Sylvia Lawson

Critic; author

Australia

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Au Hasard Balthazar

1966

Robert Bresson

Belle de Jour

1967

Luis Buñuel

Chimes at Midnight

1966

Orson Welles

Crime of Monsieur Lange, The

1935

Jean Renoir

Last Bolshevik, The

1993

Chris Marker

Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The

1962

John Ford

Rear Window

1954

Alfred Hitchcock

Seventh Seal, The

1957

Ingmar Bergman

Two or Three Things I Know About Her…

1967

Jean-Luc Godard

Ugetsu Monogatari

1953

Mizoguchi Kenji

Comments

This list is shadowed by many other possible lists. In general it is director-centred, and it has involved near-impossible choices, forced by the limit of ten. If the list could be longer it would take in work by, for example, Grigori Kozintsev, Andrei Tarkovsky, Roberto Rossellini, Akira Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray, R.W. Fassbinder, Pedro Almodóvar, Wong Kar-wai, Chen Kaige, Raoul Ruiz and Patricio Guzman. Perhaps in 2022, you might allow your critics a list of (say) 30? If there is any principle linking the titles, it is that each of them exercises the widest-ranging attention to complexity of story, character, politics and ethics, and each attains its ends through an orchestration of sound and image, narrative, performance, and argument either explicit or implied. The choices also seek to extend the conventional range, choosing Le Crime de M. Lange from Renoir’s work instead of La règle du jeu, Rear Window from Hitchcock’s rather than Vertigo, The Last Bolshevik from Marker rather than Sans Soleil, Liberty Valance from Ford rather than The Searchers. There is no way, in any of those cases, that I could argue that the films chosen are superior to those I have omitted. My greatest regrets relate to film essays and documentary. Reluctantly, I left out Resnais’ Nuit et Brouillard in favour of longer (not larger) works; there was no room for Humphrey Jennings’ Fires Were Started, none for Guzman’s Nostalgia for the Light. I suggest that after the work of Chris Marker, the distinction between feature and documentary is simply out of date, while the category of the film essay has gained increasing critical prominence.

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