Entertainment & Arts 1 August 2012Last updated at 13:26 ET
Vertigo is named 'greatest film of all time'
Hitchcock's Vertigo has usurped Orson Welles's Citizen Kane as the
greatest film of all time in a poll by the BFI's Sight and Sound
The magazine polls its experts once a decade - and Citizen Kane has been their top pick for the last 50 years.
This time, 846 distributors, critics, academics and writers
chose Hitchcock's 1958 suspense thriller, about a retired police officer
with a fear of heights.
Starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, Vertigo beat Citizen Kane by 34 votes.
In the last poll 10 years ago, it was five votes short of toppling Kane.
Hitchcock called it his most personal film and it sees the
director tackle one of his recurring themes - love as a fetish that
degrades women and deranges men.
It opens with police officer Scotty Ferguson (Stewart)
retiring from the police force after his vertigo inadvertently leads to
the death of a colleague during a rooftop chase.
He is then hired by an old friend, whose wife Madeleine (Novak) has been behaving strangely.
As the story plays out against a glistening San Francisco
skyline, there are dozens of twists and revelations that challenge the
audience's preconceptions about the characters and events.
It has become famous for a camera trick Hitchcock invented to
represent Scotty's vertigo: A simultaneous zoom-in and pull-back of the
camera that creates a disorientating depth of field, known as a "dolly
zoom" or "trombone shot".
Like 1941's Citizen Kane, Vertigo received mixed reviews on release but has grown in stature as time passed.
The BFI's list contained few surprises, with the top 10 mostly
representing a reshuffle of the 2002 list - and all of the films more
than 40 years old.
Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story from 1953 was ranked third,
bettering its last placement of number five, while Jean Renoir's La
Regle du jeu dropped one place from three to four.
The two new entries in the top 10 were
both silent - Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera (1929) at number
eight, and Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1927) at
The most recent film in the top 10 was Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) at six.
The top British film was The Third Man which came in at number 73.
For the poll, the panel voted for 2,045 films overall.
They were asked to interpret "greatest" as they chose -
whether the film was most important to film history, aesthetic
achievement or personal impact on their own view of cinema.
"This result reflects changes in the culture of film criticism," Nick James, the editor of Sight and Sound said.
"The new cinephilia seems to be not so much about films that
strive to be great art, such as Citizen Kane, and that use cinema's
entire arsenal of effects to make a grand statement, but more about
works that have personal meaning to the critic.
"Vertigo is the ultimate critics' film
because it is a dreamlike film about people who are not sure who they
are but who are busy reconstructing themselves and each other to fit a
kind of cinema ideal of the ideal soul mate."
Meanwhile, in a separate poll run by the magazine involving
358 film directors, Ozu's Tokyo Story was voted the Greatest Film of All
Again Citizen Kane was knocked down to number two, a place it
shared with Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Vertigo took seventh
Directors including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino,
Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and Mike Leigh participated in the
The full results of the polls will be published in Sight and Sound's September issue.
BTW - Kane didn't receive mixed reviews on release (Vertigo did). It was the most acclaimed film of 1941, won the NYFC best film award, was considered the favorite to win best picture even though it was just an average grossing film.
"This result reflects changes in the culture of film criticism," Nick James, the editor of Sight and Sound said."
"The new cinephilia seems to be not so much about films that strive to be great art, such as Citizen Kane, and that use cinema's entire arsenal of effects to make a grand statement, but more about works that have personal meaning to the critic. "
Some context - there is no such thing as a "best" film nor a definitive, authorative survey.
But the Sight and Sound poll is generally considered the gold standard. This is their seventh - once a decade since 1952. Bicycle Thief won in 1952, Citizen Kane every decade since until now.
By all accounts, they greatly changed their voters to get a broader spectrum of experience and age into the mix, but as often happens, these lists are self-reinforcing (which is one of the reasons Kane stood so high for so long).
I talked to the then-editor at Sight and Sound (for a possible business tie in with their poll) before the 2002 list - he indicated a strong desire to get a new #1 just to shake things up. They almost achieved it last time (Vertigo only lost by 5 votes), so it was no surprise it prevailed this time around.
Never will happen. AFI's voters are from a broader range of industry-ites, are all or mainly American (S&S is a worldwide poll of mainly critics). Kane and Vertigo are both great films, but Kane is non-threatening, while Vertigo is divisive.
Next time around, I wouldn't be surprised if they went with The Godfather now that Kane is no longer a default choice,
I think that if any films would top "Kane" on AFI's list, those would be either "The Godfather" or "Raging Bull", since they are gritty crowd pleasers with a singular vision coming from big name directors. "Vertigo" is probably too alienating of a film for AFI (and don't they have "Psycho" higher than "Vertigo", anyway?).
I'm curious how far down the list "Yojimbo" is. As a Kurosawa fan, I've always appreciated "Seven Samurai" for its scope and "Rashomon" for its ability to redefine cinematic storytelling, but I still think that the Mifune vehicle influenced the Western genre more than any Western ever did; it also happens to be Kurosawa's funniest picture.
Watched Taxi Driver two years ago - liked it, saw it again about a month ago and was really turned off by how horrible the whole world is portrayed. Everything is really dark and unjust (Travis' perspective), but it's an endurace test trying to stick with its amount of doom and gloom. Watching it, you'd think the director had a lot of disdain for humanity, which is why no one would be able to guess that the same man directed Hugo.
I loved TD when it came out in '76, but have liked it less with each subsequent viewing. I agree a bit about the worldview (not that bleak is bad, but it didn't seem sincere to me as being Scorsese's true belief). My problem is the one I have most of his films (After Hours, The Last Waltz, Goodfellas and Hugo excepted) - he is great at individual scenes usually, but far less successful with the whole of his films. (Raging Bull has always been like that for me), and suffers from too much bravura at the cost of the totality of his film.