I generally prevaricate when asked what my favourite film
is, because naturally it’s an impossible question. The basic problem is that
there are no criteria. Do I go for very serious works of art that I massively
admire but rarely view, in which case Bresson
would be high on
the list? Can I justify movies that are regularly plucked from the DVD shelf
but are, when you get down to it, a bit shoddy (think Star Wars
or The PrincessBride
The list I have come up with is less high-brow than most
critics have gone for, although 3 of my selections also appear in the S&S
Top Ten. I've tried to maintain some objectivity but, when in doubt, I've tended towards emotional rather than intellectual impact, with inevitable subjective consequences.
I would also like to record my regret at completely ignoring
Westerns, Australia, silent film, the entirety of Asian cinema and Marlene Dietrich.
Something had to give.
(The numbers in brackets give the film’s rating in the
In no particular order:
Technically masterful on every level, so much so that the gripping plot and emotional heft feel like a bonus
Endlessly mysterious, it works on some subterranean psychological level that any number of plot absurdities cannot destroy
The musical is the purest expression of emotion that cinema can offer, and while the keynote emotion here is joy there is no shying away from the darker sides of life. Also, Gene Kelly.
No movie has given me more laughter, which alone justifies inclusion here, but this is also beautifully performed and extremely influential
Herzog and Kinski stare unblinkingly into the face of madness
Lanzmann, 1985 (29)
The greatest work of art that I know of about the most devastating event in human history. (Incidentally, a documentary top10 would be far more weighed towards the recent past, with Senna
, Man On Wire
and Anvil: The Story of Anvil
all up for contention)
Jimmy Cagney has to get a mention from me, and this is his most extreme, almost primal, performance
Here representing Hollywood's genius for star-driven charm fuelled by sheer charisma, and allowing me to include three of the greats (Hepburn, Grant, Stewart) with one pick
A little bit shaky this one, based as it is on a single viewing a number of years ago, but Ophuls' camerawork is sublime and the great Anton Walbrook was never better