The rundown on the 2012 list of the ten greatest films of all time as chosen by 846 film critics and experts polled by the Sight and Sound Magazine of the British Film Institute resumes and we now present the fourth to tenth best film.
(If you want to refer to part 1 of this series, proceed to our website archives of articles—Editor)
4. The Rules of the Game (1939)
Directed by Jean Renoir and scripted by Carl Koch and Jean Renoir (adapted from Alfred de Musset’s Les Caprice de Marianne, a 19th century comedy of manners) and starring Nora Gregor, Paulette Dubost, Marcel Dalio and Jean Renoir.
Richard Pena, an associate professor of film studies at Columbia University, writes about The Rules of the Game:
“After the great success of The Grand Illusion (1937) and La Bete Humaine (1938), Jean Renoir together with his brother Claude and three friends founded his own production company, Les Nouvelles Editions Francaise. The NEF’s first announced project was an adaptation and updating of Pierre de Marivaux’s Les Caprices de Marianne. Asked to describe what his film would be like, Renoir answered: “An exact description of the bourgeoisie of our time.” This is the film that was eventually titled The Rules of the Game.
“A commercial disaster when first released in the summer of 1939, The Rules of the Game was cut and recut but to no avail; soon after the war began that Fall, it was banned as a danger to public morale. In the late 1940s and 1950s, the film’s legend was kept alive by Andre Bazin and his disciples at Cahiers du Cinema, who claimed that alongside Citizen Kane (1941), Rules had been the harbinger of modern cinema, yet it was known only in a radically shortened version (88 minutes). In 1956, it was reconstructed to almost its complee original length (113 minutes, but it’s still missing one scene), presented at the Venice Film Festival in 1959, and the rest is film history, with The Rules of the Game finally celebrated internationally as the masterpiece it is.”
5. Sunrise: A Song for Two Humans (1927)
Directed by F. W. Murnau and scripted by Carl Meyer adapted from the story Die Reisse nach Tilsit (A Trip to Tilsit) by Herman Suderman and starring George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor and Margaret Livingston.
Joshua Klein, writer and DVD columnist, writes about Sunrise:
“Sunrise itself is deceptively simple. Subtitled somewhat enigmatically A Song for Two Humans, the film focuses on a country-dwelling married couple whose lives are disrupted by a temptress from the city. But Murnau draws waves of emotion from what could have been a rote melodrama, further enhanced by a bevy of groundbreaking filmmaking techniques. Most notable is the use of sound effects, pushing silent cinema one step closer to the talkie era—an achievement unfairly overshadowed by The Jazz Singer, released later in 1927. Murnau also creatively manipulates the use and effect of title cards (three years earlier, he had directed the title-free The Last Laugh).
“The most striking aspect of Sunrise is its camera work. Working with a pair of cinematographers, Charles Rosher and Karl Struss, Murnau borrowed from his own experience in the German Expressionist movement as well as from the pastoral portraits of the Dutch masters, particularly Jan Vermeer.
“But Sunrise remains a benchmark by which all other films—silent or not—should be measured, a pinnacle of craft in a more primitive age whose sophistication belies the resources at the time. Its shadow looms over several subsequent great works, from Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941) to Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (1946), yet at the same time its own brilliance is inimitable.”
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick and scripted by Arthur C. Clarke based on his own short story, The Sentinel, and starring Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester and Douglas Rain (voice for Hal).
Angela Errigo, film critic for BBC Radio, writes about 2001: A Space Odyssey:
“…the film is strewn with unforgettable images: the unexpected, stunning cut from a bone brandished by an ape-man and thrown aloft to a satellite; the magnificent alignment of sun and moon directly above the rim of the monolith; the orbital waltz of the space station and a docking shuttle; the circular crew habitat of the Discovery (made a reality, if considerably smaller, in NASA’s space shuttle program).
“2001 can be taken as a mysterious adventure, sermon, or vision, one that was understandably the ultimate trip for hippies on psychedelics, but even viewed simply as a haunting spectacle, it is unsurpassed, demanding to be seen on a big screen to be fully appreciated. Its faults—its overblown abstraction and its sketchy narrative of scarcely articulated, unresolved speculation on the origins and destiny of human life—are more than compensated for by its gripping engagement between man and machine, its visual starkness and serenity, and, above all, its rhapsodic wonder at heaven and earth and the infinite beyond.”
