Primordial Renoir

Does it mean something that so many German directors adapted easily to Hollywood, while their French counterparts almost immediately beat it back to the old country as soon as they had the chance? Jean Renoir loved America (he became a naturalized citizen and lived in Los Angeles until his death in 1979) but American, or at least the American studio system, did not like him: his taste for location shooting and infinite retakes made even sympathetic producers like Darryl Zanuck extremely uncomfortable, and “Swamp Water,” his first American project, was eventually taken out of his hands after Renoir fell weeks behind schedule. Yet the film, recently released in an excellent, limited edition Blu-ray edition by Twilight Time, contains much that is personal, and much that seems to relate to Renoir’s own sense of exclusion and impotence during the Occupation. A review here in the New York Times.

I had an odd filmgoing experience last week that I somehow feel compelled to share. As someone interested in 3-D (the process that is bringing depth of field back to the vocabulary of filmmaking), I thought I’d better run out to see Andrew Stanton’s pre-ordained bomb “John Carter” before it vanished, so I drafted Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, the only other critic I know who’s sympathetic to stereoscopy, and we headed out to see the IMAX 3-D presentation at the AMC Loew’s 34th Street in Manhattan. After shelling out a breathtaking $19 per ticket, we settled into our seats, prepared for a sublime experience. But as soon as the film came on, it was apparent that we’d been issued glasses for the RealD process rather than IMAX — which, because the two systems use different left eye/right eye polarities — had no effect whatever on the blurred, double image on the screen. I went out to look for an employee, and after ten minutes or so I was able to find someone willing to exchange the RealD glasses that didn’t work for IMAX glasses that (though covered with greasy fingerprints) more or less did. What amazed me wasn’t the screw-up so much as the fact that, as near as I could tell, only two other people out of an audience of about 50 seemed to notice that anything was wrong and went out to complain (not surprisingly, the management didn’t bother to stop the movie and pass out the right glasses). So my question is, is this how people expect a 3-D movie to look — which is to say, hopelessly blurry and not in 3-D at all? Or are our expectations of the theatrical experience now so low that we just take these things in stride? All very strange, and all very dispiriting.

97 comments to Primordial Renoir

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘His American films strike me the works of decidedly lesser mastery, like those of say those of a mere Siodmak or Borzage (not too bad).’

    I cannot agree about that Alex. Borzage is great director, many great movies from silent to final 1950s movies, some equal to Renoir movie.

    For Renoir 100th anniversary of birth 1994 there was complete retrospective of all existing movies shown in Japan, sometime no sub-title. All was interesting movie, many was great movie. For Hollywood movie, all was interesting, good movie even if no great movie. But Hollywood experience making THE RIVER possible

  • Barry Putterman

    Renoir and Borzage. Has anybody ever done a compare/contrast between SWAMP WATER and MOONRISE?

    And, of course, both made a film called THE RIVER.

  • Robert Regan

    Borzage and Renoir indeed deserve to be mentioned in the same breath. They were the two greatest hearts film has yet known.

  • Mark Gross

    One might also consider THIS LAND IS MINE and THE MORTAL STORM.

    also possibly THE LOWER DEPTHS and A MAN’S CASTLE.

  • David Cohen

    When I was watching HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT a couple weeks ago, RULES OF THE GAME popped into my head.

  • “After living in India while making The River, I have become more peaceful. I would no longer worry if all of a sudden I had to turn into a bum.” said Renoir.

    The River is a beautiful film, albeit somewhat marred by its wish to introduce and “explain” India.

  • Alex

    Junko Yasutani,

    Did I write that Borzage was not a great director?

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, you did not literally write that Borzage was not a great director. However, the line from you that Junko quotes pretty much speaks for itself.

    The impression you leave reminds me of Stan Freberg’s ad campaign for Salada Tea. “Salada Tea; it’s not half bad!”

  • “mere Borzage” seem rather like an oxymoron. ;-}

  • Alex

    ‘His American films strike me the works of decidedly lesser mastery, like those of say those of a mere Siodmak or Borzage (not too bad).’

