TOP TEN (Part V-B)
Sorry I haven't posted recently. This weekend I will conclude my review of the Top Ten lists of Sight & Sound magazine, often thought to be the world's most respected journal for the study of cinema. In a few months, Sight & Sound will publish its compilation of the views of critics and directors from around the globe, as well as a number of Top Ten lists. In 2002, the last year the surveys were taken, the magazine published a Top Ten Critics' List as well as a Top Ten Directors' List. The publication added the critics' and directors' choices for the Top Directors as well. Last post, we examined the Critics' List and cited all the films that received at least five votes. I had no complaint about most of the selections, though I would have switched many of their positions. I must acknowledge a grievous error or two. I like Rio Bravo, by Howard Hawks, starring the Duke, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, Ricky Nelson, and Angie Dickinson. It's a memorable western and one can admire the sophistication of its construction and the polish of its delivery. But, please.... It's not even in the same league as Once Upon a Time in the West, by Sergio Leone, or The Wild Bunch, by Sam Peckinpah. I think either one of those films could be placed in the Top 20 of all time if not the Top 10. Rio Bravo is stylish, but weightless. It has none of the iconic imagery or disturbing values of The Searchers, or the unblinking view of society and world-weary views of bygone times found in The Wild Bunch. It lacks the romanticism, the ground-breaking cinematography and the musical scoring of Once Upon a Time in the West. One could argue that Shane, flawed as it is, is the equal of Rio Bravo. It certainly has a better villain. Above and below are window cards for the Hawks and Leone films and the legendary, though truncated, title sequence from Peckinpah's masterpiece. "If they move...kill 'em."
I was also disappointed that the French New Wave, and French cinema in general, was shortchanged. Jean-Luc Godard is a critics' darling, but Breathless (A bout de Souffle) ( Tied for # 15) has yet to crack the Top Ten. Truffaut's The 400 Blows (Tied for # 35) and Jules et Jim (Tied for # 19) both deserve higher positions. All three changed the way films were made. How Barry Lyndon is the only other Kubrick film to receive five votes is beyond me. No Paths of Glory? No Dr. Strangelove? Chaplin and Keaton were overlooked as well. Still, it was a thoughtful list. What a surprise to see the Directors' List though. It was so different! Here is how it looked: The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 2002
Directors’ poll 1. Citizen Kane (Welles) Dazzlingly inventive, technically breathtaking, Citizen Kane reinvented the way stories could be told in the cinema, and set a standard generations of film-makers have since aspired to. An absorbing account of a newspaper tycoon's rise to power, Orson Welles' debut film feels as fresh as tomorrow's headlines. And he was only 26 when he made it. 2. The Godfather and The Godfather part II (Coppola) Few films have portrayed the US immigrant experience quite so vividly as Coppola's Godfather films, or exposed the contradictions of the American Dream quite so ruthlessly. And what a cast, formidable talent firing all cylinders: Brando, De Niro, Pacino, Keaton, Duvall, Caan. Now that's an offer you can't refuse.
3. 8½ (Fellini) Wonderfully free floating, gleefully confusing reality and fantasy, 8½ provides a ringside seat into the ever active imaginative life of its director protagonist Guido, played by Fellini's on-screen alter-ego Marcello Mastroianni. The definitive film about film-making - as much about the agonies of the creative process as the ecstasies - it's no wonder the movie is so popular with directors. 4. Lawrence of Arabia (Lean) Filmed in the desert in lavish widescreen and rich colours, Lawrence of Arabia is David Lean at his most epic and expansive. You can almost feel the waves of heat glowing from the cinema screen. 5. Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick) A black comedy about impending nuclear annihilation that was made at the height of the cold war, Dr. Strangelove is perhaps Kubrick's most audacious movie and certainly his funniest. Peter Sellers has never been better, and provides good value playing three roles. 6. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica) Mixing melodrama, documentary and social commentary, De Sica follows an impoverished father and son treading the streets of post-war Rome, desperately seeking their stolen bicycle. Deeply compassionate, this poignant film is one of the outstanding examples of Italian neorealism. 6. Raging Bull (Scorsese) An unblinkingly honest biopic of Jake La Motta - a great prizefighter but a deeply flawed human being - this catches Scorsese in fighting fit form. The boxing sequence are both brutal and beautiful, and De Niro, who famously put on weight to play the middle-aged La Motta, gives one of the performances of modern cinema. 6. Vertigo (Hitchcock) A gripping detective story or a delirious investigation into desire, grief and jealousy? Hitchcock had a genius for transforming genre pieces into vehicles for his own dark obsessions, and this 1958 masterpiece shows the director at his mesmerising best. And for James Stewart fans, it also boasts the star's most compelling performance. 9. Rashomon (Kurosawa) Offering four differing accounts of a rape and murder, all told in flashbacks, Kurosawa's 1951 film is a complex meditation on the distortive nature of memory and a gripping study of human behaviour at its most base. Mifune Toshiro is magnetic as the bandit Tajomaru.
