Ann Turner


Voted for

Vertigo1958Alfred Hitchcock
Don't Look Now1973Nicolas Roeg
Kes1969Ken Loach
Cléo from 5 to 71962Agnès Varda
The Exterminating Angel1962Luis Buñuel
Parasite2019Bong Joon-ho
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles1975Chantal Akerman
The Conformist1970Bernardo Bertolucci
Chinatown1974Roman Polanski
Nomadland2020Chloé Zhao



1958 USA

Hitchcock takes us into a dreamlike world of obsession and loss that clutches the heart. Vertigo is a perfect confluence of direction, script, strong performances, cinematography, editing, production design, costume design, hair, sound, and music. The film is as fresh now as when it was made in 1958, an extraordinary feat. Bernard Hermann’s score is haunting and beautiful, taking us with the damaged Jimmy Stewart’s Scottie as he wrestles with vertigo and saves Kim Novak’s Madeleine only to lose her again. Scottie’s attempted reconstruction of Judy Barton into Madeleine is one of the truly great screen obsessions.

I’ve always loved the friendship between Barbara Bel Geddes’ Midge and Scottie. Midge is such a strong artist, and holds her own with Scottie, long before feminism. That Midge is clearly in love with Scottie is handled beautifully, and the emotions rife in their friendship are so deeply drawn it could be written today. Robert Burks’ cinematography captures San Francisco so moodily; the locations are truly memorable. Hitchcock’s choices show a director at the very top of his game. Vertigo is a true classic. It has long been my favourite film. I suspect it always will be.

Don't Look Now

1973 United Kingdom, Italy

Venice at its most atmospheric captured in luscious cinematography by Anthony Richmond, performances of depth and magnetism from Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, editing that is sublime, sound that resonates with the echoes and muffled noise of alleyways and canals, and a memorable score all work together so perfectly to create a vivid and compelling viewing experience. Nicholas Roeg directs one of the best love scenes of all time. The exploration of grief and loss is unforgettable. Mixing in the second sight of the wonderful ladies who walk with such determination through Venice adds a compelling layer. The murders that are ripping through Venice are tied in beautifully. The hotel closing for winter, the danger in the church as the restoration is occuring, the childlike figure in the red raincoat disappearing as Donald Sutherland chases them in a desperate attempt to reclaim his drowned daughter are all portrayed in such an evocative way. Don’t Look Now uses the medium of cinema to its full effect. Roeg handles with restrained irony the journey of a restoration expert who crumbles and falls apart even as he restores the church, chasing the memory and illusion of his daughter to his own demise.


1969 United Kingdom

Loach’s naturalistic kitchen sink style is groundbreaking in this slice of working-class life. The prejudice and failings of the English education system in the 1960s are captured vividly. The film stands up to multiple viewings and has retained its full power through the decades. David Bradley, who had not acted before, is extraordinary in the central role of Billy Casper. He has a remarkable energy and physicality, and his passion for his kestrel Kes is absolute. Caught in an oppressive existence, Billy can escape through training Kes in the art of falconry, but his gifts in this endeavour are ignored by a system intent on putting boys like him down the local coalmine.

Billy steals Kes as a fledgling from his nest, and keeps him captive in a shed, trapping Kes like Billy himself is trapped. But once trained, he lets Kes fly free each day. Kes gives Billy strength. The locations of the green, misty fields of England are evocative, set against the drudgery of Billy’s existence. The horrifying ending, that is at once both shocking and inevitable, is remarkable for its lack of sentimentality that makes it all the more emotional and haunting.

Cléo from 5 to 7

1962 France, Italy

Varda shows such a complete grasp of the emotions and foibles we all have. Her sense of the vanity and fragility of life shines through in this story of a young singer who awaits results of a test for cancer. Through sensual photography, a simple soundtrack and naturalistic performances we are drawn into a very specific world. Cleo is both egocentric and yet endearing, and the awful, vulnerable position in which she finds herself is existential.

The shadow of the Algerian war hangs over Paris, and the small moments that make up two hours of waiting: Cleo listening to her own song on a jukebox in a café and realising no-one recognises her, walking in a park and meeting a soldier on leave who offers to accompany her to her test results, are captured evocatively.

A lot of good films date. Sometimes a favourite, upon viewing decades later, might disappoint, but I get the sense that Cleo 5 to 7 will never date, in whatever century, because Agnes Varda is a sublime storyteller of such elegance and lightness of touch.

The Exterminating Angel

1962 Mexico

In the many Covid lockdowns we endured in Melbourne, Australia, I kept being reminded of The Exterminating Angel. Who could have guessed watching the film decades ago (and loving it) that we would live through a time and space in the next century that felt very much like the guests who couldn’t leave. There were no dinner parties in Melbourne, unlike certain lockdown parties in England! – and no sheep – but the experience of day after day being essentially unable to leave the house was as surreal and mind-bending as Bunuel’s brilliant film.

The absurdist premise can resonate through the ages and be applied differently to different experiences in different times. Along with performances of dark humour and intensity, the light and shadows of the textural black-and-white cinematography by Gabriel Figueroa, the film continues to dazzle with its wit and insight. Across the world, some wealthy people behaved terribly in the lockdowns. Just as the wealthy class did in The Exterminating Angel.


