There’s been a lot criticism of the poll for its Western bias, but every non-Western ballot I’ve looked at so far is dominated by Western films
There is some truth in that. 800 critics managed to mention barely 2000 titles, that means the non-Western voter was not original at all in his choices either. What changes is the ranking.
Take the equivalent Chinese poll
No unexpected titles, but you can find significant ups and downs: Fellini is the most voted director, Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien get lots of votes, Hitchcock/Godard/Ford/Bresson/Tarkovsky get lower numbers, Hawks/Rossellini/Powell are ill-treated (!)
Does anyone have any thoughts on Bela Tarr picking Hithcock’s Frenzy?
Satyajit Ray seems to have sunk greatly. This seems to validate the theory that he used to be picked as the token Non-Western director. I happen to think he’s one of the best ever, so it is kind of a bummer.
Everyone’s is entitled to their opinion? Whether or not those one’s opinion is questionable at best is besides the point, but could we at least give voters the benefit of the doubt by assuming they’ve seen their fair share of Western and non-Western films alike and ultimately decided there’s been a concentration of quality within the west. People shouldn’t feel obligated to acknowledge ‘talent’ from every corner of the globe simply for the sake of diversity if it means easing one’s standards.
Tarr is a smart man. Frenzy is a Hitchcock masterwork, unfairly neglected as such. I’ve never seen a Tarr film but now that I know his tastes, I need to watch some of his work!
I have not seen Frenzy – I’ve seen many many a Hitch but I always stopped before Frenzy. It was the only pick that seemed like an outlier so far. (well, QT picked Bad News Bears but that might QT being a cutie)
Satyajit Ray is for sure many leagues above an entertainer like Hitchcock. Hitchcock is ok, but very overrated. Not in the league of more talented people like Hawks, Welles, Mann..
^LIES! And Frenzy is very underrated.
On a different note, why has there been such a precipitous decline in appreciation for L’Avventura and Hiroshima, Mon Amour? It would seem “artsy, modernist, sixties” film have gone out of style since the late seventies unless they take a more utilitarian approach to filmmaking in the case of Ozu, Bresson, and Dreyer to some degree. I definitely think the latter three are pivotal filmmakers who deserve their respective reputations, but “aesthetic indulgence” definitely seems out of style at the moment, which could explain why Tokyo Story, Late Spring, Ordet, and Au Hasard Balthazar are ‘in’ films right now whereas L’Avventura and Hiroshima, Mon Amour seem to be out of style, as though ‘sixties’ films that are seemingly more “artsy” while still very good get relegated to a second tier within the film canon, whereas the more “utilitarian” approach gets elevated to the top tier. I don’t think Tokyo Story is a more important film than L’Avventura or Hiroshima. It just seems to be more in style. For my money, I’ll take all three films, placing them alongside each other.
I think what would have done the S&S list more interesting would be:
- having critics, directors PLUS actors, cinematographers, other kinds of film people, making lists
- having 100 instead of 10 films each. i know this sounds a bit crazy, but that would mean a lot more people would make more personal lists, working harder with their lists. i know it would mean a thicker magazine, but I’m sure there would be ways to solve it, and its only every 10th year anyway
- maybe, just maybe, introducing the possibility of having TV series and video art in the list as well. More and more, I find it harder to separate the different forms of visual art
“PLUS actors, cinematographers, other kinds of film people, making lists”
Then it would no longer be a canon list. It would be the Academy Awards.
“having 100 instead of 10 films each. i know this sounds a bit crazy”
That’s a lot crazy. The lists are already personal, and only you and a few others would actually bother to pour over multiple lists of 100 films. Everyone else’s eyes would glaze over. Finally but perhaps most importantly, asking for 100 films would alienate a lot of people who then won’t even bother voting. Most people don’t keep running lists of their favorite movies after all.
“introducing the possibility of having TV series and video art in the list as well”
Video or installation art is not sufficiently widely distributed to generate a consensus compared to movies so none of these would wind up on the top 50 or 100 lists. TV series and movies are apples and oranges. How can you compare 60 hours of The Wire or 200 hours of The Simpsons to movies, most of which are around 2 hours?