9. La Règle du jeu (Renoir) Tragedy and comedy effortlessly combine in Renoir's country house ensemble drama. A group of aristocrats gather for some rural relaxation, a shooting party is arranged, downstairs the servants bicker about a new employee, while all the time husbands, wives, mistresses and lovers sweetly deceive one another and swap declarations of love like name cards at a dinner party. 9. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa) The blueprint for The Magnificent Seven was Kurosawa's magnificent swordplay epic of self-sacrifice about a band of hired samurai who come together to protect a helpless village from a rapacious gang of 40 thieves who descend every year to steal the harvest and kidnap women. The final sequence of the fight in the mud and rain has never been bettered. Well, there's Kubrick! Not 2001, but Strangelove! And the epic films of David Lean finally get some cred. If I had to pick one movie to represent a MOVIE-movie, I'd pick Lawrence of Arabia. I took students in the late 90s to the Ziegfeld to see the 70mm remastered print. The image was so large and the print so pristine that I came out of the theatre with a tan. This film was movie as spectacle. It still takes one's breath away to see the legendary set pieces. Everything else on the list has been on previous Critics' lists as well. Here are the rest of the Directors' votes: Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll 2002
The rest of the directors’ list
All the films which received more than 4 votes from directors. Film Votes Rank Citizen Kane (Welles)42 1 The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (Coppola)28 2 8½ (Fellini)19 3 Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)16 4 Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick)14 5 Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)13 6 Raging Bull (Scorsese)13 6 Vertigo (Hitchcock)13 6 La Régle du jeu (Renoir)12 9 Rashomon (Kurosawa)12 9 Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)12 9 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)11 12 Sunset Blvd. (Wilder)11 12 The Apartment (Wilder)10 14 La dolce vita (Fellini)10 14 Mirror (Tarkovsky)9 16 Psycho (Hitchcock)9 16 Tokyo Story (Ozu)9 16 Apocalypse Now (Coppola)8 19 Casablanca (Curtiz)8 19 City Lights (Chaplin)8 19 Fanny and Alexander (Bergman)8 19 Singin’ in the Rain (Kelly, Donen)8 19 Andrei Roublev (Tarkovsky)7 24 L’avventura (Antonioni)7 24 Chinatown (Polanski)7 24 La Grande Illusion (Renoir)7 24 Some Like It Hot (Wilder)7 24 La strada (Fellini)7 24 The Searchers (Ford)7 24 Amarcord (Fellini)6 31 Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)6 31 A bout de souffle (Godard)6 31 Jules et Jim (Truffaut)6 31 Les Enfants du paradis (Carné)6 31 On the Waterfront (Kazan)6 31 The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)6 31 The Seventh Seal (Bergman)6 31 Taxi Driver (Scorsese)6 31 Touch of Evil (Welles)6 31 The Conformist (Bertolucci)5 41 Once upon a Time in the West (Leone)5 41 Persona (Bergman)5 41 Pickpocket (Bresson)5 41 Ran (Kurosawa)5 41 Sunrise (Murnau)5 41 Sweet Smell of Success (Mackendrick)5 41 The Third Man (Reed)5 41 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Huston)5 41 The Wizard of Oz (Fleming)5 41