2019 Republic of Korea

Black comedy, astute cultural critique, mixed brilliantly with a thriller element, Parasite is a vivid, instant classic. The Ki family are intent on worming their way into the wealthy Park family, lying about their credentials, one by one getting employed. The vast architecture of the Parks’ house sits in direct contrast to the poverty of the Kis’ basement apartment. When the Parks go away, the Kis run riot in their house. Coupled with a wonderful sub-plot of the former housekeeper keeping her husband in an underground bunker beneath the Parks’ house, a clash between the two lower-class families ends with an unfortunate fight. But the biggest tragedy is saved for a climactic birthday party of the Parks’ son, who twice has a seizure when he sees the “ghost” from underground. Mayhem breaks out and death ensues. Hilarious and shocking, Parasite captures the inequality of the classes, and with echoes of Bunuel, presents the working-class as conniving and out of control in their contempt for the wealthy and their desire to be like them; and the wealthy as out of touch and cruel in their casual dismissiveness of the poor.

A film of vast vision with bold, clever direction.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

1975 Belgium, France

Delphine Seyrig’s performance is mesmerising, taking us into the rhythms and monotony of domestic life as she cooks, cleans, shops and is mother to a teenage son. Akerman lets the camera run in this unique film, the artfully constructed shots drawing us in as willing voyeurs who become almost participants in the minutiae. We slowly realise that anything that breaks the routine is shattering, dangerous. And Jeanne Dielman’s domestic life with her son is not as normal and mundane as it might seem. Jeanne is a sex worker, taking men into her bedroom each afternoon.

Day one all goes to plan. We’re drawn in further. Day two Jeanne overcooks potatoes and wanders from room to room trying to work out what to do with them.

By day three Jeanne’s life is disrupted. It is deeply unsettling but strangely satisfying that the climax involves a pair of sewing scissors…

Jeanne Dielman, in its quiet meditation on domesticity, the portrayal of women, and the subtle, brilliantly executed drama with its sophisticated sense of rhythm and lighting is a film of greatness, directed by an auteur who tragically left us far too young.

The Conformist

1970 Italy, France, Federal Republic of Germany

Is a movie still “great” revisited in the #MeToo era when you find elements dated and misogynistic? When Marcello’s wife Giulia recounts she was sexually abused at fifteen, Marcello, the central character, is aroused. Giulia is presented as vacuous, materialistic, a somewhat willing participant of childhood abuse.

Anna Quadri, in a memorable performance by Dominique Sanda, has little logic in her advances to Giulia. If you fear for your husband’s safety and your own, in a matter of life and death would you seduce the Fascist’s wife, and give an invitation to your country estate? But the dance where Anna leads Giulia, with the room joining in, snaking around Marcello as he stands unable to partake, is riveting. In the woods, where Anna pleads to Marcello, bashing on his car window after her husband has been killed, and Marcello sits, refusing to help, refusing to kill, is breathtaking. The muted sunlight in the forest, the hunting down of Anna, is spectacular.

Marcello's quest for normalcy, so misplaced, ghastly with his ability to blow with the political wind, remains a uniquely drawn character.

The Conformist is truly original. It leaves space for contemplation. It is great cinema.


1974 USA

A youthful Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway are superb in Polanski’s tale of greed, corruption, and incest, with a complex, evocative script by Robert Towne. Nicholson’s Jake Gittes is both cocky and vulnerable, and his quest to get to the bottom of the water corruption in Los Angeles gets him attacked in a memorable scene where Polanski, playing a thug, slashes his nose with a sharp knife. Dunaway plays Evelyn Mulwray, the wife of the chief engineer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, with a compelling mixture of strength and vulnerability. We are drawn to her, and so is Jake Gittes. The story is moodily told with warm, dry-landscaped cinematography by John A. Alonzo. The short stings of the musical theme are haunting and romantic. The obsession of Gittes with Dunaway’s Evelyn, and his entire misunderstanding of the situation have echoes of Vertigo. But this is a film that rides on its own strengths, and the film noir tragedy of the tale of incest is truly memorable, as is the production design in a stunning recreation of 1930s America.

Chinatown captures a seedy, rotten atmosphere. Its timeless themes resonate today.


2020 USA

Nomadland poetically addresses one of the hidden and fastest growing scourges of the 21st century in some developed countries: the increasing financial insecurity and homelessness of women in low-paid jobs.

The cinematography is lush, often melancholic. Nomadland is beautiful to watch. The landscape of mid-West America is captured in an epic style, even as the characters encountered are shown in a small, close-up way.

Zhao’s choice to put real-life nomads into the film adds to its depth and veracity. “See you on down the road” becomes a haunting metaphor for life and death.

Frances McDormand is one of the greatest actors of her generation and her intense, understated performance as Fern is truly memorable. Fern recently lost her husband, and her job when the factory closed. With both a quiet grief and gentle but steely lust for life and adventure she presents an inspiring portrait of a woman travelling, and living, on her own in a van, befriending other nomads, but keeping her independence. Fern’s journey is one of grieving and personal renewal, discarding the remnants of her past life to continue on down the road, exploring.

Nomadland is cinematic, powerful, and deeply memorable.

Further remarks

The idea of Sight and Sounds’ Greatest Films of All Time poll is intriguing and confronting. There have been many really good films. But what makes a film great? It’s not a fixed notion. As we grow through our lives, how we view a film, what we take from it, changes.

Memory can play a part. A story can be added to, taken from, through one’s personal bias and predilections. Yet a great film stays in the mind. It can haunt; it can be a rock to which we compare other films, and life.

Great films are cinematic, using the medium to the full. They don’t necessarily have stars. But what they have in common is mesmerising performances, memorable characters, in narrative films screenplays that vividly capture and explore a time and place, often in a period of change, cinematography that captures the mood and essence of the story, evocative theme music, sound with depth that taps our senses, editing that rhythmically brings everything together and thrusts the story forward, and production design, costumes and hairstyles that draw us in.

Conducted every ten years, Sight and Sound's poll gives a wonderful evolving snapshot of tastes and style that holds a mirror to viewers and captures for history the films that endure and those with more fleeting graces.