Well,, my eyes glaze over the lists now as it’s only the same films again and again. For the main list to have any relevance I feel it needs more people, now it’s only top 100 by a random bunch of famous directors and critics, not anything I take very seriously at all. You can compare The Wire to movies, but The Simpsons is more problematic. But let’s not be conservative, there will be a change in what we call movies.
When people will look back at the great visual storytelling of the 2000s they will for sure mention a series like Breaking Bad. Even though it’s made quicker, it’s much longer, I think it easily beats anything by the Coen brothers. It’s sometimes good for the creativity to work fast.
“For the main list to have any relevance I feel it needs more people”
Are you kidding? Do you know that they quadrupled the number of voters from the last poll?
Do you understand the purpose of the Sight and Sound poll? The purpose is to show off the film canon. The canon is relatively stable. It’s about films that stand the test of time, not what’s fashionable. It’s about giving people an introduction to films that are more artistic, intellectually demanding, and technically savvy than your average film. It’s really not to educate someone like me or perhaps you who has seen 95% of the top 200. Your complaint about it having “the same films again and again” implies we should get rid of Shakespeare on a poll of great writers, after all aren’t we tired of seeing his name over and over again. The purpose of the list is not to be eccentric and hip but to provide you the cinematic foundation that any basic cinephile should experience.
^ Still, for all that… it would be kinda cool if critics put some spicier titles on their lists. Not spicy for the sake of being so of course, but maybe just a few more honest films that they truly love, as opposed to the all but canonically required.
Even on this site you hear all the time “I respect Citizen Kane, but I don’t love it.” Would be nice to get a few titles people actually loved, then again this is just baseless speculation on a thing my finger is nowhere near the pulse of, who am I to say that all these people voting for CK don’t love the film!
That’s just it though. It’s up to the voters to find the balance between objectivity and favoritism. As Zvelf said, the point of the list is to display to budding film buffs in an objective manner the best and most acconmplished cinema has to offer, regardless of whether or not they’re perennial ‘favorites’. Yes, if you respect but don’t love Citizen Kane replace it with a film you feel is equally artistically accomplished but that you ‘love’ a lot more. I don’t particularly ‘love’ Gertrud, Andrei Rublev, or The Passion of Joan of Arc, although I should probably revisit that last one. I do respect all three films though. On the other hand, I do love L’Atalante, M, The 400 Blows, Red Desert, The Wrong Man, and many others and would probably list them instead of the former three. However, I recognize all eight films as being equally accomplished artistically. Though with a film like The French Connection or god forbid a James Bond film, which I enjoy watching, I would have no choice but to exclude them, since they simply don’t have the same significance as The Passion of Joan of Arc or L’Atalante. They just don’t. It would be unfair and selfish of me to list it if I knew my votes were being tallied to create a supposedly definitive film canon. It would compromise the overarching objective of the list. You have to have the purpose of Sight & Sound’s project in mind when creating a personal top ten. Why else would the director of the The World Is Not Enough submit the list he did?
I hate to belabor this point again, but the list is a consensus. If you start flipping through the individual ballots, you’ll find many idiosyncrasies and you will also find some participants wrestling with the tension that comes with choosing something maybe not typically seen in the canon just for the sake of it. Glenn Kenny will serve as a good example here. Below is a copy and past of his ballot and notes.
1) Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
2) Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960)
3) Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, 1959)
4) Céline et Julie vent en bateau (Rivette, 1974)
5) Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979)
6) Belle de jour (Buñuel, 1967)
7) Boudu sauvé des eaux (Renoir, 1932)
8) Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (Lang, 1922)
9) Singin’ in the Rain (Donen & Kelly, 1952)
10)The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
Thanks so much for the invitation to participate in the poll. It’s true; the task is not an easy one at all. I arrived at this particular list, one out of perhaps dozens of other entirely different ones, by splitting he difference between honoring convention and saying to hell with it. As it happens, the four films on the list which might conceivably be seen as “consensus” picks—Kane, Psycho, Singin’ in the Rain, Searchers—are also ones close to “my heart” or at least the formation of my sensibility. The other six films came to me after a lot of debate with myself over whether I was being different for the sake of being different, or whether these were not in fact truly GREAT films that, when the time came for surveys along the lines of this one, did not get the proper recognition for being the imaginatively prodigious, paradigm-shifting, galvanic works that I believe they in fact are. OF COURSE I regret that my list cannot be longer, because surely Sansho Dayu, The General (not to mention Sherlock Jr.), The Last Temptation of Christ, and a lot more ought to have a place, and the more I think about the films and filmmakers I am leaving off (Yang! Naruse!…and, yep, Godard; what am I thinking?) the more I can twist a long knife inside both my guts and brain. And for all that this is a list that in its way satisfies me. If anybody asks me “What IS cinema,” yeah, I can show them any one of these pictures and say “This is.”
