Where online can you go to find a digital edition of the issue?
I think it’s a shame there are so few new movies, post 2000. Remember in 1962 they voted L’avventura, a two year old film, to a second place! But maybe the modern films simply aren’t good enough. I think eventually a few films from the last decade will be considered classics.
From the last decade perhaps Mulholland Drive, In the Mood For Love, Werckmeister Harmonies, There Will Be Blood, The White Ribbon, Cache, Yi Yi, and maybe a couple of others could everntually become enduring touchstones of the cinema canon.
I know I’m in the minority on here regarding this, but I just don’t think people like Weerasethakul, Ceylan, Claire Denis, and Hong Sang-soo are S&S top 50 material, even if they all have their moments. Yes, I realize Beau Travail made the top 100, but I just don’t think it will endure. It’s interesting, but there’s something about it I find bit too academic. I liked 35 Rhums very much, but I can’t see it being a Sight & Sound top 50 mainstay. Also, I know Haneke tends to divide Mubi users and others in the hardcore cinephile community, but I think he’s deeply misunderstood by many of his haters within the film-loving/cinephile realm, even if there are many who admire him and appreciate his films. I simply see Haneke as the last of the old school “European arthouse auteurs”. Bela Tarr is great, but he’s more of a Jacques Rivette-type and also of an entirely new generation of filmmakers.
Kiarostami will endure, but his key films are mostly from the 1990s.
I’m not a huge fan of Mulholland Drive, but I except it will probably endure.
As I said in my post, from the perspective of frontier settlers, the racism makes sense. You didn’t grow up in a tolerant multicultural setting like we did, and the biggest threat to your life are Native American marauders who, according to the rumors you’ve heard, lack basic respect for life. Naturally you’d hate them.
But there’s a huge difference between killing the marauders who attacked you, and killing all the women and children who happen to be in the same tribe. The former is self defense, the latter is barbarism. And it’s not just Ethan who wanted to kill the kidnapped girl, it was heavily implied that culture at large was on Ethan’s side, that even the girl’s mother would want to kill her because she’d been assimilated. When they meet the other white children who’d been assimilated, they’re portrayed as sub-human, and it’s implied the girl is the exception who still has strong memories of ‘good white living’.
I do have tremendous respect to the plot structure, and I think the moment Ethan raises the girl up the same way he did when she was a child is a beautiful moment. It’s just hard to say that the film does not condone white cultural supremacy.
Why aren’t they top 50 material? Because they don’t have decades of tradition saying they are? I would put Werckmeister Harmonies, Beau Travail, and Brighter Summer day all in my personal top 50, and Weersathakul would have a shot at my top 100.
But I put Chungking Express far above In The Mood For Love.
A long time ago French critics developed “la politique des auteurs” and they took Hitchcock and Hawks as supreme examples of the understated artistry possible within the Hollywood system. Decades later, Hitchcock heads the list of most voted filmmakers whereas Hawks is no longer in the pantheon.
An affectionate greeting to the hawksians left in this (mad) world, we are becoming rare!
All 3 Lynch films (LH, MD, IE) will be in the top50 in 2052 and Mulholland Drive will be considered the greatest achievement in the history of cinema, it has the same importance than Murnau Sunrise, Welles Kane or Hitchcock Vertigo. Obviously OLD people will not agree on this, because they are too sentimental and attached to most of the old stuff.
That also depends on how many filmmakers one is willing to allow into the pantheon. For some it may be 20, for others it could be 100. For example, I think Rohmer, Pialat, Rivette, and Cassavetes deserve to be in the pantheon, but they didn’t make the top 25.
One of my issues is this. Many of the films towards the top of the list, even if they some of them I feel are great, tend to be valued for formal innovation above all else, but there are plenty of works of genius that don’t exhibit the same level of “formal innovation” but happen to be great in other ways, such as My Night at Maud’s or Last Tango in Paris or Pialat’s We Won’t Grow Old Together. Why should such films be considered inferior for failing to exhibit the same level of “formal innovation” even if they’re brilliant in othe ways that a film like Sunrise may not be. Sometimes I get the sense from a list that formal innovation is the primary thing that matters, which would explain why guys like Rohmer, Pialat, and Cassavetes get snubbed. Okay, I know I’m starting to sound like Ray Carney, but still. For the record, I love Vertigo, but…
You can exhibit artistic genius without being formally innovative. Form simply isn’t important to all artists. Some artists occupy themselves primarily with content over form. It doesn’t necessarily make them inferior. Both approaches should have a place. It goes back to what Kubrick said. I’m paraphrasing, but it goes something like this: Chaplin was all content and no form while Eisenstein was all form and no content, but both were great filmmakers.