    I don’t see what this doesn’t clearly express the view that Renoir’s Amertican film., like, say, those of Sidomak and Bozage” are works of a decidedly “lesser mastery” than those Renoir at his prolix best.

    The “mere” and “not too bad” were meant only in reference to the yardstick of Renoir at his best (Sorry if I drifted from light chidinginto sacrilege.)

    What I do say and what I think is discordant to some –indeed to cloud reading comperehension — is that I regard Borzage, like Siodmak (one of my very favorite directors) to be at altogether lower level than Renoir at his best.

    On Borzage alone –I’ve no developed critique of Siodmak’s limitation except that he may be the “mere” William Wyler” of craftmanly noir—- I’m forever amazed at Borzage’s fans’ seeming obliviousness to his frequently serious SAPPINESS –not just such arguable excesses as the conclusion of “History is Made at Night” (which think nevertheless grreat, or close to it) but the extremely bizzare resurrection of Chico at the end of otherwise sublime “7th Heaven” and Borzage’s ludicrous recourse to the use sun beams shinng thoiugh heavy clouds at the end of the hitherto great “Farewell to Arms” and at the beginning of “The Mortal Storm.”

    None of this disqualifies Borzage as a “great” director. but it seems to me to offer some partial justification of not regarding Borzage among the greatest directors (e.g., for Sarris’ relegation of Borzage to “The Far Side of Paradise”).

  • Alex

    Alas, just when, feeling that my appreciation of Borzage’s greatness may be deficient –so much so that a possibly extreme vantage point renders simple expressions of jest and light irony unintelligible to readers– I have the ill fortune to turn to the 2002 BFI/S&S poll for a relatively objective benchmark.
    Shockingly, I find that, whereas Renoirs get about 60 votes for seven films, not a single vote is cast for any Borzage film.

    Thus, instead of finding grounds for thinking that I might accommodate local blog opinion a bit more out of deference to the weight of informed opinion, I find that I already —with my openness to Borzage’s claim for greatness—occupy some rarified percentile of Borzagian enthusiasts.

    Fortunately, more balance may be heading the way of the BFI as the 2007 release of Frank Borzage Vol 1: Seventh Heaven, Street Angel is from the BFI and the 2012 poll, and with it a chance at restoration of the BFI survey’s claim on balance be imminent.

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, nobody is scandalized that you find Borzage or Siodmak to be lesser directors than Renoir. Junko and others might disagree with you on that point and offer a different perspective, but that is what adults do.

    What adults don’t do is first deny what they very clearly have said, and then embark on a torturous route of qualifiers which comes to the exact same point.

  • Blake Lucas

    Alex, forgive me for saying this but after but reading the above I was wishing that sometimes you would proofread your posts as carefully as Borzage directed his films.

    On a more positive note, I saw the three Gaynor/Farrell Borzages over the last couple of years (LUCKY STAR for the first time) and not sure I’d modify “sublime” for any of those three. And I’m not sure exactly why one needs to compare these to Renoir at all. Renoir didn’t make these films, nor would he have made them; his are different than these, even allowing the “heart” that both directors had, as Robert Regan noted earlier.

    I think what some of us are wondering (well, I know I am) is why the word “mere” needs to be used at all in talking about cinema on this level. There just must be a better way of talking about Borzage and Siodmak as well as Renoir when discussing any perceived limitations or lapses as well as their individual achievements.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘And I’m not sure exactly why one needs to compare these to Renoir at all. Renoir didn’t make these films, nor would he have made them; his are different than these, even allowing the “heart” that both directors had, as Robert Regan noted earlier.’

    I agree about that Blake. No need to denigrate by comparison, not explaining anything about movies of Renoir or Borzage. I agree also that both made sublime movies. I cannot ask for more.

  • Blake Lucas

    My first paragraph referred to Alex’s of 9:45, not his next which I didn’t see until just now.