8. The Man with a Movie camera (1925)
Directed, scripted and shot by Dziga Vertov
Josephine Woll, who teaches at Howard University, writes about The Man with the Camera:
“In this film, Vertov combines radical politics with revolutionary aesthetics to exhilarating, even giddy effect. The two components of filmmaking—camera and editing—function as equal (and gendered) partners. Vertov’s male cameraman (his brother Mikhail Kaufman) records a day in the life of the modern city—what Vertov called “life caught unawares”—while his female editor (wife Elizaveta Svilova) cuts and splices the footage, thus reformulating that life. By the end Vertov has exploited every available device of filming and editing—slow motion, animation, multiple images, split-screen, zooms and reverse zooms, blurring focus, and freeze frames—to create a textbook of film techniques as well as a hymn to
the new Soviet state.
“The camera begins to roll as the city gradually awakens, its buses and trams emerging from their night-hangars and its empty streets gradually filling, and continues by tracking denizens of the city (mostly Moscow but with extensive footage shot in Kiev, Yalta and Odessa) through their routines of work and play. A lifetime is compressed into that day, as the camera peers between a woman’s legs to watch a baby emerge, espies children entranced by a street conjuror, tracks an ambulance carrying an accident victim. New rituals supplant old as couples marry, separate and divorce in a registry office instead of a church.”
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1958)
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer and scripted by Joseph Delteil and Dreyer and starring Renee Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, Andre Berley and Maurice Schutz.
Jonathan Rosenbaum, film “critic for The Chicago Reader, writes about The Passion of Joan of Arc:
“All of Dreyer’s films were based on works of fiction or plays, with the exception of The Passion of Joan of Arc, which was essentially based on the official transcripts of the proceedings of Joan’s trial—albeit higly selective and radically compressed portions of that trial. It was made only eight years after Joan was canonized in France and ten years after the end of World War I, both of which were central to Dreyer’s interpretation. The helmets worn by the occupying British in 1431 resemble those in the recent war, and 1928 audiences saw the film as a historical “docu-mentary” rather like the later films of Peter Watkins.
“Dreyer’s radical approach to constructing space and the slow intensity of his mobile camera style make this a “difficult” film in the sense that, like all great films, it reinvents the world from the ground up. The Passion of Joan of Arc is also painful in a way that all Dreyer’s tragedies are, but it will continue to live long after most commercial movies have vanished from memory.”
10. 8 ½ (1963)
Directed by Federico Fellini and scripted by Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Dinelli and Brunello Rondi and starring Marcelo Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee and Sandra Milo.
Jean-Michael Frodon, senior editor on cinema of Le Monde, writes about
“The picture stands as a testimony to an icon of the European Baroque at the midpoint of the 20th century. It is also one of the most brilliant, imaginative, and funny movies of its time. But that’s not all. A turning point in the career of one of the greatest filmmakers of his era, who succeeded in transforming a personal crisis into a work of art, Fellini here paved the road for such subsequent classics as Amarcord, Roma, Satyricon, La Cita Delle Donne, Casanova, and E la Nave Va.
“But there is even more to 8½. The film represents a major step forward in cinema’s march toward modernity, one of the most inventive constructions of a mirror reflection on the creative act itself. Its mental processes as well as its material, psychological, and libidinal obligations are enacted in a Pirandellian extravaganza to be cherished by anyone who cares about the exploration of artistic mechanisms and psychic labyrinths. But even this is not sufficient. Not beyond but inside all these good reasons to treasure 8½ lies the main one, which (it should be said) is also the most modest one.
“This story about the anguish of a director having to make a film, about an artist having to make a work, a man having to deal with women, about a human having to face life and death, is a very simple and touching tale. Through its inventive visions and disturbing situations, playing on the frontier between reality and dreams with humor and fear, it inter-rogates everyone’s relationship with the world, with our parents, our children, the people we work with, the difficulties of getting old, or getting lost, or returning to childhood terrors.”
(Continued next week: the directors’ 10 best films of all time)
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