Maybe that’s why Bunuel suffered in the poll, since with the exception of his early shorts he’s more about content than form.
Sure. I’m just saying that before Cahiers neither Hitchcock nor Hawks were in the pantheon. Later, both became usual suspects (see Sarris’ pantheon). Now Hitchcock is number 1 and Hawks is not in a list of 25 names. Anyway, as some have noted, there’s a disturbing tendency to vote films solely according to their formal merits, from that point of view Hawks’ fall was predictable.
True, but to be fair, even though I discussed the tendency to acclaim films for their formal merits, there are a few films even towards the top of the list that are acclaimed mainly due to their content, such as Rules of the Game and The 400 Blows, Of course, plenty of films, such as Tokyo Story, Au Hasard Balthazar, Contempt, Persona, and others are impressive both formally and content-wise. On the same token, I have a hard time believing Citizen Kane and Vertigo would be as high as they are if people sincerely gave equal attention to form and content. Tokyo Story would certainly still be up there as would Passion of Joan of Arc, and I’m sure others would be, as well, but you get the point…
But then again, maybe formal merits, such as those exhibited in Vertigo, Citizen Kane, or Sunrise are simply easier to teach in film school than are the merits of Rohmer’s content. Maybe that could explain the trend.
Interesting to see Coppola pick no less than two Scorsese films.
@Bobby Wise – The Searchers is a terrible film, and not just because of its conservative, intolerant stance.
intolerant of what? Everyone sees Ethan. He’s the main character. He’s the anti-hero. He’s the racist. No one pays attention to the fact that Ethan’s counterpart in the film is a.) a half-breed Indian that Ethan despises upon first sight, and b.) the force that keeps Ethan from doing the terrible thing that he wants to do. I sort of shocks me that someone would think the film sides with Ethan’s intended actions.
But even still, I think you’re reading far too much into what I’m saying if you think that I’m implying that “racist, murderous behavior” is ok. The Searchers depicts this behavior, but also goes to great lengths to undermine it. There’s a major difference between depicting and supporting.
The aesthetics of the film are not up to par
I’d need you to explain this further for a full response, but if you’re suggesting that Ford’s film isn’t aesthetically rigorous and formally complex, well, then I have no idea what to say to that. It’s all up there on the screen.
@Jirin – It’s just hard to say that the film does not condone white cultural supremacy.
Again, on the surface The Searchers might condone this, but the arc of the narrative undermines the idea of white supremacy by having Ethan choose to save Debbie. It is not an act of white supremacy to save your only surviving family member from a tribe of people that brutally murdered the rest of them. The movie takes the perspective of frontier settlers and so privileges their concerns. But any time a white director has tried to take the Indian POV, the results have been nothing but middling hand-wringing.
And this bring me around to wondering if this is The Searchers ultimate problem in the modern age. It does not grovel for forgiveness at the injustices it displays. It deals with highly complex, emotionally charged situations with nuance and doesn’t play games. The people who made it were born only a short while after (or in some cases during) the close of western expansion. These were people who better understood the ground-level realities of that expansion.
I don’t take this list as serious as many people does, including Sight & Sound, who seems to think this is important as a moon landing. Weird they didn’t let you post that stuff, kenji, self important people.. I’m buying the magazine anyway.
I think there absolutely were more good and innovative films before, but there are good stuff being made today as well. Placing something in a pantheon can kill a film. It’s very hard to see Citizen Kane and Tokyo Story for me, so somehow I feel happy when one of my favourites are not that popular. It would kill some of the atmosphere surrounding a film like The King of Marvin Gardens if it suddenly was nr. 5. And I can’t say that film is any worse than Citizen Kane. They are both great. When something reaches a certain level you can’t put them up against each other. A top 50 or 100 from each person voting would be more interesting, as I’m sure a lot of people have many films they feel they need to have in their top 10. Also, it would be fun to read a little about why they chose the films, like in the annual poll.