    And I must add that although I always look at those every decade polls at Sight and Sound with interest, I’d be very frustrated if I felt I had to take them as some definitive measure of anything. Sometimes, someone hasn’t seen a film, and when they do it vaults so high that it could land in their top ten the next time. But that’s just the most simple example of the limitations of these polls–there are whole bodies of work that take some time to become known and when they are, it may help create a pervasive perception very different than one sees in any poll of the moment. I remember when I first looked at the Sight and Sound poll (1972)–lots of interesting choices, including two Borzages, NO GREATER GLORY and HIS BUTLER’S SISTER, and I might point out that at that point LUCKY STAR was effectively a “lost film” that was discovered and embraced later on. One director missing completely was Mikio Naruse. Well, granted that I don’t want to set any director I really admire against each other (Siodmak does things in CRISS CROSS and FILE ON THELMA JORDON and other films that neither Renoir or Borzage would even try to do, and when I think of him I think of those things which to me make him “Siodmak”), I will acknowledge that we all do have our own hierarchies and Naruse is for me among the half dozen greatest of all directors, meaning of course my personal favorites among many more possible choices. So I could say it was outrageous he was absent from any list in 1972 (this is my memory–if I’m wrong glad to be corrected) but I think more simply he just wasn’t known to all those Western critics who did most of the voting. I believe he will do well in this year’s poll–certainly hope so.

  • Robert Regan identified “heart” as something shared by both Renoir and Borzage, and I agree with Blake and Junko that both filmmakers made sublime movies. But it seems to me that Borzage evokes “heart” or spiritual values through the negation of the material world while Renoir achieves this through affirmation of the natural world (however mediated it may be by human social relations.) The two approaches are complementary.

  • Robert Regan

    x359594 ” it seems to me that Borzage evokes “heart” or spiritual values through the negation of the material world ”

    Your comparison is almost apt, but consider the presence in Borzage’s world of War, Depression, Nazis, Tenements, and Disease. There must be a better word here than “negation”.

  • Robert, now that you mention it, I think transcendence is more apt. I was clumsily applying a dialectical interpretation that may not fit.

  • Robert Regan

    You got it, x359594!

  • For a great “great film list” I would recommend Positif‘s 30th anniversary issue (n.254-255). The question that was asked to their contributors was “what were the films that have had the biggest impact on you,” since in the inception of the magazine in Lyon, 1952. The choices of the individual contributors are fascinating to study. Going through the list randomly some titles that stick out include: Robert Benayoun choice of “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and “Annie Hall”; Michel Ciment choice of “Brewster McCloud” and “Days of Heaven”; Raymond Borde includes “The Deer Hunter” and “Anatahan”; and Bernard Chardere includes “Senso” and “Love and Death”.

    I typed up their final list and put it up on my website, if anyone is interested : http://torontofilmreview.blogspot.ca/2012/01/positif-films-since-1952-two-lists.html

  • nicolas Saada

    That’s the BIG deal Junko, Blake and everyone else. The non-availability of movies make them disappear from the critics and/or historians and/or filmmakers radar. I recently discovered Borzage’s WHAT NOW LITTLE MAN, from a burned copy of its recent broadcast on French television. Beautiful gem. The problem today is that when something is not available (through the web, dvd or else) it is non existent, execpt for the few of us, thoe strange creatures from outer space, who actually attend series at Cinematheques or Museums. An art historian or a musicologist will have the chance to refer to works that, no matter what, will never perish or disappear (there is a slight difference with music and the disappearance of recordings or works, just like in movies).
    Junko, I have sometimes the bad habit to denigrate from comparison. But It can make a point. When I am tired of explaining my impatience with say, Tim Burton, Tod Browning and Jacques Tourneur are very good help.

  • Barry Putterman

    Nicolas, what seems to be developing on the web is an accumulating trove of out of print recordings, books and now films which, in the future, will make research and appreciation much more accessible. Exactly how many people are going to be motivated to look for LITTLE MAN WHAT NOW? is another issue.

    As for comparisons, I doubt that anybody would dispute that in the proper context they are quite valuable in helping to illustrate analytical points. Or that there is quite a difference between using them to make analytical points and using them simply to pass judgements.

