Founder and editor, Animus
|The Magnificent Ambersons
|Les Enfants du paradis
|Portrait of Jennie
|Singin' in the Rain
|Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen
|TIREZ SUR LE PIANISTE
|The Gospel According to St. Matthew
|Pier Paolo Pasolini
|The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
It isn’t that I no longer believe there can be an objective list of the best films ever made; only that it seems to me there are so many wonderful films that the question of which might be the best is entirely dependent on very ephemeral factors: the general temperament of the voter, their mood on any given day, and more importantly, which films they’ve been exposed to. I count the latter as an ephemeral factor because it can be changed, and in compiling this list, I notice more than anything else my blind spots. Some of these are harder to clear than, say, a superficial knowledge of American westerns, but getting hold of films that were once hard to find is getting easier every day, thanks to the efforts of archivists and curators, and of course the Internet.
In an increasingly decentralised world, the old hierarchies of the film world too begin to appear obsolete: there is talk of dismantling “the canon” in order to make space for long underseen and unfairly ignored filmmakers, or even of doing away with rankings altogether. In that context, the Sight and Sound list may seem old-fashioned or even reactionary to some, and to others, irrelevant. To remedy this and make the list as relevant as a list can be, it would be tempting to take a quota approach to my own ranking, in order to make sure that the under-represented are, finally, represented. This would, however, feel disingenuous to me: how could a film that my soul tells me must be included sit side by side with one that is only there by default? This approach would undermine the very strong connections I have with certain films. More importantly, it would suggest a way to approach or “consume” cinema that has nothing to do with how I have forged and continue to forge strong connections with films of all kinds.
Among the many things I have learned about myself during lockdown, one is that my appreciation for film is always born in and nourished by context. Only by watching a great many westerns while locked up in my flat for the better part of two years did I gain the tools to appreciate all that the genre has to offer. Just as watching several titles by a single director helps cinephiles perceive and enjoy the nuances in their work, viewing a series of films from the same genre, year, country, or any other such fixed criterion, is what allows us to truly see and connect with those films in a deep way. Due to a series of factors, some of them within and others outside my control, it so happens that I have been most exposed to French and American cinema, which can in turn be felt in the films I’ve picked.
But these chosen films are also much more to me than the sum of their geographic and cultural signifiers: they all have a place on my list because they contain some mystery. I cannot fully explain why they affect me the way they do, and it is this sensation that I continually pursue. In the same way that I delved into the wonderful world of westerns during lockdown, I look forward to venturing into corners of cinema as yet unexplored by me in my relentless search for that mysterious connection. If I am asked to contribute to this poll in ten years, I imagine that my list then will look quite different.