Going back to the discussion of films and filmmakers from the 2000s that will eventually become classics my issue with the Bressonian realism of people like Ceylan, Hong Sang-soo, or Sissako is that I just want to shake them and tell them it’s okay to indulge once in a while. Sure Bela Tarr, Ozu, and Bresson can all seem a bit austere, but they’re all masters of their craft, whereas when I watch a Hong film he just doesn’t seem sure of himself in the same way. It feels like he’s following a formula and doggedly aligning himself with a certain school of filmmaking.
“So racist, murderous behavior is ok and should be hard to critique in theory and in practice?”
Well, first of all, if you’re suggesting that the Ford’s position in the film is that “racist, murderous behavior is ok”, then I think that’s really badly misreading the film.
“It’s just hard to say that the film does not condone white cultural supremacy.”
Well, here I think is one of those places where it’s possible to get stuck on reading portrayal as condoning. But even if this is where we feel we need to go politically with Ethan, clearly there’s some explicit ideological distance in the inside/outside dichotomy of the beginning and ending of the film.
Ford literally closes the door to him at the end of the film.
@Matt – Right. Ethan spent all those years to save what was left of his family, but in the end is unable to participate in the ultimate fulfillment of his goals. He is rejected by the very institution he sought to protect.
Mars: You’re probably right there. Too much minimalism the last decade. Annoying when cinema turns into video art. That’s why I liked Night & Day Watch, the Russian fantasy films, stupid films in a way, but I see the beginning of something new there. A totally commercial, excessive film language can be used for other purposes. But I would never call these films classics.
Some films are more pantheon like than others, say Godfather, The Conformist, There Will Be Blood, I think it’s easy to choose pantheon style films for a top 10 list like this. The “small” films seem to suffer a little in these polls.
I have often been disappointed by 2000s films. I think Ceylan is more style than content. I do like Roy Andersson, Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master might be a classic), Claire Denis (at least The Intruder, Beau Travail is good, but overrated), Aleksander Sokurov, Carlos Reygadas, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. There might be some classics there.
Minimalism works when you’re master of it like Bresson or Ozu, otherwise…
People call Antonioni a minimalist, but I disagree. While obviously brilliant, he’s too ‘arty’ to be considered a minimalist in my opinion.
Weerasethakul just isn’t my cup of tea for some reason. I guess I respect him, but his films leave me completely and utterly afterward. I feel like I need to watch The Double Life of veronique or The 400 Blows right afterwards.
“(Ethan Edwards) is rejected by the very institution he sought to protect.”
Is he really rejected by the institution he sought to protect? It has always felt to me more like he chooses his isolation at the end of the film.
Hitchcock at #1, sweet! Not that I didn’t see it coming, but still…
What’s interesting is that the ‘Holy Trinity’ of arthouse cinema (Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa) has fallen completely out of the top ten directors.
@Roscoe – Might it be both? Ethan knows he can’t stay. Either way, the door is closed on him, leaving him to wander between the winds, a searcher still.
“Is he really rejected by the institution he sought to protect? It has always felt to me more like he chooses his isolation at the end of the film.”
The fact that Ford closes the door on him (rather than, say, fading out on him walking off toward the horizon), before cutting suggests the former more strongly than the latter, though certainly there is an air of mutuality to it.
Nice to see RED SORGHUM on Sato Tadao’s list, Kenji. I think it’s easily Zhang Yimou’s best film. You can find most of his films on region 1 dvd but not that one. I wonder why?
So did Roy Andersson or Bertolucci have lists? If so, could someone please post them?
Saving Debbie was an act of emotional instinct, an inability to harm somebody he cared about even knowing what’s happened to her.
But, Debbie is also white, even if Ethan said she’s ‘Not anymore’. Was this same mercy given to the Indian women and children? Children who rightfully bear no guilt for their parents’ crimes, and although we didn’t see them being murdered on screen, they clearly were all just wiped out. Debbie was spared because she was white.
