Thursday, 16 August 2012

Olaf's Ballot

  1. Afrique 50 (René Vautier, 1950)
  2. Dialogue With a Woman Departed (Leo T. Hurwitz, 1980)
  3. Jiābiāngōu/The Ditch (Wang Bing, 2010)
  4. Einleitung zu Arnold Schönbergs “Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielscene/Introduction to Arnold Schoenberg's Accompaniment to a Cinematic Scene (Jean-Marie Straub/Danièle Huillet, 1973)
  5. Gebet für die Linke/Prayer for the Left (Reni Mertens & Walter Marti, 1974)
  6. Jom (Ababacar Samb-Makharam, 1981)
  7. Níhóngdēng xià de shàobīng/Sentinels under the Neon Lights (Wáng Píng, 1964)
  8. Outrage (Ida Lupino, 1950)
  9. Rabočij poselok/Workers' Settlement (Vladimir Vengerov, 1965)
  10. La strada lunga un anno/The Year Long Road (Giuseppe De Santis, 1958)


  1. Thanks for posting this, Christopher! One note should be added: he specifically did not include films prior to some cutoff year, I forget what, late 40s I think...

  2. His reasoning for cutting out silents and pre-codes is no doubt very bold, but it seems like the answer isn't to be found in the sizeable addendum that follows his list (which I love):

    "If the poll had permitted a 12, my list would also have included: Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1977) and Time Out (Laurent Cantet, 2001). A Colour Box appears in my top ten as the survivor of a fight to the death with Lye’s later, black-and-white animation Free Radicals (1958). In making this choice, I allowed the clearer film history significance of the earlier film to trump personal preference. Again in terms of pure personal preference, Mambéty’s mini-features Badou Boy (1970) and Le Franc (1994) rank equally for me with the full-length feature Touki Bouki (1973), which survived the final cut on the grounds of length (and therefore as a greater milestone and more sustained achievement) alongside its enduring iconoclasm, representational firsts and sheer strangeness. Sembene’s masterpiece Xala is listed subject to an honourable mention for final feature of the father of African cinema, Moolaadé (2004). As many contributors to the 1992 poll noted, attempting to select the ten best films of all time is an essentially absurd, painful and impossible task. I found it especially so as so much of my passion for film is directed towards ‘impure’ cinema, and owes more to personal enthusiasms and a revisionist sensibility than ‘the canon’. Any implicit pressure towards consensus and auteurism – and both, I think, are unavoidably present in a general ‘all-time greats’ poll – leaves me cold. The task of selecting just ten films felt like a stark choice: either go with the flow and rubber-stamp an established pantheon (Citizen Kane: tick; Vertigo versus Psycho versus Rear Window: tick one) or compile a list that gives more weight to a mixture of neglected or iconoclastic genius (Lye, Chytilovà, Mambéty) and intemperate personal enthusiasms that have proved timeless rather than fleeting. In short, films that changed something for me, radically, and to enduring effect, as well as films I watch and enjoy, immoderately and repeatedly, more often that Citizen Kane. Approaching the poll on this second basis, my working longlist ran to almost 50 films (outtakes list available on request). Several directors in this list I thought to be ‘essential’ are unrepresented in the final cut (Almodóvar, Breillat, Jarman, Kaurismäki, Polanski) because I couldn’t decide which film to list to the exclusion of others. The one film immovably in my top ten from the start was Ivory’s Maurice, and I’m happy to argue the case for why. My vote almost certainly marks Maurice’s first appearance in a Sight & Sound poll, which also coincides with the film’s 25th anniversary. Ivory’s The Remains of the Day (1993) received a few votes in the 2002 poll, but Maurice is the more important and enduring film: as unshowy as it is beautiful, as politically necessary as ever, and the source of one of the greatest (and strangest) screen kisses of all time.”

  3. Lovely! Thanks. Now I just need to convince him to release his list as a DVD boxset...