05 August 2012
It's the season for the greatest greatest film list...and I love lists. Making this list was on my list of things to do today. In any case, a list for which no one asked but I'm happy to provide:
#1 Contempt (Godard, 1963)
#2 Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
#3 La Jetée (Marker, 1962)
#4 The Rules of the Game (Renoir, 1939)
#5 The Godfather Epic (Coppola, 1977)
#6 The Thin Red Line (Malick, 1998)
#7 Persona (Bergman, 1966)
#8 The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1928)
#9 L’Avventura (Antonioni, 1960)
#10 The Red Shoes (Powell & Pressburger, 1948)
Other than the relative placement of Contempt and the inclusion of The Thin Red Line, this is a rather chalk list (with an unintended and perhaps unfortunate bias towards diffident blonde actresses and against women directors entirely). It seems best to opt for variety (of white males) or else Breathless and Pierrot le fou might have made it as well. We can't let Godard win everything. By choosing ten (well, 11) different men, this lineup could almost double as my top 10 directors (if you cut out Coppola). Comedy is sacrificed, though The Rules of the Game is mostly funny and The Red Shoes is a musical, an equal genre to comedy according to the Golden Globes.
Compared to some lists I've seen (that are predominantly silent films and never progress past black and white), my list is practically new releases, with The Thin Red Line 14 years young. Other contemporary films that knock on the door are Desplechin's Kings & Queen and Reygadas' Silent Light.
And I don't think it's wrong for films to wait to make the list. There are many recent films, especially one like Certified Copy, that really must wait and linger on our minds for a few years before we "know" whether they belong in a top 10 or not. Consider Mulholland Dr., which we spent the last dozen years untangling and, lo, it made a serious move up the BFI list.
My previous top 100 list, while not completely embarrassing, has many flaws (a full reload is on the WTT calendar for March 2013, five years after the first list, with an eye toward logical 25 to 30 year old progression). I've decided The Philadelphia Story and 2046 are better consigned to a list of my favorites, my comfort cinema, rather than my best. Perhaps with some added maturity Ozu and Tarkovsky will cease making me so sleepy and can push their way into this top 10 free for all...other than #1, all the spots are in play every time I see a new film.