  • Alex

    Blake,

    I’s hardly regard the BFI polls as definitive but thinbk that they do help put idisyncraric claims in a perspective. I was very surprised not find any BFI votes dfor a borazage film in 2002 and pleased to hear that some had been singled out in earlier polls. I’d expected to see 7th HEAVEN listed.

    One Borzage film I find both characteristically purely felt and realized without dubiously extravagant plot turns or rhetorical fourishes is BAD GIRL.

    Barry P.,

    I never “very clearly said” that Borzaze wasn’t “great” I use a “mere” to refer to him and Siodmak in the context of comparisons with Renoir that I thought far fetched. I never modified my position on either Renoir or Borzage.

    Your Salada Tea joke was not too bad; but one expects occasional flashes of wit from your vaudevillian asides.

  • nicolas saada

    Some of Borzage’s scenes remind me of Dreyer: the final shot of MORTAL STORM for instance. But my feeling is that his films belong to a romantic tradition that was exceptionally strong in Hollywood during he thirties: films by John Stahl, ALIAS THE DOCTOR by Curtiz or the beautiful LAST FLIGHT are all part of this “beautiful sadness” conveyed by the mixture of style, writing and acting.

  • Blake Lucas

    “When I am tired of explaining my impatience with say, Tim Burton, Tod Browning and Jacques Tourneur are very good help.”

    Well said, Nicolas, and I agree denigration has its place. For example, Stanley Kubrick will get many more votes than Borzage in the next Sight & Sound poll, and many more than Siodmak (even if these directors do hopefully get a few), and he may even get more than Renoir–in some past polls, almost all of his films have been voted for. This to me would warrant a very heated discussion, not so simple as “How can you put Kubrick in a class with Renoir?; Renoir is one of the all time greats and Kubrick is the most overrated director of all time” but a more substantial discussion involving what is actually in the films of these two directors, what they do, what their cinema consists of over the course of their careers. And if it’s well argued, one could make a good case, I believe, as to why the above statement is true.

  • Oliver_C

    Hasn’t Regle du Jeu placed highly in every Sight & Sound top ten since 1962 (possibily longer)? I’d be very surprised if any Kubricks overtake it.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘As for comparisons, I doubt that anybody would dispute that in the proper context they are quite valuable in helping to illustrate analytical points. Or that there is quite a difference between using them to make analytical points and using them simply to pass judgements.’

    Barry, that is my view that you have expressed better. Maybe I did not understand correct meaning of denigrate, but seeming like using one director to be a weapon against another director. I have reservation about that.

  • Why don’t we start posting our own S&S top 10, just for shits and giggles? I’ll go third or 27th if anyone else goes first.

  • Barry Putterman

    D,k., wouldn’t it be far more creative to post our 11-20 choices?

  • Gregg Rickman

    D.K., your wait is over. Once again Sight & Sound didn’t send me a ballot, so off the top of my head…
    My top ten are favorite directors limited to two films each (otherwise there’d be 3 or 4 Keatons and Renoirs: Our Hospitality,
    Steamboat Bill Jr, Crime of M. Lange).
    Second ten are “creative” per Barry’s request. All personal favorites, in some cases listed as current favorite film of a particular director,
    as opposed to being “better” than other films. Limited to one film per director; could easily have named 3-4 other Rays.
    11-20 are also essentially unranked, given that they are obviously in rough chronological order.

    1) The General (Keaton/Bruckman) 2) Sherlock Jr (Keaton) 3) Rules of the Game (Renoir) 4) The River (Renoir)
    5) An Inn in Tokyo (Ozu) 6) Late Spring (Ozu) 7) Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer) Eight) Marnie (Hitchcock)
    9) The Searchers (Ford) 10) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford) 11) A Dog’s Life (Chaplin) 12) The River (Borzage)
    13) Mr Thank You (Shimizu) 14) On Dangerous Ground (Ray) 15) Eclipse (Antonioni) 16) Bande a part (Godard)
    17) The Third Generation (Fassbinder) 18) Stalker (Tarkovsky) 19) After Life (Kore-eda) 20) In the Mood for Love (Wong)

    Animated feature: Pinocchio (Disney/Ferguson, Hee) Animated short: The Band Concert (Disney/Wilfrid Jackson)
    Documentary feature: High School (Wiseman) Documentary short: Night and Fog (Resnais)
    Experimental feature: Tempted to say Playtime (Tati). Experimental short: Saugus Series (Pat O’Neill)

    I am sure I am forgetting some treasured works.

