Kristin Thompson

Honorary fellow, University of Wisconsin-Madison

US

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

General, The

1926

Buster Keaton

How Green Was My Valley

1941

John Ford

Ivan the Terrible

1945

Sergei M Eisenstein

Late Spring

1949

Ozu Yasujirô

M

1931

Fritz Lang

Passion of Joan of Arc

1927

Carl Theodor Dreyer

Playtime

1967

Jacques Tati

Rear Window

1954

Alfred Hitchcock

Règle du jeu, La

1939

Jean Renoir

Through the Olive Trees

1994

Abbas Kiarostami

Comments

Making up a list of ten films to constitute the pinnacle of world cinema means, to a considerable extent, choosing the greatest directors and picking one film to represent each. To me, the greatest directors are Tati, Ozu, and Eisenstein. For Tati and Eisenstein, the best films are clear to me. For Ozu, there could be any of at least half a dozen films plausibly chosen for this list, but Late Spring happens to be my favourite. Inevitably there are other films that I much regret not being able to include on the list, such as Seven Samurai, Trouble in Paradise, His Girl Friday, Sjöström’s The Phantom Carriage and Capellani’s Germinal. (The silent era is too little represented in previous polls, but restorations by archives and retrospectives at specialist film festivals make this lack easier to remedy.) Had Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons not been re-cut by RKO, it would probably be on my list. There are other directors who should be represented here, most notably Bresson, Mizoguchi and Godard. Their work is so consistent, however, that I simply cannot choose a single masterpiece by any of them. I felt that a film more recent than 1974 (The Godfather Part II, the latest film represented on previous S&S lists) should be included. The last four decades of film history have surely seen the release of at least one worthy film, but the vast expansion of production in smaller countries and the international exhibition of such films in festivals have rendered it more difficult than ever for critics to agree upon a single candidate. It remains easier to vote for the established classics. My choice of a film that deserves to be watched and rewatched decades from now, as we currently watch such films as La Règle du jeu, is Through the Olive Trees ( or Under the Olive Trees, to give a more accurate translation than the usual).

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