|The Red Shoes
|Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
|Goodbye, Dragon Inn
|SCÈNES DE LA VIE PARALLÈLE: 2 DUELLE (UNE QUARANTAINE)
|Les YEUX NE VEULENT PAS EN TOUT TEMPS SE FERMER OU PEUT-ÊTRE QU' UN JOUR ROME SE PERMETTRA DE CHOISIR À SON TOUR
|Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet
The mission of this poll becomes more difficult, if not outright absurd, with each iteration. Each decade brings with it new classics that advance the form. And more critically, ongoing achievements in film preservation and distribution do far more to spur canon revisionism than mere youthful puckishness. Narrowing down more than 120 years of film history to only 10 picks necessitates various self-imposed restrictions that turn the act of making a ballot into a High Fidelity-esque game. Some of my own limitations: only one film from the silent era (Entschuldigung, Lang and Murnau) and one from the current century (so long Miami Vice, along with various luminaries of strong new waves in East Asian cinema). Most eliminations came down to gut instinct, even when they proved agonising. Egregiously, there’s no horror or science fiction here, two genres invaluable to both the creative development and commercial popularity of cinema. I’d look askance at someone else’s ballot if I didn’t spot Chaplin, Akerman, Ford, Rossellini, Ozu, Hou or Godard, to say nothing of Indian, Russian or Chinese film. Seeing all of these absences on my own ballot gives me a new appreciation for the impossibility of this task.
Ultimately, I narrowed down 10 films among countless favourites that represent, if not some nebulous ideal of “greatest,” then rather some testament to cinema’s elasticity. There is the mastery of spectacle in both the silent (Napoleon) and sound (The Red Shoes) eras; the conscious denial of spectacle to approach various forms of political and artistic history (Othon) and to see that history through to a clear-eyed, bracing assessment of the present (L’Eclisse); the perfection of every formal and dramaturgical rule of the game (Rio Bravo) and the violation of all of them (Duelle). Some demonstrate film’s potential to unpack the ethical and moral imperatives of making art (Close-Up) and of living life itself (Red Beard). And finally, some showcase the medium’s ability to erase all boundaries of separation between spectator and character (Beau Travail), or to go one final step beyond and illustrate the spectators themselves, in the process writing a eulogy for the act of communal moviegoing on the cusp of the digital age (Goodbye, Dragon Inn).