Project: Sight & Sound top ten poll

SIGHT & SOUND TOP TEN (CRITICS POLL)
1952:
1. Bicycle Thieves (1948, Vittorio De Sica)
2. City Lights (1931, Charles Chaplin)
2. The Gold Rush (1925, Charles Chaplin)
4. Battleship Potemkin (1925, Sergei Eisenstein) [cap]
5. Intolerance (1916, D.W. Griffith)
5. Louisiana Story (1948, Robert J. Flaherty) [cap]
7. Greed (1924, Erich von Stroheim) [cap]
7. Le Jour se Leve (1939, Marcel Carné) [cap]
7. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
10. Brief Encounter (1945, David Lean) [cap]
10. The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
10. Le Million (1931, René Clair) [cap]
1962:
1. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
2. L’avventura (1960, Michelangelo Antonioni) [cap]
3. The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
4. Greed (1924, Erich von Stroheim) [cap]
4. Ugetsu (1953, Kenji Mizoguchi) [cap]
6. Battleship Potemkin (1925, Sergei Eisenstein) [cap]
7. Bicycle Thieves (1948, Vittorio De Sica)
7. Ivan the Terrible, Part I (1945, Sergei Eisenstein) [cap]
7. Ivan the Terrible, Part II (1958, Sergei Eisenstein) [cap]
7. La Terra Trema (1948, Luchino Visconti) [cap]
10. L’Atalante (1934, Jean Vigo) [cap]
1972:
1. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
2. The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
3. Battleship Potemkin (1925, Sergei Eisenstein) [cap]
4. 8½ (1963, Federico Fellini) [cap]
5. L’avventura (1960, Michelangelo Antonioni) [cap]
5. Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman) [cap]
7. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
8. The General (1926, Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman)
8. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, Orson Welles)
10. Ugetsu (1953, Kenji Mizoguchi) [cap]
10. Wild Strawberries (1957, Ingmar Bergman)
1982:
1. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
2. The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
3. Seven Samurai (1954, Akira Kurosawa)
4. Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly)
5. 8½ (1963, Federico Fellini) [cap]
6. Battleship Potemkin (1925, Sergei Eisenstein) [cap]
7. L’avventura (1960, Michelangelo Antonioni) [cap]
7. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, Orson Welles) [cap]
7. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
10. The General (1926, Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman)
10. The Searchers (1956, John Ford)
1992:
1. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
2. The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
3. Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu) [cap]
4. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
5. The Searchers (1956, John Ford)
6. L’Atalante (1934, Jean Vigo) [cap]
6. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
6. Pather Panchali (1955, Satyajit Ray) [cap]
6. Battleship Potemkin (1925, Sergei Eisenstein) [cap]
10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
2002:
1. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
2. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
3. The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
4. The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)
4. The Godfather Part II (1974, Francis Ford Coppola)
5. Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu) [cap]
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
7. Battleship Potemkin (1925, Sergei Eisenstein) [cap]
7. Sunrise (1927, F.W. Murnau)
9. 8½ (1963, Federico Fellini) [cap]
10. Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly)
2012:
1. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
2. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
3. Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu) [cap]
4. The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
5. Sunrise (1927, F.W. Murnau)
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
7. The Searchers (1956, John Ford)
8. Man with a Movie Camera (1929, Dziga Vertov) [cap]
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
10. 8½ (1963, Federico Fellini) [cap]

This was the first “mini-project” at Slices of Cake, a short interlude intended only to fill in a couple of blanks and to last just a few weeks. The idea was quickly to make sure we had reviews on file of all of the movies that had appeared on that most prestigious of critics’ polls, the once-per-decade Sight & Sound top ten. Sight & Sound is the regular print publication of the British Film Institute and has been published regularly since the early 1930s. The first instance, in 1952, was one of the first broad attempts to compress the entire history of cinema into such a list; it’s become an ever-growing tradition — with 846 critics participating in 2012, compared to 63 in 1952 — that has now lasted long enough that the latest iteration was announced in a series of tweets (with very silly people, myself included, waiting in suspense).

You’re under no obligation to share the taste of those polled by the BFI, a point they sort of make themselves by also collecting a directors’ poll which generally ends up with slightly more populist results. The films lean heavily European, especially on the earlier lists. It should be noted that in the 2012 list, every film that made the Top Ten is either good or great, and several of them probably are among the ten greatest films ever made. In other words, I suppose I take the list seriously because the taste exhibited on it in what constitutes the greatest, most vital works of film history does align somewhat closely with my own. The lists evolve through the years but many things stay consistent; Citizen Kane had a lock on the top space until being dramatically toppled by Vertigo on the most recent list, a development I both welcomed (because Vertigo is close to being my favorite film of all time and I champion it wholeheartedly) and lamented (because the Kane-is-overrated army is full of shit, and I don’t like them getting further ammunition).

