Sight & Sound 2012 Poll
[This entry has been revised — I originally stated “Citizen Kane” had dropped to third place on the directors list, whereas it actually tied for second with “2001: A Space Odyssey”.]
Since 1952, the British publication Sight & Sound has conducted a once-per-decade poll of film critics to determine the ten greatest films (they have separately polled film directors since 1992). Between 1962 and 2002 the top film on both lists was “Citizen Kane”. This year, however, “CK” steps aside for “Vertigo” on the critics list and for “Tokyo Story” on the directors list (where it ties “2001: A Space Odyssey”).
“Vertigo” is my personal favorite of Hitchcock’s films. It came out during the peak of his career; between 1954 and 1960 Hitchcock made “Rear Window”, “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, “Vertigo”, “North by Northwest” and “Psycho”. I regret that I hadn’t watched my DVD copy in years and only recently gave it away, as I did with my copy of “Citizen Kane”. But I still have my “NxNW”!
Also appearing on the critics list is my favorite silent film, “The Passion of Joan of Arc”. The film seems to skip a decade; it was on the 1952, 1972 and 1992 lists but not on the 1962, 1982 or 2002 lists.
Because of a change in voting rules, related films considered part of a whole piece of work had to be voted on separately. “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II” were #4 together on the 2002 list but this year, most likely because of the change, neither film made the top ten. A consolation is that Francis Ford Coppola earned two spots on the directors list this year: “The Godfather” at #7 and “Apocalypse Now” up at #6.
Three of the films on the critics list are silents from the 1920s; the most recent film on their list is “2001”, released in 1968. Conversely, two of the director’s picks were released in the 1960s (Fellini’s “8 1/2” and “2001”) and four from the 1970s (“The Godfather”, “Apocalypse Now”, Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” and Tarkovsky’s “Mirror” — the only film on either list I haven’t seen… yet.).
“Tokyo Story” is a very touching film by Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu about an elderly couple who travel to Tokyo to visit with their children, grown up and too busy to spend time with their parents. The only sign of real affection comes from the son’s wife. Ozu had a specific way of filming his movies, in that the film camera almost never moved; in “Tokyo Story” it is said the camera moves (pans) only one time.
And “2001” is one of my personal favorite films, so I won’t bother writing much about it here. It is a film that stands on its own, almost outside the artistic powers of its creator (Stanley Kubrick), as a testament to man’s quest to understand his place in the universe. The film captivates and elevates. It says so much by using so few words; some have suggested it could have been made as a silent film, with its sparse dialog imposed as subtitles. I can’t say I would prefer the film that way, as it would deprive us of the haunting, soulless voice of the HAL 9000.
My initial gripe with the choices is that they don’t include films made within my lifetime — “Apocalypse Now” is the most recent film, having been released in 1979. It’s a pity that the voters passed on a lot of quality films from the 80s, 90s and 2000s. I would have liked to have seen “Raging Bull”, Schindler’s List” and/or “Pulp Fiction” considered, as well as “Breaking the Waves” and “Lost in Translation”. Too soon perhaps? (if so, then it’s way too soon for “The Tree of Life… but I can wait until 2022).
The full lists:
Critics: #1 Vertigo, #2 Citizen Kane, #3 Tokyo Story, #4 The Rules of the Game, #5 Sunrise, #6 2001: A Space Odyssey, #7 The Searchers, #8 Man with a Movie Camera, #9 The Passion of Joan of Arc, #10 8 1/2.
Directors: #1 Tokyo Story, #2 2001: A Space Odyssey and Citizen Kane (tie), #4 8 1/2, #5 Taxi Driver, #6 Apocalypse Now, #7 The Godfather and Vertigo (tie), #9 Mirror, #10 Bicycle Thieves.