Sunday, November 08, 2009

Top 10 world cinema films

British magazine Sight and Sound has its place in the history of cinema. The magazine had the most authoritative critics contributing to it in its hey days. It had beautiful layouts, and some of these volumes are in Prabhat Chitra Mandal's library for any of you to read. The magazine still exists, and every 10 years, it asks a panel of film critics to select the top ten films of all time. The last top ten survey was done in 2002. I checked the list, and was disappointed not to find Bicycle Thieves, Rashomon, or La Strada in the list. Then I checked what the directors voted as the top ten and was pleasantly surprised at least two of them. Both lists have placed Citizen Kane on the top. Do you agree?

Check both the surveys. Interesting preferences between critics and directors.

Critics' Top Ten Poll
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
Dazzlingly inventive, technically breathtaking, Citizen Kane reinvented the way stories could be told in the cinema, and set a standard generations of film-makers have since aspired to. An absorbing account of a newspaper tycoon's rise to power, Orson Welles' debut film feels as fresh as tomorrow's headlines. And he was only 26 when he made it.

2. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
A gripping detective story or a delirious investigation into desire, grief and jealousy? Hitchcock had a genius for transforming genre pieces into vehicles for his own dark obsessions, and this 1958 masterpiece shows the director at his mesmerising best. And for James Stewart fans, it also boasts the star's most compelling performance.

3. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
Tragedy and comedy effortlessly combine in Renoir's country house ensemble drama. A group of aristocrats gather for some rural relaxation, a shooting party is arranged, downstairs the servants bicker about a new employee, while all the time husbands, wives, mistresses and lovers sweetly deceive one another and swap declarations of love like name cards at a dinner party.

4. The Godfather and The Godfather part II (Coppola)
Few films have portrayed the US immigrant experience quite so vividly as Coppola's Godfather films, or exposed the contradictions of the American Dream quite so ruthlessly. And what a cast, formidable talent firing all cylinders: Brando, De Niro, Pacino, Keaton, Duvall, Caan. Now that's an offer you can't refuse.

5. Tokyo Story (Ozu)
A poignant story of family relations and loss, Ozu's subtle mood piece portrays the trip an elderly couple make to Tokyo to visit their grown-up children. The shooting style is elegantly minimal and formally reticent, and the film's devastating emotional impact is drawn as much from what is unsaid and unshown as from what is revealed.

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
One of the most ambitious Hollywood movies ever made, 2001 crams into its two-hour plus running time a story that spans the prehistoric age to the beginning of the third millennium, and features some of the most hypnotically beautiful special effects work ever committed to film. After seeing this, you can never listen to Strauss' Blue Danube without thinking space crafts waltzing against starry backdrops.

7. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
Eisenstein's recreation of a mutiny by sailors of the battleship Potemkin in 1905 works as daring formal experiment - which pushed the expressive potential of film editing to its limit - and rousing propaganda for the masses. The Odessa Steps sequence remains one of the most memorable set-pieces in cinema.

8. Sunrise (Murnau)
Having left his native Germany for the US, F.W. Murnau had all the resources of a major Hollywood studio at his disposal for this, his American debut. What he produced was a visually stunning film romance that ranks as one of the last hurrahs of the silent period.

9. 8 1/2 (Fellini)
Wonderfully freefloating, gleefully confusing reality and fantasy, 8 1/2 provides a ringside seat into the ever active imaginative life of its director protagonist Guido, played by Fellini's on-screen alter-ego Marcello Mastroianni. The definitive film about film-making - as much about the agonies of the creative process as the ecstasies - it's no wonder the movie is so popular with directors.

10. Singin' In the Rain (Kelly, Donen)
Impossible to watch without a smile on your face, this affectionate tribute to the glory days of Hollywood in the 1920s is pleasure distilled into 102 minutes. With Gene Kelly dance sequences that take your breath away and a great score by Brown and Freed, this is the film musical at its best.


*****

Directors' Top Ten Poll
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
Dazzlingly inventive, technically breathtaking, Citizen Kane reinvented the way stories could be told in the cinema, and set a standard generations of film-makers have since aspired to. An absorbing account of a newspaper tycoon's rise to power, Orson Welles' debut film feels as fresh as tomorrow's headlines. And he was only 26 when he made it.

2. The Godfather and The Godfather part II (Coppola)
Few films have portrayed the US immigrant experience quite so vividly as Coppola's Godfather films, or exposed the contradictions of the American Dream quite so ruthlessly. And what a cast, formidable talent firing all cylinders: Brando, De Niro, Pacino, Keaton, Duvall, Caan. Now that's an offer you can't refuse.

3. 8 1/2 (Fellini)
Wonderfully freefloating, gleefully confusing reality and fantasy, 8 1/2 provides a ringside seat into the ever active imaginative life of its director protagonist Guido, played by Fellini's on-screen alter-ego Marcello Mastroianni. The definitive film about film-making - as much about the agonies of the creative process as the ecstasies - it's no wonder the movie is so popular with directors.

4. Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)
Filmed in the desert in lavish widescreen and rich colours, Lawrence of Arabia is David Lean at his most epic and expansive. You can almost feel the waves of heat glowing from the cinema screen.

5. Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick)
A black comedy about impending nuclear annihilation that was made at the height of the cold war, Dr. Strangelove is perhaps Kubrick's most audacious movie and certainly his funniest. Peter Sellers has never been better, and provides good value playing three roles.

6. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
Mixing melodrama, documentary and social commentary, De Sica follows an impoverished father and son treading the streets of post-war Rome, desperately seeking their stolen bicycle. Deeply compassionate, this poignant film is one of the outstanding examples of Italian neorealism.

7. Raging Bull (Scorsese)
An unblinkingly honest biopic of Jake La Motta - a great prizefighter but a deeply flawed human being - this catches Scorsese in fighting fit form. The boxing sequence are both brutal and beautiful, and De Niro, who famously put on weight to play the middle-aged La Motta, gives one of the performances of modern cinema.

8. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
A gripping detective story or a delirious investigation into desire, grief and jealousy? Hitchcock had a genius for transforming genre pieces into vehicles for his own dark obsessions, and this 1958 masterpiece shows the director at his mesmerising best. And for James Stewart fans, it also boasts the star's most compelling performance.

9. Rashomon (Kurosawa)
Offering four differing accounts of a rape and murder, all told in flashbacks, Kurosawa's 1951 film is a complex meditation on the distortive nature of memory and a gripping study of human behaviour at its most base. Mifune Toshiro is magnetic as the bandit Tajomaru.

10. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
Tragedy and comedy effortlessly combine in Renoir's country house ensemble drama. A group of aristocrats gather for some rural relaxation, a shooting party is arranged, downstairs the servants bicker about a new employee, while all the time husbands, wives, mistresses and lovers sweetly deceive one another and swap declarations of love like name cards at a dinner party.
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