Monday, September 3, 2018

A Feminist Rebuttal to the "Sight and Sound" Top 50 Critics' Poll

Sight and Sound has a tradition of polling critics every ten years, asking them to rank the fifty greatest films of all time. Inevitably - of course - such a ranking will have both a streak of quixoticism (how on earth, with more than a century of filmmaking, is one to really make such pronouncements?) and the flattening effect of consensus, since the most idiosyncratic, obscure, and odd films won't make the cut, once all the numerical shenanigans are done. (And I do mean shenanigans - this is a poll of fifty films that actually has fifty films on it.) Still, it's worth noting that in the last poll, conducted in 2012, only one film out of the fifty that made the list was directed by a woman: Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. So, here is an alternative list of fifty great films, all directed by women, each of which offers an alternative to the choices in the original poll. This is not to say that the original choices aren't great films. Many of the choices are among my very favorites, such as The Passion of Joan of Arc, Some Like It Hot, and The Rules of the Game. Rather, the alternatives are meant to expand the scope that any poll can offer and to remove the inherent gender imbalances that still prevail in both film criticism as practiced and the very concept of hierarchizing works of art.

1. Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation [Vertigo]
2. Mai Zetterling's Loving Couples [Citizen Kane]
3. Larisa Shepitko's Wings [Tokyo Story]
4. Lina Wertmüller's Love and Anarchy [The Rules of the Game]
5. Frances Marion's The Love Light [Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans]
6. Lana and Lilly Wachowski's The Matrix [2001: A Space Odyssey]
7. Jane Campion's Top of the Lake [The Searchers]
8. Germaine Dulac's The Smiling Madame Beudet [Man With a Movie Camera]
9. Forugh Farrokhzad's The House Is Black [The Passion of Joan of Arc]
10. Sally Potter's Orlando [8 1/2]
11. Sarah Gavron's Suffragette [Battleship Potemkin]
12. Dorothy Arzner's Christopher Strong [L'Atalante]
13. Chantal Akerman's Je, Tu, Il, Elle [Breathless]
14. Larisa Shepitko's Ascent [Apocalypse Now]
15. Diane Kurys's For a Woman [Late Spring]
16. Anne Fontaine's The Innocents [Au Hasard Balthazar]
17. Jane Campion's The Piano [Seven Samurai]
18. Mai Zetterling's The Girls [Persona]
19. Pina Bausch's Café Müller [Mirror]
20. Gillian Armstrong's Women He's Undressed [Singin' in the Rain]
21. Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon [L'Avventura]
21. Catherine Breillat's Romance [Contempt]
21. Lina Wertmüller's Seven Beauties [The Godfather]
24. Suzanne Schiffman's Sorceress [Ordet]
24. Gillian Armstrong's Oscar and Lucinda [In the Mood for Love]
26. Liliana Cavani's Beyond Good and Evil [Rashomon]
26. Margarethe von Trotta's Vision - From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen [Andrei Rublev]
28. Laetitia Colombani's He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not [Mulholland Dr.]
29. Germaine Dulac's The Seashell and the Clergyman [Stalker]
29. Agnieszka Holland's Europa Europa [Shoah]
31. Nancy Savoca's Household Saints [The Godfather Part II]
31. Anna Biller's The Love Witch [Taxi Driver]
33. Shirley Clarke's The Cool World [Bicycle Thieves]
34. Elaine May's The Heartbreak Kid [The General]
35. Petra Epperlein's Karl Marx City [Metropolis]
35. Mary Harron's I Shot Andy Warhol [Psycho]
35. Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
35. Lina Wertmüller's Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women, and Crime) [Sátántangó]
39. Agnès Varda's Vagabond [The 400 Blows]
39. Chantal Akerman's La Captive [La dolce vita]
41. Ida Lupino's The Bigamist [Journey to Italy]
42. Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank [Pather Panchali]
42. Ida Lupino's The Trouble with Angels [Some Like It Hot]
42. Catherine Breillat's The Last Mistress [Getrud]
42. Věra Chytilová's Daisies [Pierrot le Fou]
42. Sharon Maguire's Bridget Jones's Diary [Playtime]
42. Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell [Close-Up]
48. Liliana Cavani's The Skin [The Battle of Algiers]
48. Agnès Varda's The Gleaners and I [Histoire(s) du cinéma]
50. Francesca Bertini's Assunta Spina [City Lights]
50. Lotte Reiniger's The Adventures of Prince Achmed [Ugetsu Monogatori]
50. Maya Deren's At Land [La jetée]

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