The July 2011 issue – on sale 7 June

July 2011

Fresh off its Palme d’Or triumph last month at Cannes, our July cover movie is legendary American auteur Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. The film brought together not only Sean Penn and Brad Pitt, but also five different editors and the legendary visual-effects guru Douglas Trumbull, and the results put Nick James in mind of Kubrick’s 2001 (and even Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void). “Watching this spectacle,” he writes, “the mind genuinely does boggle between two different kinds of incredulity… It’s remarkable how often a suspension of disbelief in grace – or at least in extrasensory abilities – is a requirement in recent cinema.”

Geoffrey Macnab meanwhile talks to Malick’s cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki for the scoop on the reclusive director’s working methods. “We create chaos,” the DP observes, “and within that chaos, things that feel natural – feel real – start to happen.”

Also reporting back from Cannes, Nick James rounds up the Competition and Critics’ Week entries (including new films from Pedro Almodóvar, Aki Kaurismäki, Lynne Ramsay, Woody Allen, the Dardenne brothers, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Michel Hazanavicius), Jonathan Romney explores the unexpected pleasures of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia and Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be the Place, Geoff Andrew picks out four of the most notable non-competition films, and Amy Taubin hails Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not a Film, a modernist masterpiece made under house arrest (and purportedly smuggled to Cannes in a cake).

Panahi’s fellow Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won the Berlinale’s Golden Bear back in February with his A Separation, which arrives in the UK on release this month. Ostensibly a portrait of a fracturing marriage, the film is more interested in “questioning the ethical and moral dilemmas and issues of class and religion that face Iranians today,” writes James Bell, going on to talk to Farhadi about the hidden class war in Iran, the reality of Iranian women and the clashing visions of the good that constitutes the film’s tragedy.

“It takes some nerve today for a ‘cool’ French filmmaker to adapt a boulevard play, as François Ozon has done with Potiche,” writes Ginette Vincendeau of the director’s update of Barillet and Grédy’s 1980 farce about a neglected potiche – a ‘vase’ or trophy wife – who seizes the reigns from her boorish husband in both the boardroom and the bedroom. “The theatrical genre has long been despised by the French cinema establishment,” Vincendeau notes, showing how nonetheless Ozon’s ambivalent, semi-ironic comedy is far from the first French film to find rich commentary on sexual politics in such material. And as Jonathan Romney notes in his review, Ozon’s highly choreographed, brassily 70s-retro film – starring Catherine Deneuve in rollers and tracksuit – “is also very serious about style”.

Our July issue also carries three disparate features on film history…

“What price cinema after the death of a dictatorship?”, asks Paul Julian Smith at the outset of ‘Spanish spring’, his essay on the remarkable flowering of Spanish cinema at the end of the 1970s. Highlighting the films of three emblematic, very different filmmakers – Pedro Almodóvar, Eloy de la Iglesia and Iván Zulueta – Smith charts a brief, intense journey through the “heavy – as well as heady – legacy” of Franco’s death and the “unaccustomed power of sex and politics – of sex in politics – in a young democracy.”

And what price science fiction under the dictatorship of the proletariat? “Although not a prolific genre by Hollywood standards,” writes James Blackford, “pre-perestroika Russian sci-fi offers a fascinating body of films – a fantastic voyage from early constructivist epics to post-apocalyptic dystopias, taking in prophetic moon explorations, space-race propaganda, atomic war allegories and existential art cinema.”

“At first Cutter’s Way was a film no one seemed to get,” remembers Mike Atkinson of Ivan Passer’s long buried, unforgettable post-Vietnam neo-noir. “As with so many films maudits, the tribulations of its bad fortune and misrelease seem to reflect its own story arc, as if the movie itself had tried to deliver a secret truth and been suppressed.”

Elsewhere in the issue, Asif Kapadia talks to James Bell about Senna, his hit portrait of Formula One’s lost legend, Bell also reports on the Jeonju festival’s Digital Project and other highlights, Dylan Cave investigates She… Who Would Be Pope, a 2009 ‘reimagining’ of the 1972 costume drama Pope Joan, Michael Brooke digs up the Taviani brothers’ 1974 Allonsanfan – “a picaresque yarn about ineffectual insurrectionists in 1816 Italy” – John Wyver combs the cache of British TV plays recently rediscovered in the US Library of Congress collections, Brian Dillon probes Kerry Tribe’s ‘Dead Star Light’ exhibition, Charles Gant compares the box-office performance of Attack the Block with other British urban youth films and Nick Roddick remembers buccaneering Dutch film banker Frans Afman.

We’ve reviews of 36 new film releases – including Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies, a family-tragic take on the Middle East conflicts and our film of the month – and 24 new DVDs, including Jan Svankmajer’s Alice in Wonderland and Jacques Tourneur’s westerns. And our Books section spans ‘film moments’, the Brothers Quay, a history of Czechoslovak cinema and David Bordwell and Kirstin Thompson’s latest tome, ‘Minding Movies’.

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See also

Popcorn patter: David Thomson rediscovers Badlands (September 2008)

Bayonets in paradise: Colin MacCabe on The Thin Red Line (February 1999)

Cannes blog (May 2011)

8 Women reviewed by Ginette Vincendeau (December 2002)

Iván: Pedro Almodóvar’s eulogy to the late Iván Zulueta (English translation April 2011)

Strange energies from the east: Jonathan Romney on a Russian sci-fi cult attraction at the Berlinale (February 2011)

How to tell a true war story: Nick Pinkerton on how Hollywood’s auteur generation distilled the Vietnam War into a new form of vigilantism (May 2011)

Last Updated: 05 Jul 2011