Andrew Tracy

Managing editor, Cinema Scope

Canada

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Exterminating Angel, The

1962

Luis Buñuel

Flowers of St Francis, The

1950

Roberto Rossellini

How Green Was My Valley

1941

John Ford

Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The

1943

Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger

M

1931

Fritz Lang

Man Escaped, A

1956

Robert Bresson

Sans Soleil

1982

Chris Marker

Shop Around the Corner, The

1940

Ernst Lubitsch

They Live By Night

1948

Nicholas Ray

Vivre Sa Vie

1962

Jean-Luc Godard

Comments

This list is, first, one of names rather than titles. With the exception of Marker’s inexhaustible master text —the first among equals on this particular roll — any of a half-dozen or more titles could have easily stood next to these names, as could any of the honourable runners-up (Pialat, Jancsó, Olmi, Pasolini, Ozu, Keaton, the Dardennes etc). Yet it is ultimately the names, rather than the works, that we assess when engaged in these exercises, I think. If the work is at least somewhat tangible, measurable and rankable, the name (as distinct from the actual person who bears it) points towards something larger: a certain idea of cinema that is concocted or wished for by us almost as much as by the bearer of that name – the work, no less so than a list of works, only fleetingly and imperfectly incarnates. If these exercises have any real purpose, it’s less to arrive at any impossible consensus than to give transitory form to those ideas we bear, or that perhaps are borne through us; after all, as one of the names on this list once remarked, we don’t think at the cinema but are thought.

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