There’s so much posing and bad faith around the whole Sight & Sound list thing –oh i hate lists but here’s mine, with a 10,000 word intro about how all lists are horrible — that I feel moved to say I love lists. I love getting advice on what to see and read. They always offer a curious person a window and an opportunity. There’s no obligation. One needn’t follow up on any of it. As an immigrant kid whose parents did not speak English, lists have been especially important to me as a guide into a foreign culture. And they’ve been a good one. Grace Jones, Tom Waits and The Clash I found on my own, but it’s through lists that I discovered Sinatra and Billy Holiday, Jean Vigo and Jean Gremillon, Stendhal and Baldwin and other artists who’ve enriched my life. I can’t recall any of these lists causing damage. There was a period where I made a conscious decision to stop contributing to some — the S&S one in particular — on the principle that if the magazine had gotten too boring to read one should stop contributing to it. Maybe I was part of the problem. But I was honoured to be asked again and happy to think my suggestions might enrich someone else. The list is not definite; it’s not finite; we’re seeing it constantly changed; it can be challenged. It’s not the only list. But I’m glad they’re all there.
Here is mine:
Conversations with friends highlighted several issues, one that a list of ‘favourites’ would be different than a list of ‘best’, and that we’d all used different criteria. My list of ‘best’ would have been different on any given day but I did have a particular set of criteria. I didn’t care if the films had been influential or radically new. Instead I looked for what I took to be a varied or inventive use of the medium that led to a complex dramatisation and evoked an intensity of sometimes contradictory feelings. So it’s interesting merely to note that people fulfilled the brief according to different criteria.
The second point I’d like to highlight is that people, in expressing dismay over where each film had placed on the list seem to have forgotten how counting works. Nobody chose that The Searchers would come in at 15. It added up to that placement.
There were many other issues brought up but the last one I’d like to bring up here is that if you are going to see Jeanne Dielman, see it on a big screen where you don’t have access to a pause button. Modernist slow films require a cinema experience. On a small screen, it’s something else, something much less powerful and much more unprofitably boring.