Patrick Fahy

Sight & Sound credits supervisor, BFI documentation team leader

UK

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Anatomy of a Murder

1959

Otto Preminger

Band Wagon, The

1953

Vincente Minnelli

Brigadoon

1954

Vincente Minnelli

Exorcist, The

1973

William Friedkin

Halfway House, The

1943

Basil Dearden

Man For All Seasons, A

1966

Fred Zinnemann

Old Dark House, The

1932

James Whale

Raiders of the Lost Ark

1981

Steven Spielberg

Ryan's Daughter

1970

David Lean

Shadowlands

1993

Richard Attenborough

Comments

Anatomy of a Murder plays an ingenious trick, using the audience’s natural affinity with the film star to blind us into being rotten jurors, with real-life implications that are most unsettling. Can you make a point more cinematically than that? Two from Minnelli (and Cyd Charisse): The Band Wagon is the sophisticated epitome of the movie musical, packed with verve, wit, fun and dazzling dancing. Brigadoon, often berated for looking like a shortbread box, is as penetrating a dramatisation of the bumpy road to love as I’ve seen. Van Johnson’s cynicism perfectly balances Gene Kelly’s swooning, the soundstage landscapes only add to the fairytale quality, and the ending defies prediction. Two from Robert Bolt. A Man for All Seasons has the beauty and power of an oak. It rebukes moral expediency with brilliantly crafted dialogue and acting. Its message – to be wary of fashions – makes it inescapably unfashionable, and thereby a film for all seasons. Ryan’s Daughter combines modern bite and unmatchable old-school splendour, and has my favourite end sequence of any film, a stirring mix of agony and hope. (Of the seven feature films Bolt wrote, five won the Oscar for Best Cinematography. Has anyone better grasped the art of screenwriting?) The Exorcist and The Halfway House both (in different ways) unnerve and reassure us about being spiritual animals. Shadowlands is a humane and moving tale of faith, love and loss. The Old Dark House is a supremely atmospheric hoot, and Raiders of the Lost Ark is, to my mind, cinema’s finest blast of escapism. Directors horribly absent: Alfred Hitchcock, Preston Sturges, Roman Polanski.

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