First, I know I spend a lot of time writing about the “best” this and the “greatest” that. I tried to avoid writing a reaction piece to this week’s Sight and Sound Poll, but since it’s only released every ten years I couldn’t resist.
As an overview, the Sight and Sound Poll has been conducted every ten years since 1952 and ranks what scholars, critics, directors, and other film experts consider the best movies of all time. Unlike its American counterpart, the AFI 100, it ranks films from all of the world. I’m not going to comment on all fifty selections, so I’ll stick to the top ten.
1. Vertigo (1958)
It’s hard for me to rank Vertigo as Hitchcock’s best film, much less the greatest film ever made. Psycho (1960) and Rear Window (1954) are, in my mind, superior to Vertigo. Still, as a technical achievement Vertigo is Hitchcock’s most successfully experimental film, his Persona (1966), so to speak. Calling it the greatest film ever made though is still a tall order for me to accept.
2. Citizen Kane (1941)
Citizen Kane has been called the greatest film ever so many times that its selection as such is usually considered a given. The problem with Citizen Kane though is that, while it is undoubtedly the most important American film, it is no one’s favorite film. I think that latter fact finally caught up with it in this year’s poll.
3. Tokyo Story (1953)
Tokyo Story is Ozu’s masterpiece, and it is great to see Ozu being regarded so highly. My only quarrel with this pick is that I can’t imagine how it gets picked over Persona as the greatest demonstration of raw emotion in cinema history.
4. The Rules of the Game (1939)
Renoir was brilliant, it’s true (so was his father, impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renoir). I’ll admit that I haven’t seen The Rules of the Game, but of the French movies I have seen it has a lot of convincing to do in order for me to agree that it is the pinnacle of French cinema. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but I’m skeptical.
5. Sunrise: A Tale of Two Humans (1927)
This is where the Sight and Sound Poll loses me. Yes, Roger Ebert and others have stated that film is about images primarily, and I agree, to a point – sound to me is so integral to modern film that silent film really needs its own category as an artform. Still, the only Murnau film that I’ve seen is Nosferatu (1922), so I can’t really address the merits of this one.
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Yes! Finally a choice that I can’t nitpick.
7. The Searchers (1956)
See my above commentary on Vertigo. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940) are Ford’s best films in my opinion. Still, The Searchers is a good choice if you’re going to pick one from Ford.
8. Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
I thought I knew a lot about movies, but today is the first I’ve heard of this film. I can’t comment until I know more about it.
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1927)
Once again, we really need a separate category for silent films. Still, you can’t go wrong with Dreyer’s masterpiece.
10. 8 1/2 (1963)
No complaints here.
And those are my thoughts!
(c) 2012 D.G. McCabe