    Did anyone else see NAPOLEON this weekend?

  • Robert Garrick

    Those Sight & Sound polls are fascinating–not because they tell us what the best films are. They don’t do that and never have.

    They’re fascinating because of what they tell us about the history of elite film criticism and even about the history of intellectual thought.

    Certainly, they tell us to be humble.

    When the first S&S poll came out in 1952, “Bicycle Thieves” was the greatest film ever made, and “Citizen Kane,” which was already over ten years old, was nowhere to be seen. But “Citizen Kane” came from nowhere to hit the #1 spot in 1962, and it has been there in every poll since. Were the critics clueless from 1941 to 1952? Or have they been clueless over the past fifty years?

    Similarly, “Vertigo” was made in 1958, but was not included in the 1962 and 1972 polls. But all of a sudden it was #7 in 1982, #4 in 1992, #2 in 2002, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the top spot when the 2012 poll is unveiled later this year.

    “Vertigo” was unavailable (along with a few other major Hitchcocks, including “Rear Window”) for about a decade from the late ’60s until the late ’70s, so appetites were whetted when it finally reappeared. Its absence made it seem greater, and world critics excitedly responded by ranking it for the first time in 1982. But where had they been for the previous quarter century?

    The fact is that most of the major critics, here and in the rest of the world, simply whiffed on “Vertigo,” as they’d whiffed on “Citizen Kane” and as they continue to misunderstand or underrate scores of films every year. Many important titles are ignored for decades.

    And for every great film that is missed by the biggest, most prestigious names in the business, scores of tedious films are elevated to greatness.

    This is the history of art, and the history of intellectual thought. Van Gogh didn’t sell paintings during his lifetime. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books were out of print when he died.

    Film (and art) criticism isn’t easy, and one should never take a film’s supposed greatness or mediocrity for granted. Most critics, even at the very highest levels, simply don’t know what they’re doing. They follow the herd; they follow intellectual fads; they follow political correctness.

    You can see it in action when you review those Sight & Sound polls. It’s history, and it’s fascinating.

  • Oliver_C

    Further to Robert Garrick’s excellent post above, see also: Gilbert Adair’s comments on Stromboli in his book Flickers.

  • Hey, Sight and Sound didn’t send me a ballot either.
    I’m a “lesser breed outside the law” (Kipling).

    But The One-Line Review was kind enough to ask for my choices in 2009:
    http://1linereview2.blogspot.com/2009/06/mike-grost.html

    It was hard to confine oneself to 50 films.

  • Also contributed a list of 35 little known TV gems for the Review’s survey of “The Obscure, the Forgotten, and the Unloved”:
    http://obscureforgottenunloved.blogspot.com/2010/05/mike-grost.html

    Even managed to include an episode of Tarzan: the Ron Ely version, which is just out on DVD.
    (Emits Tarzan yell!)
    Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the tales of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars 100 years ago in 1912, in the pulp magazines. They are genuine “pulp fiction”.
    All roads lead back to the 1910′s…

  • Brad Stevens

    It’s worth noting that SIGHT & SOUND are considerably expanding the Greatest Films poll this year, inviting contributions from a much wider range of critics (apparently close to a thousand), as well bloggers, filmmakers, programmers, etc. So the results are likely to be far less ‘elitist’ this time.