Because of the number of repetitions on the list as I’ve formatted it above, I’ll offer a more simplified alphabetical version that shows every film that’s made the Top Ten, also identifying the years in which each of them placed.

Battleship Potemkin (1925, Sergei Eisenstein) [1952/1962/1972/1982/1992/2002]
Bicycle Thieves (1948, Vittorio De Sica) [1952/1962]
Brief Encounter (1945, David Lean) [1952]
Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles) [1962/1972/1982/1992/2002/2012]
City Lights (1931, Charles Chaplin) [1952]
(1963, Federico Fellini) [1972/1982/2002/2012]
The General (1926, Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman) [1972/1982]
The Godfather [I & II] (1972/1974, Francis Ford Coppola) [2002]
The Gold Rush (1925, Charles Chaplin) [1952]
Greed (1924, Erich von Stroheim) [1952/1962]
Intolerance (1916, D.W. Griffith) [1952]
Ivan the Terrible (1945/1958, Sergei Eisenstein) [1962]
L’Atalante (1934, Jean Vigo) [1962/1992]
La Terra Trema (1948, Luchino Visconti) [1962]
L’avventura (1960, Michelangelo Antonioni) [1962/1972/1982]
Le Jour se Leve (1939, Marcel Carné) [1952]
Le Million (1931, René Clair) [1952]
Louisiana Story (1948, Robert J. Flaherty) [1952]
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, Orson Welles) [1972/1982]
Man with a Movie Camera (1929, Dziga Vertov) [2012]
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer) [1952/1972/1992/2012]
Pather Panchali (1955, Satyajit Ray) [1992]
Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman) [1972]
The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir) [1952/1962/1972/1982/1992/2002/2012]
The Searchers (1956, John Ford) [1982/1992/2012]
Seven Samurai (1954, Akira Kurosawa) [1982]
Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly) [1982/2002]
Sunrise (1927, F.W. Murnau) [2002/2012]
Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu) [1992/2002/2012]
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick) [1992/2002/2012]
Ugetsu (1953, Kenji Mizoguchi) [1962/1972]
Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock) [1982/1992/2002/2012]
Wild Strawberries (1957, Ingmar Bergman) [1972]

A solid list of 35 movies, most of them quite beautiful; I’m no great fan of a few of them (especially Intolerance, blecch) but still understand their inclusion, especially taking into account how disproportionately available and well-studied certain national cinemas (particularly Italy and America) were during some of the polling years. There are only two complete head-scratchers for me. One is Louisiana Story; I have a hard time believing any viewer could see it and come away thinking of it as one of the ten greatest films ever made. The other I’d rather not identify, but in that case it’s me scratching my head at the whole world, not just the Sight & Sound voters.

At the start of this project, there were seven films that had made the list at some point that I’d never seen. They were the two parts of Ivan the Terrible, La Terra Trema, L’avventura, Louisiana Story, Pather Panchali and Ugetsu. In addition, two films I’d seen long ago (Brief Encounter and The Magnificent Ambersons) needed to be capsuled and reviewed here. All other films listed had been covered here at some point. So this quick runthrough opened with a revisit of Brief Encounter on December 22 and wrapped up January 12 with The Magnificent Ambersons.

***

NOTES ON AVAILABILITY
Should you want to duplicate this process, a Filmstruck subscription is a godsend; nearly all of the films that have at some point made their way to the Sight & Sound list are streaming there as of this writing, and those that aren’t are generally the bigger Hollywood titles that are easy to grab elsewhere. That said, all of the films can be rented at any of the usual places (Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, etc.) except the following, none of which are difficult to locate:

The General, which you shouldn’t have trouble finding on disc from your library or at Amazon; Kino’s various editions are recommended.
The Gold Rush, in print on disc from Criterion and streaming at Filmstruck.
Intolerance, in print on disc from Kino and streaming at Amazon Prime.
Ivan the Terrible, parts one and two, both stream at Filmstruck and are in print as part of a Criterion boxed set with Alexander Nevsky called Eisenstein: The Sound Years. This has been out for ages and will probably be upgraded to Bluray at some point.
Le Million, in print on disc from Criterion and streaming at Filmstruck.
Louisiana Story streams in abysmal quality via Amazon Prime. The Alpha Video DVD is most likely in about the same condition. It appears to be in the public domain; inevitably, archive.org’s copy looks no better.
The Passion of Joan of Arc, recently re-pressed by Criterion and streaming at Filmstruck.

***

This post will be updated, assuming we’re all still alive, in 2022; I intend to keep up with the lists as they continue and I suspect it will be one of the easier promises I’ve made. In 2002 and 2012 Sight & Sound published longer versions of the lists, and I will investigate those eventually, and perhaps also the director polls. For now, back in 2018, I’m off to embark on the 1940s canon.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.