Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The 2012 Sight and Sound Poll: First Thoughts

All "best of" lists, even my own, are meaningless except as recommendations of films to be watched, books to be read, etc. and as representations of one person's (or group's) taste. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that. That said, I wish to dispute a few examples of the grouptaste represented by this decade's Sight and Sound Poll:

What, no Bergman?!? My own top ten list begins with a three-way tie for first place among Citizen Kane, Vertigo and Persona, so I'm rather shocked to see not a single title by Ingmar Bergman on either list. Persona, Cries and Whispers, Scenes From A Marriage, Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal and Fanny and Alexander are all on a level with most of the films chosen this decade.

No Kieslowski?!? Maybe it's still too soon for K's work to enter the canon of canons, but I predict that future decades will see The Decalogue or Three Colors: Blue, White, Red in the top ten. (Provided that S&S revises the rules to permit series films to be counted as a single film.)

No Kurosawa?!? The great, moving Ikiru would have been my choice for a Kurosawa film in the top ten. It is surely among the greatest films ever made.

No Truffaut?!? No Godard?!? No Malle?!? This decade's poll exhibits a serious bias against the French New Wave. My purely hypothetical list would've included Truffaut's Quatre-cent coups (The 400 Blows), Godard's Vivre Sa Vie, and Malle's Murmur of the Heart.

No Bunuel...This is less surprising. Luis Bunuel has never received the respect he so clearly deserves as the director of Viridiana, The Exterminating Angel, Los Olvidados, Belle de Jour, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and The Phantom of Liberty. Most non-Bunuelites know him solely as the director of Un Chien Andalou and L'Age D'Or, brilliant Surrealist films but only a tiny fraction of his oeuvre. It's time to lift Bunuel out of the Rodney Dangerfield slot and give him a little respect.

I also disagree with the choice of Tokyo Story on both lists, finding its position at the top of the director's poll almost incomprehensible. Far from being one of the greatest films ever made, Tokyo Story isn't even Ozu's best film; it doesn't come close to the brilliant, beautiful Floating Weeds.

The critics need to re-screen Renoir's The Rules of the Game on a double bill with his Grand Illusion. They will discover, as I did a few years ago, that the latter is the greater film.

I didn't like Tarkovsky's Mirror at all the first time I saw it, but on the evidence of its strong showing here, I'll give it another look.

On the positive side, I wholly endorse the selection of Vertov's Man With  a Movie Camera while simultaneously wondering "No Eisenstein?!?"

In the interest of full disclosure, here's something like what my purely hypothetical 'top dozen' list would look like:

1. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
1. Persona (Bergman)
2. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Parajanov)
3. 8 1/2 (Fellini)
4. Murmur of the Heart (Malle)
5. The Godfather trilogy (Coppola)
6. The Decalogue (Kieslowski)
7. Short Cuts (Altman)
8. Ikiru (Kurosawa)
9. Belle de Jour (Bunuel)
10. Napoleon (Gance)

And looking over my own list, I ask "No Truffaut?!?" "No Eisenstein?!?" "No Godard?!?" Yes, listmaking is indeed absurd. So let's compound the absurdity:

11. Les Quatre-Cent Coups (Truffaut)
12. Vivre Sa Vie (Godard)
13. The Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
14. Sunset Boulevard (Wilder)
15. Koyaanisqatsi (Reggio)
16. Grand Illusion (Renoir)
17. City Lights (Chaplin)
18. An Angel at My Table (Campion)
19. The Last Laugh (Murnau)
20. Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (Fassbinder)
21. Playtime (Tati)
22. Pickpocket (Bresson)
23. Man With a Movie Camera (Vertov)
24. Peeping Tom (Powell)
25. Eraserhead (Lynch)
25. Goodfellas (Scorsese)

And since I've now lost all fear of absurdity, a prediction about a few recent films that might show up on future Sight and Sound lists:

The Tree of Life (Malick)
There Will Be Blood (Anderson)
Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman)
The Matrix (Wachowski siblings--We can't call them brothers anymore because Larry is Lana now, and she's a pretty hot chick.)


InocĂȘncio de Oliveira said...

For me the best Hitchcock's movie even made is "The Hope". I really like a lot Vertigo, but it isn't the best one, at least for me.

But I agree with you. Kurosawa is fantastic, also Dreyer with "Ordet", awesome movie. I'm missing Lawrence of Arabian in Sight and Sound poll as well.

Nice blog and sorry about my english!

Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

I'd say MCCABE AND MRS MILLER is Altman's best.

BRIAN OARD said...

@Andrea Ostrov Letania:

I actually typed McCabe and Mrs. Miller onto my list before replacing it with Short Cuts because the latter is too rarely acknowledged as the masterpiece it is. It's really impossible for me to pick a 'best' Altman film, as I consider him the preeminent American director of the second half of the 20th century, a film artist on a level with Bergman. McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, The Player, Nashville, Vincent and Theo, Secret Honor, Thieves Like Us, Gosford Park...All great films.

Jack Torrance said...

I think the main point is: NO KUBRICK IN YOUR LIST????? It is indeed a question of tastes... Persona is not the best by Bergman. Fanny & Alexander and The 7th Seal are better (among the few I saw). Persona is arid experimentalism, at the most, although not devoid of interest. La Dolce Vita is superior to 8 1/2, but maybe I get it so because I am Italian. Godard is also arid in my view. Among my personal best (tastes, tastes, tastes!!!):
The Shining
Barry Lyndon
La Dolce Vita
Once Upon a Time in America
Mulholland Dr.
Blue Velvet
2001: A Space ...
Pulp Fiction

(It is so terrible to leave others outside). BTW, Citizen Kane is overrated. A lot.