    Here’s my contribution to the S&S poll (in roughly preferential order):

    1- Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May, 1976)

    2- New Rose Hotel (Abel Ferrara, 1998)

    3- Out 1 (Jacques Rivette, 1971)

    4- La Régle du Jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)

    5- Letter From an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls, 1948)

    6- Tokyo Story / Tokyo Monogatari (Ozu Yasujiro, 1953)

    7- Wife / Tsuma (Naruse Mikio, 1953)

    8- The Life of Oharu / Saikaku Ichidai Onna (Mizoguchi Kenji, 1952)

    9- Café Lumiere / Kohi Jiko (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2003)

    10- Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980)

    I regret not including Hellman’s ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ (or perhaps ‘Road to Nowhere’), Peckinpah’s ‘Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid’, Welles’ ‘Citizen Kane’, Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’, Minnelli’s ‘Some Came Running’, Dylan’s ‘Renaldo & Clara’, Cassavetes’ ‘The Killing of a Chinese Bookie’, Antonioni’s ‘La Notte’, Pabst’s ‘Pandora’s Box’, Lynch’s ‘Inland Empire’, Cammell/Roeg’s ‘Performance’, Iosseliani’s ‘Adieu, Plancher des Vaches!’, Villaverde’s ‘Water and Salt’, Yang’s ‘That Day, on the Beach’, Tsai’s ‘Vive L’Amour’, etc.

  • Robert Regan

    What the polls reveal is the age of the voters. Vertigo and The Searchers did not become recognized as “classics” until members of the Scorsese generation became old enough and prominent enough to make their voices, and preferences, heard. The 2022 poll will upset a lot of people who are still alive at that time.

  • Alex

    Brad Stevens,

    I think your #s 3-10 are fantastic. (Not a big “Mickey and Nicky” fan, but I’ll have to catch “New Rose Hotel.”)

    I take it this list is strategic and not a response to the Film God upon interrogation at the Pearly Gates. Be that as it may, I’ll have to start thinking idiosyncratically.

    That failing I’ll try to come up withe most predictable list –a forecast of the actual BFI-S&S top 10 for 2012.

  • The General (1)
    La règle du jeu
    Citizen Kane (2)
    Letter From an Unknown Woman
    The Best Years of Our Lives (3)
    Rear Window
    The Searchers (4)
    Anatomy of a Murder
    The Apartment
    L’eclisse
    High and Low (4-A)
    Le mépris
    The Conformist (5)
    The Godfather
    Taxi Driver
    Die Hard(6)
    The Big Lebowski
    Groundhog Day (7)
    Cop Land (8)
    Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (9)

    (1) Right off the bat, one realizes how ridiculous these 10-best-of-all-time lists turn out to be: all of silent cinema has to be represented – for me, anyway – by one film, in order to squeeze in the rest of the list? Where’s Sternberg, Stroheim, and a thousand others?

    (2) Fuck David Thomson and his efforts in the November, 2010, Sight and Sound to get Kane banished from the list. I hope the film wins again, at No. 1.

    (3) I could have put, or should have put All About Eve, but then I always get teary-eyed when Frederic March runs down the short hallway toward Myrna Loy. Neither Wyler nor Mankiewicz are particularly, flamboyantly “cinematic,” like most of the other directors tied to this list by their films, but something must be said for the “tradition of quality,” and for story structure and script that form the foundation for great acting.

    (4) Exasperation sets in. Perhaps Flickers and The Little Black Book of Movies and Rosenbaum’s list in Essential Cinema and Sarris are all a better start for surveying what’s truly valuable in cinema than the Procrustean bed of a 10-item list. There one finds room for Nicolas Ray, Tarkovsky, …

    (4-A) The maddening thing about such lists is that one film has to stand in for a director – all of Kurosawa – or a whole nation. Unfair.

    (5) At this point, one realizes how conformist and conventional one’s list appears to be. What, no Rivette, no Straub-Huillet, no Haneke? No underground filmmakers? No animation? No shorts, or documentaries, such as The Thin Blue Line?

    (6) Finally, these lists tell more about the lister than about cinema, and as noted in another post, the age of the voter. This one is heavily weighted toward crime, existential crisis, violence. In fact, I could add about 50 films noirs, from Out of the Past on down, or up.

