close to this film trainspotter's heaven. The only competition for the MFB are the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) and Allmovie guide (www.allmovie.com) which go one better by in effect indexing and cross-referencing all their information, but the reviews and plot details still fall short of the coverage in the MFB. Sight and Sound always seemed to me obsessed with directors like Jean-Luc Godard and Frederico Fellini and thus I tended to ignore it as those two worthies have never lit my cinematic candle. The MFB became the third thing I've ever subscribed to - and the first out of my own pocket - back in 1983 (fyi the others were TV21 comic and Purnell's History of WWII). When the two merged without fanfare, and the first issue of Sight and Sound dropped onto the mat. I forgave S&S its earlier sins and have been happy ever since. The magazine breaks down thus: ----Features---- Articles on any facet of the cinema, everything fr
om the artsy Bunuel, Godard to James Bond or Judge Dredd and comic books. Anything is possible. Topics diverse as Queer cinema to Special Effects are examined. I tend to prefer those articles with mini interviews in them. Once a year there is a comprehensive list of movie-related obituaries for the preceeding year. ----Regulars---- Some of which come and go (so much for regular). The Editorial Whatever happens to be on the editor's mind at the time - from censorship to use of lottery money to the obit of some film luminary. Rushes Covers a multitude of sins, from what's in production to technology breakthoughs and film festivals. Letters Feedback from the public, generally taking issue with some comment or fact the mag has previously published, Sight and Sound takes its lumps with dignity. Additions and Corrections The SNAFUs fixed. I note that in the MFB's day this was titled Addenda and Corrigenda - see they're trying! Obsession My favourite bit...sadly absent from recent issues. This is where someone - and the choices cover a wide range of film lovers - waxes lyrical about some film or facet of film that particularly haunts them. Charles Higson, for example, who sums up the experience of watching "The Wild Bunch" thus: "I bounced around the room, I couldn't sleep. It was that physical effect, that desire to become the characters in the film that knocked me out." Or a lovely essay on an obscure 1930 Tom Mix film "My Pal, The King" by S-F writer Michael Moorcock: "All evil is banished. Virtue triumphs. Heroism is recognized and courage rewarded; a secure future lies ahead and a clear message is delivered to tyrants everywhere. You can almost hear Will Rogers spitting reflectively over the hitching rail and drawling, "An' this means YOU, sign-nor Mooso-leeni"" ----Film Revi
ews---- Those cast and credit lists, plots and reviews as described for the MFB. These ain't so high faluttin' as they used to be. I particularly cherish Philip Strick's reviews because his filmic taste is similar to my own. ----Home Movies---- Capsule reviews of video and DVD releases. These are cross- referenced to their original write ups in MFB or S&S. One slight failing is that some films appearing in this section never get the full review treatment. In the days of the MFB, before the videocassete, everything was reviewed, thus "The Amorous Milkman" or "Can You Keep It Up for a Week" were lovingly chronicled alongside the more mainstream releases. As a come-on S&S has recently started adding little promotional goodies to the mag, complete novels or screenplays, or radio shows on CD, for example, have been included. Overall then, if you want glossy pics, movie gossip or coverage of what's on at the multiplex stick with Film Review, but if you want in depth coverage of what's going on in World cinema or want to know who was 2nd Unit Director of Photography on "What Women Want" or Alex Cox's opinion on DVD: "So people can look at our stuff when we're dead and see if it was any good? And if not then, you know, at least they'll have this lovely little pile of drinks coasters!". At it's best 5 stars, at its worst, 3 stars, gives me a nice 4 star average then... GET SIGHT & SOUND! The price quoted is for 1 years subcription.
I have been a subscriber to Sight and Sound for over ten years. Sight and Sound is the published by the British Film Institute but retains its independence. As opposed to Total Film and Empire S&S concetrates on serious reviews of films inside and outside the Hollywood mainstream. Each issue is divided into Editorial, News and then 4 or 5 lengthy articles on a mixture of upcoming US and art house films and a re-assessment of older films or directors work. Then there is a section giving full reviews, synopsis and credits for all that month's new releases as well as summaries of all the videos out. It has a high level of writing and is not aimed at the average multiplex goer. It tries to pitch itself somewhere between the academic film studies world and the entertainment world and I think succeeds. Often it can fall into the trap of going to far one way (pretension) or the other (dumbing down) but overall its the pick of the UK magazines. So much so that I keep every copy filed for future reference.
Sight & Sound is, of course, the definitive guide for film-lovers. It is so different from the likes of Empire and Premiere. The quality of the writing is so high that it almost seems like an academic journal, whilst at the same time it is accessible to any film enthusiast. As well as features on particular films, editors, genres, or television, it has a synopsis and review for all the films released that month. One film is chosen each month to have an extended review devoted to it. This magazine is particularly useful for those with an interest in world cinema, as all films are reviewed, and foreign films often have sections devoted to them. Those who write reviews on the films always give fair accounts, but the reader must remember to use their opinions as a guide and a stimulus for critical thought themselves. In recent publications, I have not found the feature articles as riveting, but I am sure that others will have, it is worth buying Sight & Sound purely for the entire monthly listings and reviews. It is a stimulating magazine, and a must for those who claim to love film.
Movies - something to do when it's raining, or a way of defining your position in the world. Should they really be dissected endlessly, using a vocabulary that would make Will Self blush, and assume at least an MA in film studies ( as well as that Ba Psch that you've got tucked away on a back shelf ), before you can begin to comprehend them let alone enjoy them? If your answer is yes then this is the rag for you. Brush up on those classics of 1950's Indian cinema, dust down your copy of 'obscure Chzechoslovackian animation today' and enjoy at your leisure. The only mystery to me is how you could possibly have any time left after reading this to go to the cinema. A magazine for people who believe cinema should be read about rather than watched. That said, I still subscribe. Make of that what you will...
If what you want is lots of glossy pictures of Tom Cruise and Leo Di Caprio, pages of gossip and bright sparkling reviews, forget it. 'Sight and Sound' is a slender, understated magazine, its pages filled with text, rather than day-glo images of the stars. There will be articles about films you will never see, discussions about themes you think are hogwash (I still remember a piece from eight years ago about 'Alien 3' which was, in my opinion, hopeless drivel). But that's the point. With Sight and Sound, you don't get tedious articles about how difficult the stunts were on 'Mission Impossible 2'; you will get an appraisal of Cruise's image, and the strange ideas that circulate through his work. Older films will be discussed and reassessed, debates about new ideas and technology will be spotlighted. You will disagree, you will be sometimes confused, but never bored. It's a magazine for enthusiasts, but even if you go to the flicks for a dumb night out, the reviews are sharp, unpretentious and witty. Buy it avidly, and you're building a superb film encyclopaedia you'll use again and again.
Sight and Sound is without a doubt the only film magazine worth its salt. For a start it is produced by the British Film Institute, and whom can we suggest is better qualified for informing the British movie goer than there fine people. Aswell as a wide range of features on actors, directors, genres, and almost anything really, Sight & Sound contains comprehensive reviews of every single film released along with a full credits list right down to the length of ilm int feet, and an accurate synopsis. Reviews are written by some of Britains and indeed the worlds experts on film and are perfect in their tendancy to be accuratley critical and not in the slightest bit judgemental. Well done Sight and Sound.