It’s come to my attention that the venerable publication Sight and Sound has ousted “Citizen Kane” from its top spot, in favor of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”
The difference in my own attitude may be demonstrated that I favor the word “movie” for the art over “film.”
Most of the choices listed are film school fodder. Some of them are badly, badly dated, like “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” or Keaton’s “The General.”
I made my own “Ten Best” movie list once, though I never finished posting it. My criteria were simple. I judged each movie as a movie—and not, say, as a work of literature. I valued the visual and aural experience, placing emphasis on photography and sound—but also the musical score, if it had one, which I judge to be a large component in the overall experience. I judged each movie as an experience, through watching and hearing the work in a theater, with the movie presented as it should be, on a big screen. (I’ve seen both “Vertigo” and “Citizen Kane” on movie screens.)
If I recall, Hitchcock had two works in my top ten: “Vertigo” and “North by Northwest.” (Another British director, David Lean, had two films on my list as well.) My top choice was unlikely: The medieval epic “El Cid,” made in 1961; directed by Anthony Mann.
Why this film? Seeing it, as I did in Manhattan a few years ago, was an overwhelming experience. The best cinematography ever—most of the movie shot outdoors. Colorful costumes; spectacular scenery.
The sound? The score by Miklos Rozsa is one of the best motion picture scores ever composed. It stays with you for hours, even days, after you’ve left the theater. Not just the music, but the clanking of swords and the pounding of drums, which accompany the most thrilling battle scenes ever put on celluloid.
There’s much more than this: romance; politics; plot. Larger-than-life characters and a one-of-a-kind bizarro ending. An assault on the senses. A stunning and still-relevant roller coaster ride, fantastic, mythic, and real at the same time, encapsulating everything great about movies and the movie-going experience.
But that’s just my choice. What’s yours?