TOP TEN (Part V)
In 2002, Sight & Sound, arguably the premiere film journal in the world, conducted its latest survey of critics and directors to determine the positioning of global cinema and its artistic successes. The poll reached fifty years old and had earned a certain gravitas from cinephiles. Here are the results with brief justifications by the editors:
The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll 2002
Critics' 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 filmmakers 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. 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 mesmerizing best. And for James Stewart fans, it also boasts the star’s most compelling performance. 3. 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. 4. 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. 5. Tokyo Story (Ozu) A poignant story of family relations and loss, Ozu’s subtle mood piece portrays the trip an elderly couple make to Tokyo to visit their grown-up children. The shooting style is elegantly minimal and formally reticent, and the film’s devastating emotional impact is drawn as much from what is unsaid and unshown as from what is revealed. 6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick) One of the most ambitious Hollywood movies ever made, 2001 crams into its two-hour plus running time a story that spans the prehistoric age to the beginning of the third millennium, and features some of the most hypnotically beautiful special effects work ever committed to film. After seeing this, you can never listen to Strauss’ Blue Danube without thinking space crafts waltzing against starry backdrops. 7. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein) Eisenstein's recreation of a mutiny by sailors of the battleship Potemkin in 1905 works as daring formal experiment - which pushed the expressive potential of film editing to its limit - and rousing propaganda for the masses. The Odessa Steps sequence remains one of the most memorable set-pieces in cinema. 7. Sunrise (Murnau) Having left his native Germany for the US, F.W. Murnau had all the resources of a major Hollywood studio at his disposal for this, his American debut. What he produced was a visually stunning film romance that ranks as one of the last hurrahs of the silent period. 9. 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. 10. Singin’ In the Rain (Kelly, Donen) Impossible to watch without a smile on your face, this affectionate tribute to the glory days of Hollywood in the 1920s is pleasure distilled into 102 minutes. With Gene Kelly dance sequences that take your breath away and a great score by Brown and Freed, this is the film musical at its best. It's truly a wonderful list, with a few pleasant surprises. One was in the voting pattern. Had Vertigo received only a handful of additional votes or Citizen Kane only a handful fewer, the existential Hitchcock thriller would have toppled Kane from its four decade perch! There were two silent films, but this time Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc had been supplanted by Murnau's Sunrise. This wasn't really a shock as Sunrise had seen its reputation soar after its restoration. It had won an Academy Award at the very first Oscar bash. Though made in America, it was a triumph of German expressionism. Director F.W. Murnau's work in Germany, such as his classic The Last Laugh, had cemented his position as an iconic figure in world cinema. His largely successful experimental techniques in Sunrise only served to confirm the consensus. Below see the original poster, and here is a link to Roger Ebert's commentary on the film's history: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040411/REVIEWS08/404110301/1023/
Other surprises included the return of Singin' in the Rain, the rise of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the departure of The Searchers, and the conflating of Godfather and Godfather II into one film. Hard to figure this one, since there is, in fact, a Godfather III, as well as a variety of Godfather compilations. Someone at the British Film Institute must have okayed the nomination of the two Godfathers as a tandem, so the Critics had the easy choice of voting for the pair without distinguishing the two. Clearly, however, they are two distinct films. I think most critics would agree that Godfather II is the masterwork of the trilogy, and Godfather III the evil stepsister, but the original Godfather has such iconic moments that the BFI felt it was acceptable to link it to its sequel. Another question it prompts: How many films in history have been outdone in quality by their sequels or prequels? That's for another entry I guess. Below the trailer for The Godfather, Part II.
Finally, let's look at the list of all films voted for that received five votes or more. I feel a source of pride that three (count 'em, three!) of my professors over the years cast ballots. I was especially pleased by their choices. Below is the complete list followed by the number of votes received and the rank of the film. For example, Psycho received 6 votes and was tied with 9 other films for 35th place on the list. As you can see, Citizen Kane and Vertigo were only five votes apart. The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll 2002
All the films which received more than four votes from critics.
Title (Director) Votes Rank
Citizen Kane (Welles)46 1 Vertigo (Hitchcock)41 2 La Régle du jeu (Renoir)30 3 The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (Coppola)23 4 Tokyo Story (Ozu)22 5 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)21 6 Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)19 7 Sunrise (Murnau)19 7 8½ (Fellini)18 9 Singin’ in the Rain (Kelly, Donen)17 10 Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)15 11 The Searchers (Ford)15 11 Rashomon (Kurosawa)14 13 The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)12 14 A bout de souffle (Godard)11 15 L’Atalante (Vigo)1115 The General (Keaton)11 15 Touch of Evil (Welles)11 15 Au hasard Balthazar (Bresson)10 19 Jules et Jim (Truffaut)10 19 L’avventura (Antonioni)10 19 Le Mépris (Godard)9 22 Pather Panchali (Ray)9 22 La dolce vita (Fellini)8 24 M (Lang)8 24 The Story of the Late Chrysanthemums (Mizoguchi)8 24 Barry Lyndon (Kubrick)7 27 Les Enfants du paradis (Carné)7 27 Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein)7 27 Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov)7 27 Metropolis (Lang)7 27 Some Like It Hot (Wilder)7 27 Ugetsu Monogatari (Mizoguchi)7 27 Wild Strawberries (Bergman)7 27 Andrei Roublev (Tarkovsky)6 35 The 400 Blows (Truffaut)6 35 Fanny and Alexander (Bergman)6 35 La Grande Illusion (Renoir)6 35 The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles)6 35 Modern Times (Chaplin)6 35 Psycho (Hitchcock)6 35 The Seventh Seal (Bergman)6 35 Taxi Driver (Scorsese)6 35 The Third Man (Reed)6 35 Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)5 45 Blade Runner (Scott)5 45 City Lights (Chaplin)5 45 Greed (von Stroheim)5 45 Intolerance (Griffith)5 45 Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)5 45 Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls)5 45 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford)5 45 Mirror (Tarkovsky)5 45 Ordet (Dreyer)5 45 Pierrot le fou (Godard)5 45 Rio Bravo (Hawks)5 45 Sansho Dayu (Mizoguchi)5 45 Shoah (Lanzmann)5 45 The Travelling Players (Angelopoulos)5 45 Two or Three Things I Know about Her (Godard)5 45