Last week, we featured the five best films of all time as selected by 358 film directors from all over the world. The British Film Institute actually requested the directors to list down what they consider as the best films created since the advent of the era of cinema.
The directors included contemporary American and British auteurs like Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, Mike Leigh and Quentin Tarantino.
The BFI eventually bared the directors’ golden list in the Sight and Sound magazine. The list honored the 100 best films of all time, from the directors’ point of view.
We now present the sixth to tenth best films of said BFI list:
6. Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola and scripted by John Milius and Coppola from the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
Angela Errigo now writes about Apocalypse Now:
“Francis Coppola’s epic was developed by gung-ho, pro-war writer John Milius with Coppola’s Zoetrope colleague and fellow anti-war guilty liberal George Lucas (originally set to direct) as a loose adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novel Heart of Darkness, made pertinent to the war then being fought.
“Flawed but staggering cinema, the set pieces are unforgettable. Apocalypse Now opens (to the Doors’ song, “The End”) with an electrifying montage as the broken and wasted Willard’s demons overwhelm him in a Saigon hotel room. His indispensable and highly quotable narration, an afterthought during editing, was written by Michael Herr, whose Vietnam reportage in Dispatches had provided another source for Milius. Heading up river aboard a patrol boat, Willard and the crew rendezvous with their Air Cavalry escort, commanded by one of the great scary loonies of the screen, Colonel “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” Kilgore, a demented, charismatic surfer dude in a Stetson who orders a dawn raid on a Viet Cong-held coastal village, the film’s tour de force.
“This is but the first of several surreal, nightmarish stoned rock and roll encounters vividly evoking fatal culture clashes and the psychoses of war, leading up to the “Gates of Hell,” an engagement at the last outpost before Cambodia and the scene of an acid-trip frenzy of flares, screams, and gunfire.”
7. The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola and scripted by Coppola and Mario Puzo from the novel by Puzo.
Angela Errico also writes about The Godfather:
“Adapting Mario Puzo’s bestseller, writer-director Francis Ford Coppola made a pulp fiction gangster opera, an epic of patriarchy, family and of America itself. Original protests by Italian-Americans citing defamation were swept away in the film’s staggering popularity. All descendants of immigrants viewed with nostalgic yearning the Corleone clan pounding the pasta, celebrating and sorrowing together.
“It is a masterly work, fully deserving of its reputation. Coppola laid much of the groundwork of 1970s cinema with its commanding technique. The audacious, visceral and stately set pieces are legend—the horse’s head in the bed, Sonny’s slaughter, the intercutting of a sunny wedding party in the garden with Don Corleone’s court indoors, and the dazzling finale of assassinations carried out during the christening of a new Corleone (in effect the sacramental rites for Michael as he assumes the role of Godfather).
The film’s finest qualities reveal Coppola’s fluency in classics, pulp, noir, and social dramas, but an enduring criticism of The Godfather is that it glorifies the Mafia. Pacino’s Michael is the film’s hero, and Michael is not a good guy. But its mythic exploration of familial ties, be it one cursed in blood and ambition, still entices viewers with the idea that family is better than no family at all.”
8. Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock and scripted by Samuel A. Taylor and Alex Coppel based on the novel d’Entre les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. (Number 1 in critics’ list)
Kim Newman, novelist, critic and broadcaster, writes about Vertigo:
“Though director Alfred Hitchcock was then at the height of his critical success and commercial fame, Vertigo was not a well-liked film at the time of its release. Most criticism focused on the intricate and unlikely plot dependent on a fiendishly implausible murder scheme on the part of a thinly-characterized villain, whose exposure is about as much a surprise as the ending of your average Scooby Doo episode. The climax is so concerned with something else that the killer seems to get away with it—though Hitchcock shot an unnecessary tag, in the spirit of his TV narrations, to reveal that he was brought to justice. Closer to the mark, there was a genuine feeling of discomfort at the nasty little relationship between Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak around which the film turns.
But during a lengthy period in which Vertigo was unavailable for copyright reasons, the film was critically reassessed. Now it is held to be one of the Master’s greatest works.”
9. The Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky and scripted by Aleksandr Misharin and Tarkovsky.
Adrian Martin, film critic for The Age, writes about The Mirror:
“It is a beguiling and remarkable film—hard to encapsulate, because it is so full of the pregnant mysteriousness of places, people, and gestures. This fugitive self-portrait by Tarkovsky is an inter-generational affair, in which the terse melancholy of his mother’s situation—is mirrored by his own adult relationship.
“Mirror is constructed as a collage, in which recreated vignettes that deliberately blur past and present are freely mingled with archival footage from several countries and disquietingly disconnected quotations from classic music (Bach, Pergolesi, Purcell). The ambience is dreamlike, secretive, elliptical.
“Tarkovsky, like Robert Bresson, is a master of the precisely chosen image and sound. The economy of his camera movements and the gradual revealing of the disparate parts of any scene create an aura and an effect that overflow the material reality of what we see and hear, opening a portal to another world. His is a cinema of texture, of aura, and the senses. Mirror is all at once an intimate confession, a summoning of history, and a cryptic poem.”
10. The Bicycle Thief by Vittorio de Sica, scripted by Cesare Zavattini, Oreste Biancoli, Suso d’Amico, Vittorio de Sica, Adolfo Franci and Gerardo Guerrieri, from the noval Ladri di Biciclette by Luigi Bartolini.
Jonathan Rosenbaum, film critic for the Chicago Reader, writes about The Bicycle Thief:
“Antonio Ricci, an unemployed worker in postwar Rome, finds a job putting up movie posters, after his wife pawns the family’s bedsheets to get his bicycle out of hock. But right after he starts work the bike is stolen, and with his little boy Bruno in tow he crisscrosses the city trying to recover it, encountering various aspects of Roman society, including some of the more acute class differences, in the process.
“This masterpiece—the Italian title translates as “bicycle thieves”—is generally and correctly known as one of the key works of Italian neorealism.
“The Bicycle Thief contains what is possibly the greatest depiction of a relationship between a father and a son in the history of cinema, full of subtle fluctuations and evolving gradations between the two characters in terms of respect and trust, and it’s an awesome heart-breaker. It also has its moments of Chaplinesque comedy—the contrasting behavior of two little boys having lunch at the same restaurant. Set alongside a film like Life is Beautiful (1997), provides some notion of how much of mainstream world cinema and its relation to reality has been infantilized over the past half century.”
The films included in the critics’ list which did not make it into the directors’ honor roll are: number 4 La Regle du Jeu or Rules of the game by Jean Renoir; number 5 Sunrise: A Song for Two Humans by Murnau; number 7 The Searchers by John Ford; number 8 Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov; and number 9 The Passion of Joan of Arc by Dreyer.
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