That’s a good point, and I’ve made similar arguments defending Birth of a Nation. But it doesn’t change the fact that the film clearly condones the devaluing of any non-white human life. At least Birth of a Nation focused mostly on the racial distribution of political power and didn’t explicitly condone the murder of children.
There’s also equally interesting critical trends between the two movies. Two movies that are equally racist, and have the same argument to ignore the racism for historical and artistic reasons. But a few years ago, BoaN was #15 on the AFI list, then the next time the list came out, it had dropped completely off. The Searchers stays high on every list. Is this because one is racist against a race that has cultural power and one is racist against a race that has none?
@Jirin – We may just have to disagree on this one. Depiction does not equal approval. The massacre of families on both sides of the Indian Wars was a regular occurrence. Given the historical setting of The Searchers I see no reason for it to not depict those things.
Regarding your second point, I think it is because many people who’ve studied The Searchers would hold my side of this discussion.
In Birth of a Nation, Griffith goes to great pains to paint his black characters as little better than untrained house pets or, in worse cases, violent predators of innocent white girls. Ford’s depiction of Indians, while not nearly as complex as the depiction of his white characters, has more nuance. Scar, for instance, is Ethan’s mirror image; he’s ruthless and violent, but he’s definitely no idiot. In this case, white and Indian are viewed as being no better than each other). The Indians that Ethan and Martin trade with are depicted in comedy, but I don’t see this as being racist; it’s a known fact that the two cultures had different ideas of currency, which resulted in Indians trading for some hilariously stupid and worthless items (to white people). The wife that Martin marries clearly misunderstands the nature of the trade transaction, but she’s good-natured throughout…until she hears the name Scar. Even other Indians fear him. And given that Martin, a half Indian, is privileged as the hero of the film, I find a case for explicit racism difficult to build in The Searchers. Are some of the characters racist? Sure. Not just Ethan either.
The massacre you speak of, I’m guessing, refers to the military raid on Scar’s camp, right? Though there’s no justifying the murder of the innocents in that camp, do you really think things like that didn’t happen during the expansion?
I dunno. Saying that The Searchers condones racism and the massacre of children is a little like saying that Breaking Bad supports meth and, well, the killing of children. At any rate, neither The Searchers or Breaking Bad make any special efforts to tell their audience that what’s being depicted is indeed bad.
OK, I probably shouldn’t contribute to this conversation because it’s derailing the thread, but two quick things about The Searchers (and if you can’t tell, I mostly agree with Nathan M):
1. The film depicts white massacres of Indians in a bad light earlier, when Ethan and Martin visit a destroyed Indian village. A group of US Cavalry ride off just as they get there, all cheerful and gleaming, just like Ford depicted them in his cavalry trilogy, but behind them they leave a scene of desolation, huts burning, bodies strewn around. And what do Ethan and Martin find in one of the teepees? Martin’s accidental wife, Look, who they had mocked and essentially driven off, lying dead; an innocent killed in the raid. When the upbeat cavalry theme plays in the next scene, the irony is palpable.
2. I’m not sure the raid at the end of the film is either completely condoned or as savage as claimed. Many have noted that this attack parallels the first attack in the film, and resolves the action by having the whites slake their bloodlust on the Indians. Ethan is shown cutting off Scar’s scalp, a barbarism the film clearly condones. Martin initially opposes the raid, too, on the basis Debbie might be killed in the confusion. I’m not sure the film is completely condemnatory to this last raid (there are too many jokes), but it is at least somewhat ambivalent about it. Also, Scar’s group is described as a rogue gang of raiders and murderers, feared by other Indians and hunted by both Ethan and cavalry. It seems unlikely that he would have a large number of women or children with him. We do see some women at the camp, though, and in that final raid we see the women (and one child) running away from the whites on horseback. And what do the whites do? They ignore them, focusing on shooting the men who have rifles and are shooting back at them. We do not see any women or children killed by the whites, though we see one or two women fall down, and as far as I can tell we are not meant to think they killed any at all, though it’s possible a couple may have been hit by accident. So basically, the film in no way condones the killing of children.
Am I the only one who prefers Solaris to Tarkovsky’s sacred cows all three of which are in the critics’ S&S top 50?