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Aug 1st 2012, 10:36

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BBC News
Entertainment & Arts
1 August 2012
Last updated at 13:26 ET



Vertigo is named 'greatest film of all time'

Alfred 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 magazine.

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.

Silent films

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 nine.

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 Time.

Again Citizen Kane was knocked down to number two, a place it shared with Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Vertigo took seventh place.

Directors including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and Mike Leigh participated in the poll.

The full results of the polls will be published in Sight and Sound's September issue.


Aug 1st 2012, 10:44

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offlineadamunc
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Can't disagree at all.

By the sea, in our nest, we could share our kippers
With the odd paying guest from the weekend trippers
Have a nice sunny suite for the guest to rest in
Now and then, you could do the guest in

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Aug 1st 2012, 11:26

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offlinecezarrrr
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Vertigo is my third favorite film, behind 2001: A Space Odyssey (2nd) and Citizen Kane (1st). I am happy Vertigo got the top spot, but I'd still prefer if Kane topped it again.
Aug 1st 2012, 12:09

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offlineScottferguson
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Probably my favorite of their lists ever. If Kane had to be replaced (I felt sympathy for it, but it isn't even my favorite of Welles' masterpieces) I'm glad it was Vertigo that did it.


Amazing that Tokyo Story was listed as best ever by the directors polled. It, along with Vertigo, Rules of the Game and Sunrise rotate for me as the greatest film I've ever seen.   


  

 

Aug 1st 2012, 12:12

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offlineScottferguson
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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.

 

Aug 1st 2012, 12:25

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offlinebabypook
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"This result reflects changes in the culture of film criticism," Nick James, the editor of Sight and Sound said."

Maybe,

"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. "

Agree entirely with this statement.

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Aug 1st 2012, 13:53

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offlineScottferguson
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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.      

 

Aug 1st 2012, 17:05

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offlineDD
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Now I wonder if AFI will place "Vertigo" at #1...

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Aug 1st 2012, 18:46

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offlineScottferguson
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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,  

 

Aug 1st 2012, 20:15

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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?).
Aug 2nd 2012, 18:26

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offlineScottferguson
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The announcement of these lists was made on prime time British TV (although opposite the Olympics) - it's that big a deal.

The big surprise was three silent films (three masterpieces indeed) in the top 9 - that is considered a victory for DVD and restorations and more availability.

Taxi Driver replacing Raging Bull as Scorsese's best film surprised some.




Here are 11-50 from the critics (actually 52 because of a tie for 50th):


11. Battleship Potemkin

Sergei Eisenstein, 1925 (63 votes)

12. L’Atalante

Jean Vigo, 1934 (58 votes)

13. Breathless

Jean-Luc Godard, 1960 (57 votes)

14. Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola, 1979 (53 votes)

15. Late Spring

Ozu Yasujiro, 1949 (50 votes)

16. Au hasard Balthazar

Robert Bresson, 1966 (49 votes)

17= Seven Samurai

Kurosawa Akira, 1954 (48 votes)

17= Persona

Ingmar Bergman, 1966 (48 votes)

19. Mirror

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974 (47 votes)

 

20. Singin’ in the Rain

Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1951 (46 votes)

21= L’avventura

Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960 (43 votes)

21= Le Mépris

Jean-Luc Godard, 1963 (43 votes)

21= The Godfather

Francis Ford Coppola, 1972 (43 votes)

24= Ordet

Carl Dreyer, 1955 (42 votes)

24= In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar-Wai, 2000 (42 votes)

26= Rashomon

Kurosawa Akira, 1950 (41 votes)

26= Andrei Rublev

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966 (41 votes)

28. Mulholland Dr.

David Lynch, 2001 (40 votes)

29= Stalker

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979 (39 votes)

29= Shoah

Claude Lanzmann, 1985 (39 votes)

 

31= The Godfather Part II

Francis Ford Coppola, 1974 (38 votes)

31= Taxi Driver

Martin Scorsese, 1976 (38 votes)

33. Bicycle Thieves

Vittoria De Sica, 1948 (37 votes)

34. The General

Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, 1926 (35 votes)

35= Metropolis

Fritz Lang, 1927 (34 votes)

35= Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock, 1960 (34 votes)

35= Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

Chantal Akerman, 1975 (34 votes)

35= Sátántangó

Béla Tarr, 1994 (34 votes)

39= The 400 Blows

François Truffaut, 1959 (33 votes)

39= La dolce vita

Federico Fellini, 1960 (33 votes)

 

41. Journey to Italy

Roberto Rossellini, 1954 (32 votes)

42= Pather Panchali

Satyajit Ray, 1955 (31 votes)

42= Some Like It Hot

Billy Wilder, 1959 (31 votes)

42= Gertrud

Carl Dreyer, 1964 (31 votes)

42= Pierrot le fou

Jean-Luc Godard, 1965 (31 votes)

42= Play Time

Jacques Tati, 1967 (31 votes)

42= Close-Up

Abbas Kiarostami, 1990 (31 votes)

48= The Battle of Algiers

Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966 (30 votes)

48= Histoire(s) du cinéma

Jean-Luc Godard, 1998 (30 votes)

50= City Lights

Charlie Chaplin, 1931 (29 votes)

50= Ugetsu monogatari

Mizoguchi Kenji, 1953 (29 votes)

50= La Jetée

Chris Marker, 1962 (29 votes)      


       

 

Aug 2nd 2012, 21:25

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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.

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Aug 2nd 2012, 23:59

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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.
Aug 3rd 2012, 09:40

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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.

 

Aug 4th 2012, 04:37

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Somewhat surprised there's no Sirk film in the top 50.