A lot of the bluster is finally dying down regarding Sight & Sound’s recent release of their Greatest Films of All-Time list. They have both a list compiled by critics and a list compiled by directors, with various director top 10s trickling out over the last few weeks. Most of the discussion has centered around Vertigo (1958) toppling Citizen Kane (1941) for the top slot. But I don’t care about that. They’re both great, and you should see them both if you like movies. It’s the director lists I’d like to discuss.
I was checking out this list of 20 directors and their top 10s, and a few things jumped out at me. First and foremost, I love how much the lists reflect the kinds of films these various filmmakers create. Quentin Tarantino’s list is the most eclectic, eschewing the classics for lesser-known and more recent fare. Scorsese’s list is very Italian, with 4 of his 10 coming from Italy (including one I’d never heard of about the mob). Bela Tarr loves the dry stuff- Tokyo Story, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alexander Nevsky, and Au Hasard Balthazar. Woody Allen is a fan of classic art house. Edgar Wright’s list is a blend of action, horror, and comedy. And then, there’s Guillermo del Toro’s list.
The list that del Toro created is an example of why I’m drawn to the guy as a filmmaker. His list features some of the best, and most influential, horror films ever made- Frankenstein (1931) and Nosferatu (1922). It also features two spectacularly inventive and hard to define films- Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932) and Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bete (1946). For good measure, the list also includes my favorite Chaplin film (Modern Times), a highly underrated Buñuel film (Los Olvidados), and Scorsese’s epic, Goodfellas. It’s not exactly the list I would make but it features the filmmakers I’d want to highlight.
It’s worth noting how much respect Scorsese has amongst his peers. It’s completely justified, but unexpected since he’s such a relative newcomer in the history of cinema. Four of his films- Raging Bull (1980), Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990), and even The King of Comedy (1983)– popped up on the other 19 lists in that article. 10 of the other 19, more than half, listed at least one Scorsese film. It makes me really happy to see him getting those kinds of accolades. He deserves it.
The list that most echoes what I might make comes from Woody Allen. His list also includes a Buñuel film, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972); Bergman’s seminal work, The Seventh Seal (1957); Citizen Kane (1941); Truffaut’s epic, The 400 Blows (1959); and Grand Illusion (1937). This is noteworthy to me for a few reasons. Bergman and Buñuel are my two favorites, and Woody Allen has always had a tremendous respect for Bergman. Also, you my note that the two French films he included are both films that placed in the top 10 of my recent 50 Greatest French Films list. Like my list, he had Grand Illusion in higher regard than Rules of the Game, which is not common.
More than anything else, I admire the diversity of the individual director lists. None of them really fixate on any one genre. You have to love movies a lot, and love a lot about a lot of different kinds of movies, to endure the trials and tribulations of making a movie. I think these lists bear that out.