Editorial – The Greatest

We’re just a few days away from the big reveal of this decades Sight & Sound poll.  The one deemed worthier than most and as the definitive measure of the current cinematic climate. The next two weeks worth of editorials will be dedicated to this rather exciting event.

While the eyes of the world looked towards London on Friday evening, this week the world’s collected cinephiles will turn their eyes to another fine London institution the British Film Institute, and the decennially-produced list produced by their journal, Sight & Sound. Such is the definitive nature of those polled by Sight & Sound that their poll has come to be recognised by most as the most authoritative, and, as Roger Ebert put it “the only one most serious movie people take seriously” (I). The Sight & Sound poll, alongside André Bazin, was amongst the first wave to re-evaluate Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, leading to its placing at number 1 in their 1952 poll, a position in which it has remained ever since (although one expects it to be displaced by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo this time around, given the current climate). Waves and trends have seen the likes of Robert Flaherty’s Louisiana Story and Eisenstein’s Ivan The Terrible pop up over the years, but more often than not an old guard consisting of the Welles movie, Jean Renoir’s The Rules Of The Game and Fellini’s  holding up the front end. 

While the top spot itself might seriously be up for the taking by a non-Welles film this time around it’s another area of the list that introgues perhaps the most. Will there be any new movies that make the cut? While both David Thomson and Philip have mooted that Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood might be the ideal candidate for inclusion, some have predicted the achingly recent Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life as appropriate (the aforementioned Ebert included it in his own submission to the poll), while there has long been talk of the more left-field likes of Edward Yang’s Yi Yi or even an Apichatpong Weerasethakul flick making the cut. And what of those national cinemas which have seen a mammoth rise over the last few years? What of Iran, or Portugal? If any of these countries or filmmakers has made enough of a collated impression remains to be seen, but we look forward to finding out. The list will be revealed on Thursday, August 2nd, stay tuned to the site and our Twitter feed for up-to-the-minute information and commentary. 

The politics of “Greatest” versus favourite are long and varied. Here’s my own top ten greatest list, feel free to put your own in the comments section below. 

Vivre Sa Vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962)
The Rules Of The Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
The Night Of The Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
Sunrise – A Song Of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Intolerance (D.W. Griffith, 1916)

Note the lack of anything not French or American. Terrible, isn’t it? Putting together such a list is no mean feat (you don’t know how painful it was for me to have to omit King Vidor’s The Crowd, or make no mention of anything by Powell & Pressburger or John Ford).  

Elsewhere in this weeks instalment of Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second, and on a similar London note we’ll be continuing our HitchLies24 project with the directors The Lodger and Frenzy. The two represent the beginning and the end of the career of Hitchcock, with the latter’s inclusion tying in with the release of a formidable new book on the production of the work (II) and the former coming under scrutiny in the wake of it’s recent reevaluation thanks to last weeks screenings of the beautiful new restoration (III)

Adam Batty – Editor-In-Chief

[Apologies for the quiet week, I’ve had a few days holiday]

Further reading –
(I) The Best Damned Film List Of Them All – Roger Ebert
(II) Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy: The Last Masterpiece 
(III) The Lodger Restored 
Sight & Sound Top Ten Archive
My entry for last weeks IndieWire Critics Survey on the film screening that meant the most.


Add yours →

  1. damon carter 29/07/2012 — 4:42 pm

    i could pick fault with any top 10 and likewise i would receive the same treatment. one thing i completely agree with you is that Vertigo is Hitchcock’s greatest movie.

    My problem is differentiating between my top ten favourite and what i believe are the ten most important films. I’m not sure how film critics decide this either.

    it must lend itself towards “Important” as comedy and action films are derided in such lists

  2. Great read. I’ve always been a huge fan of best film lists and the S&S is certainly the best of all.

    Before I give my own list, I should say that, for me, there’s a difference between my favourite films and the films I consider the best. These are the ones that, if Sight and Sound ever asked me, I would put in my ten.

    1. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
    2. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
    3. L\’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)
    4. In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
    5. Vivre Sa Vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962)
    6. Singin\’ In The Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
    7. Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)
    8. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984)
    9. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1965)
    10. Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955)

    I should also say that I’ve not seen nearly enough films for this list to be taken entirely seriously. I haven\’t seen any films by Jean Renoir, for example, nor have I seen Lawrence of Arabia, and I\’ve only seen Citizen Kane once (in less than ideal circumstances). Needless to say, this will be rectified soon.

    Also, apologies if the years are wrong. I’m doing this from memory.

  3. Calvin MacKinnon 29/07/2012 — 6:03 pm

    When making a top 10 (or similar) list, I always feel conscious about the filmmakers I leave out. Although I try to be objective and list what I think are, technically, near-perfect films, there’s always an element of my own opinion that seeps in (perhaps unavoidably). I never put more than one film by the same filmmaker and try to give the world equal representation. So without further ado…

    2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
    Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio de Sica, 1948)
    Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
    The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1991)
    Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
    La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)
    The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
    The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Th. Dreyer, 1928)
    The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973)
    Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)

    Bear in mind that this list would probably look totally different if you asked me tomorrow. There’s probably a group of 20-30 films that could make it into my top 10, depending on how recently I last saw them. You’ll notice there’s no Kurosawa, Powell/Pressburger, Tarkovsky, Mizoguchi, Lang, Bresson or Leone – all of whom I would list among my favourites. Also, Yang’s Yi Yi could easily be swapped out for his other masterpiece – A Brighter Summer Day. In conclusion, this is bloody difficult.

  4. Carl Copeland 30/07/2012 — 12:14 pm

    Still mulling over my top ten but will post as soon as. Some great lists thus far.

  5. carl copeland 01/08/2012 — 8:21 pm

    After much deliberation, I’ve concluded my top 10. I think there is always much debate of what you can call the greatest and your favourite. Critics no doubt what they deem the more ‘important films’. I think mine is a list worthy of both.

    Black Narcissus (Powell/Pressburger, 1947)
    Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
    Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
    Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
    Rocco and His Brothers (Visconti, 1960)
    Goodfellas (Scorsese)
    Sunrise (Murnau, 1927)
    Nights of Cabiria (Fellini, 1957)
    Pather Panchali (Ray,1955)
    Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger, 1969)

    List could easily change of course, a few classics are due a rewatch.

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