Long live the Master of Suspense!
After 50 years as the consensus ‘Greatest Film of All Time’, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane has been dethroned. The top of the new Sight and Sound Poll is Alfred Hitchcock’s lyrical, disturbing Vertigo. It’s been a long time coming.
Yes, lists are kind of meaningless. But if any list had weight, it would be Sight and Sound. The poll is conducted once every 10 years (since 1952) and the contributors are the best film critics and directors in the world. Citizen Kane has held the top spot for a long time, but fresh blood can only be a good thing. Hitchcock in general, and Vertigo in particular, have been growing more popular with every successive year, both with critics and film fans around the world, so this coup isn’t exactly a surprise.
The Top Ten for 2012 is:
- Vertigo (Hitchcock)
- Citizen Kane (Welles)
- Tokyo Story (Ozu)
- The Rules of the Game (Renoir)
- Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (Murnau)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
- The Searchers (Ford)
- Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov)
- The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)
- 8 1/2 (Fellini)
My thoughts? The rise of silent films is surprising (Sunrise, Man with a Movie Camera, Passion of Joan of Arc), giving us a list that skews older than usual. It seems crazy to me that the 1970s are unrepresented (the best period of American film-making by far!), but perhaps time will be the judge of that. The Sight and Sound poll changes slowly, and I like the fact that it’s not a reactionary list that suddenly declares the latest Christopher Nolan film ‘the best’ because everyone is in love with it this week. I love my Hitchcock and my Kubrick, so it’s great to see their ascent. And while the others on the list aren’t personal favourites of mine, they’re all pretty fantastic, powerful experiences. I feel I need to watch 8 1/2 again. Possibly right now.
As a counter-point, there’s also the alternative Director’s Top 10:
1. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
=2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
=2. Citizen Kane (Welles)
4. 8 ½ (Fellini)
5. Taxi Driver (Scorsese)
6. Apocalypse Now (Coppola)
=7. The Godfather (Coppola)
=7. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
9. Mirror (Tarkovsky)
10. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
I prefer the variety in the Director’s List – nice to see Tarkovsky, Scorsese and Coppola on there! – but the love for Tokyo Story continues to perplex me. I suppose my tastes tend towards Kurosawa over the deliberate, understated Ozu (Seven Samurai lingers just outside of the Top Ten on both lists).
In an odd way, I think this result is good for Citizen Kane too. I think the experience of watching Kane is ruined for too many people by the expectation that it is “The Greatest”. Maybe first-timers will come to it with less baggage in the future, and enjoy it more. As they should, because Kane is freakin’ stunning.
Of course, movies aren’t Olympic athletes, and it’s a little strange to assemble them on the block and start cheering for a home team. But I love lists, and I love how they encourage debate and discussion. This one is guaranteed to keep people arguing for a while and, hopefully, compel more people to watch these fantastic films.
Plus, I just get a gleeful kick from a film as perverse as Vertigo taking the crown. Next time, David Lynch, next time…
You can find the complete Top 50 here.