I feel honored to take part in the upcoming Sight & Sound Greatest Film Poll. Here is my ballot:
1. Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)
Superbly crafted allegory of watching and following that touches upon our primal voyeuristic drives. By the end of the screening, the film seems to be looking back at us with an amused little smirk. Hitchcock defines the movies; Rear Window defines Hitchcock.
2. The Long Day Closes (1992, Terence Davies)
Cinema is both a retreat and a prison in Davies’ memoir of childhood bliss slowly turning into scary gay desire that the protagonist doesn’t know how to handle. A love song that is also a dirge, it’s a profoundly sad work of immense beauty.
3. The Thin Red Line (1998, Terrence Malick)
Malick’s Whitman-by-way-of-Emerson poem of grace intertwined with death is as boundless as it is instantly accessible (not to mention totally immersive). Edited in accordance with the world’s hidden heartbeat that Malick seems completely attuned to, it never fails to intoxicate me, no matter how often I see it.
4. City Lights (1931, Charlie Chaplin)
No one merged emotional mush with slapstick brilliance in quite this way – you can be angry at the movie for tugging at your heart strings, but you stand no chance of resisting its pull.
5. WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971, Dušan Makavejev)
The only movie that managed to accommodate and satirize all the Cold War chasms at once, and do so in a happy-collage way that’s as ingenious as it is brilliant.
6. Partie de campagne (1936, Jean Renoir)
“Unfinished” only in the most crude of senses, this is a work that overflows with emotion to the point of drugging the viewer into an uncontrolled reverie. A masterpiece of sensual seduction that feels both like a breeze and a barely suppressed sob of sympathy for all human dreams and desires.
7. L’Atalante (1934, Jean Vigo)
Cinema as a diaphanous waft of half-dreamed desire; the most beautiful erotic dream ever put on film.
8. Man with a Movie Camera (1929, Dziga Vertov)
In some YouTube visual dictionary of tomorrow, a full video of this movie may as well serve as the most comprehensive definition we have yet of „modernity” itself.
9. Only Angels Have Wings (1939, Howard Hawks)
Unyielding in its reproach of sentimentality, this is a work of true feeling and deep compassion that asks for nothing and gives you everything.
10. Topsy-Turvy (1999, Mike Leigh)
The most Dickensian movie ever made is as rich as a finest novel and accommodates everything from gaiety to sadness to grief to song.