Acting Reviews Editor at Sight & Sound
|2001: A Space Odyssey
|Pierrot le fou
|The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
|Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
|La dolce vita
|The Godfather Part II
|Francis Ford Coppola
|Diqiu zuihou de yewan
Diqiu zuihou de yewan
Every so often, a film comes along that pushes the boundaries of the very form itself. Sometimes there are genuine breakthroughs, but mostly the boundary-stretching happens through a synthesis of previous innovations to create a whole that feels at once familiar and utterly new.
‘Long Day’s Journey’ is one such film. It uses its chief marketing hook – an hour-long tracking shot, presented in a rich 3D – to powerful emotional and conceptual ends. Not only an impressive technical accomplishment that took seven attempts, it’s a staggering mode of storytelling with a strong emotional undercurrent. It’s also the best use of 3D I’ve ever seen in a film.
The movie is deeply layered and impeccably structured, and so spellbinding that I did something I’d never done before: I went back to see the movie the following evening, to try to figure out what makes it so compelling. It’s a pleasure to be able to spotlight it in my poll submission.
For all the analytic scalpels that will soon be brought to bear on Sight & Sound’s 2022 Greatest Films of All Time poll, it’s quite possible that we’ll be dissecting a ghost. The welcome diversification of the voter base; the widespread recognition that any canon creaks with the internal pressure of its own biases; and the anxiety concomitant with making public statements in an age of public scrutiny – all will lead to an explosion not just in the range of films voted for but in voters’ own selection criteria, between (and often within) lists. It renders the poll resistant to any analyst that tries to get too close.
To this I say: great! The shibboleths to dispense with aren’t the films per se – no need to dethrone Vertigo or Kane for the sake of it – but the solemn, impersonal automatism that might have accompanied their selection. Impulse and strength of feeling should be no less important than intellectual ‘rigour’, though separating impulse from intellect from the temptation to vote tactically will be impossible in the final analysis. If hundreds of voters converge on certain films, that will itself speak volumes – but perhaps less about the films themselves than about what voters want the poll to be.
My own list casts no tactical votes – at least, not consciously. Some of the ten changed the way I saw the world, or the way I saw myself; some simply put across their themes and ideas with such dazzling unity of purpose, form and content that the mere remembrance of them quickens my pulse.
I wanted my list to bottle as diverse an array of emotions and experiences as possible. To my mind, it isn’t just the fact that these films capture and interrogate the human condition – it’s the way they use cinema to do it. All ten are uniquely, intensely, irreducibly cinematic.
Many darlings were killed in the whittling, and maybe next time around, Rohmer, Lean, Satyajit Ray, Cocteau, Allen and/or Chaplin will get a look in. But I’d like now to smuggle some more beloved films into consideration (quite whose consideration – will anyone be reading this? – is a question I’d rather not ponder) while gesturing to the future. Below, in chronological order, are 10 (more) films from the last 10 years that rocked or reconstituted my world, or simply – as I got older – left me with indelible images and endlessly revisitable scenarios. In poll terms, I cannot save these films from statistical oblivion. But for anyone reading this, I hope they enrich your life as they did mine.
1. Norte, the End of History (Lav Diaz, 2013)
2. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Takahata Isao, 2013)
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
4. Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2014)
5. Brooklyn (John Crowley, 2015)
6. Cosmos (Andrzej Żuławski, 2015)
7. Summer 1993 (Carla Simón, 2017)
8. Inside (Bo Burnham, 2021)
9. A Hero (Asghar Farhadi, 2021; special mention to Azadeh Masihzadeh, whose story, it has been reported, was used without credit by Farhadi for the film)
10. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2021)