I don’t really think of Belle de Jour and Celine and Julie Go Boating as being non-consensus. On most ‘best of’ film lists they seem to be top 200-250 mainstays. A film doesn’t have to be a regular in the top 20 to be considered a consensus pick. None of Kenny’s ten films truly lie outside the canon, although I’m unfamiliar with that Renoir film, even by name.
But is it really anyone’s duty to pick some obscure movie that hasn’t ever even been remotely considered for canon? The point is that Kenny’s list is specific to him and that he’s not picking something just because it’s canon.
I don’t see Anatomy of a Murder, Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler, or Bodou Saved from Drowning (the Renoir) getting put out there much. They are not, at the least, usual suspects – Preminger is rarely seen up that high in any of these polls, people usually choose M or Metropolis for Lang, and usually pick The Rules of the Game or Grand Illusion for Renoir.
No. I don’t think it should be anyone’s duty at all. I was just refuting Kenny’s notion that he was choosing non-consensus picks. If it was a duty to pick obscure movies never considered as part of the canon it would defeat the purpose of the project, and I’ve expressed this in so many ways before.
So you think that Anatomy of a Murder, Dr. Mabuse, and Bodou Saved from Drowning are consensus picks? They may be directed by canon directors, and they may even be broadly appreciated by those who care, but they are pretty unusual when it comes to canon selection.
Consider Dr. Mabuse. Kenny chose but one silent film. He did not choose a Chaplin, he did not choose a Keaton, he did not choose Sunrise, The Last Laugh, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Metropolis, The Cabinet of Dr. Calagri, Potemkin, Greed, The Crowd, or any Griffith…all of which are standard canon long before Mabuse. I would say that his Dr. Mabuse pick is a break from convention. At least it piques my interest in hearing his take on it.
I also just wanted to point out that while most of us here have seen a majority of the Sight and Sound top 100, I bet your average moviegoer hasn’t seen 10 films on that list. So the list might be extremely familiar to us who follow such things, for someone looking to explore, it can be a pretty challenging list. I mean people need to gain some cinematic experience and awareness before jumping into the deep end of the pool with a Satantango or Jeanne Dielman.
Cinephiles live in a bubble where Two or Three Things I Know About Her is considered mainstream. What do you expect?
I’m liking Gaspar Noe’s list. His mom sounds awesome.
@zvelf: I haven’t seen anywhere that the ambition is to educate new cinephiles. It’s an okay ambition, but I still wish there could be more surprises. And maybe not only critics and directors voting. I don’t mean everyone should fill their lists with 15 hours Filipino films, it’s not about what kind of films people are choosing. I don’t know, but for me the list seems not so exciting. At least the top ten.
By the way: Did you see Zizek’s crazy list?
odd to see very idiosyncratic directors with middle of the road tastes (atom egoyan for instance)
My main issue with the list is there seems to be a bias in favor of form over content. Some would say form and content are inextricably linked in the greatest works of art, and in a sense they are, but many of the films at the top scream ARTSY and FORMALLY INNOVATIVE in a way that a Pialat or Rohmer film wouldn’t. I’m not criticizing the films themselves but simply the biases. Rules of the Game is perhaps an exception, since it seems to be praised due more to its content, unlike The Passion of Joan of Arc or Potemkin for which the acclaim is all about the form.
P.S. Atom Egoyan’s list isn’t THAT middlebrow, with the exception of Pulp Fiction perhaps.
What surprise me more are the ‘high-brow’ choices of low brow filmmakers.
I think that most of the films at the top are praised for both form and content, but yes, form seems to be clearly weighted higher.
Anyone who puts Dune and The Sound of Music on their ballot is clearly insane.
Insane in the membrane