    (7) There tends to be a dearth of comedy on the great 10-best of all times films, just as there is a deficit of comedy when awards season’s cultural validation comes along. Why is that? Do comedies tend to be technically less cinematic? Or is there a “truthiness” to comedy that makes it harder for award giving body voters to process and understand? There is a lot of nuanced social commentary in, say, Quick Change that can’t fine its way into culturally levitated, “approved” works.

    (8) Clearly I’ve overshot the 10-film mark, and indeed could go on. In fact, I could go on and on by simply listing all the DVDs on my shelves.

    (9) Only one woman director? No Kathryn Bigelow, no Elaine May? What’s up with that?

  • 10 But everyone’s list taken together makes fascinating reading.

  • Oliver_C

    To be honest, I was more interested in Sight & Sound’s other major poll of 2002, which was limited to films from the past 25 years:

    http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/63

    In which case (and in alphabetical order)…

    The Big Lebowski
    Chungking Express
    Flags of Our Fathers
    Goodfellas
    Pulp Fiction
    Spirited Away
    Terminator 2
    Wings of Desire
    Yi Yi
    Zodiac

  • In regards to a Top Ten I would probably just throw out my favorite Canadian films, since our national cinema does not seems to get enough love outside of this country:
    1. Back to God’s Country starring Nell Shipman (David Hartford, 1919)
    2. Pour la suite du monde (Michel Brault and Pierre Perrault, 1963)
    3. Mon amie Pierrette (Jean Pierre Lefebvre, 1967)
    4. Le viol d’une jeune fille douce (Gilles Carle, 1968)
    5. Mon oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971)
    6. Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)
    7. Zero Patience (John Greyson, 1993)
    8. Six Figures (David Christensen, 2005)
    9. Too Many Things (Donigan Cumming, 2010)
    10. Green Crayons (Kazik Radwanski, 2011) *short-film, though Kazik’s first full-length feature Tower should be playing at the festivals, hopefully, soon.

  • That’s an excellent list of Canadian films, and I am going to look for the ones I haven’t seen. I might add Nobody Waved Goodbye, Maddin’s The Heart of the World, Loyalties, Léolo, The Barbarian Invasions, and Kitchen Party.

  • jbryant

    A possible list for the last 25 years:

    1. THE DREAMLIFE OF ANGELS (Zonca, 1998)
    2. SHALL WE DANCE? (Suo, 1997)
    3. CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (Allen, 1989)
    4. SCHINDLER’S LIST (Spielberg, 1993)
    5. THE CIRCLE (Panahi, 2001)
    6. THE CELEBRATION (Vinterberg, 1998)
    7. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Tarantino, 2009)
    8. TO SLEEP WITH ANGER (Burnett, 1990)
    9. THE OAK (Pintilie, 1992)
    10. CONFESSIONS (Nakashima, 2010)

  • Oh, pooh! I would have added Dreamlife, Crimes and M (possibly my favorite Allen), and To Sleep with Anger if I had thought about it longer. I wasn’t sure which Tarantino film to add, if any.

  • Alex Hicks

    FANTASY TOP TENS

    Lyrical

    True Heart Suzi
    The Trial of Joan of Arc
    City Girl
    L’Atalante
    Black Narcissus
    Umberto D.
    L’Eclipse
    Vivre Ca Vie
    Vertigo
    Days of Heaven
    Epic (as Pound’s lyrics about history)

    Napoleon
    Alexander Nevsky
    Children of Paradise
    Red River
    Seven Samurai
    Il Gatopardo
    Godfather II
    Berlin Alexanderplatz
    Heaven’s Gate
    A Brighter Summer Day

  • D. K. Holm

    The problem with the S&S 10 best of all time list, or at least one of the problems, is that the list stays the same size while cinema itself as doubled. When the survey made its debut in 1952, the list-makers had about 20 years of sound films, and 20 years of silent films to draw upon. In 2012, the pool will be 80 years of sound films. Yet the entrants still confine their choices to 10. Should the magazine up the list to at least 20?

  • David Cohen

    DK, I agree. 20 or 25 seems logical. … If the rationale is to call attention to the best movies ever made, it certainly can’t hurt to list more.