Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Frenchies Name Top 100 Films, Piss Off Brits and Confuse All

In an effort to make money by selling fancy books, the venerable Cahiers du Cinéma surveyed 76 French film experts to determine which 100 films most deserved to be featured in a fancy book. Setting aside certain reliables, the results are surprising in good ways, bad ways and most often perplexing ways.

"Citizen Kane" takes its predictable and hard-to-argue-against spot at number one, but the vote totals revealed that it did so by only one measly vote. Yes, had any single voter decided to bump Welles's masterpiece off his or her ballot to make a point about how "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" doesn't get enough respect, "Kane" would have split first place with Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter" and Jean Renoir's "The Rules of the Game."

While a few nice surprises placed in the top 10, things only really get weird in the lower rankings, where many directors' best-known works were overlooked in favor of other efforts. Surrealist mischief-maker Luis Buñuel, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, only makes one appearance on the list with "El," the 1953 tale of jealousy and obsession from his Mexican period. The film, which tallied the minimum number needed to make the list, is certainly a worthy inclusion, but one wonders what happened to "The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie," "The Exterminating Angel" or—well, it's Buñuel, so I could go on listing films for quite a while. That Buñuel received the eighth most votes of any director and only had one film on the list testifies to the extreme quality of his remarkable body of work.

I certainly didn't expect to see my favorite Ernst Lubitsch film, "To Be or Not To Be," all the way up at number 12, with the better known "Trouble in Paradise" at 58. But that was the least of the oddities. Elia Kazan narrowly made the list, but not with his canonized "On the Waterfront" or even "A Street Car Named Desire." He did it with "America, America." Joseph L. Mankiewicz didn't make the list with "All About Eve," but "The Barefoot Contessa" (a good film with some inspired moments, but not one I expected to see on a top 100 list). And instead of recognizing Martin Scorsese for "Taxi Driver" or "Raging Bull" or "Goodfellas" or "Mean Streets" or "After Hours" or "The Last Temptation of Christ," uh… Oh. Hrm. Scorsese didn't make the list at all. And Leo McCarey placed with "An Affair to Remember" rather than "The Aw—

Wait a minute. "An Affair to Remember" made the list, yet no Scorsese film did? The fuck?

Italian Neo-Realism suffered a setback at the hands of the Frenchies, who relegated "Bicycle Theives," "Rome, Open City" and "Senso" to the lower tiers while ignoring "Rocco and His Brothers" entirely. But that's nothing compared to what happened to the entire country of Great Britain. No Powell and Pressburger, no David Lean, no Mike Leigh, no Carol Reed—yes, including "The Third Man!"

"An Affair to Remember" made the list but "The Third Man" didn't? Neither did anything by Kieslowski, Herzog, Malick or Fassbinder? Or "Last Year at Marienbad?" The fuck?

Fortunately, silents were well represented on the list, including "The Crowd," "Greed," "The Wind," "Intolerance" and three films by the great F.W. Murnau, including "Sunrise" at number 4. The French voters were apparently too busy trying to list every Charlot film they could think of to surprise us with an unexpected Keaton, and so only voted on "The General." How 1960s of them. It's time to wake up and realize that Keaton made quite a few other masterpieces, folks. Remember the one where the house falls on him or when he walks into the movie screen? Oh, mais regard!: Charlot habillé comme Hitler et joue avec le monde!

Anyway, here's the list. It's not bad, as far as lists like this go, but it is a bit confounding with its combination of obvious picks and out-of-nowhere inclusions. The Cahiers page is kind of confusing and other sites decided to just assign each film a numerical ranking, using the alphabetical ordering of the French title as the tie-breaker. I've formatted it with the intent to reflect the list's many ties (especially towards the bottom of the list), yet still make clear where each film ranks.

Rank 1 (48 Votes)
Citizen Kane - Orson Welles

Rank 2 (47 Votes)
The Night of the Hunter - Charles Laughton
The Rules of the Game (La Règle du jeu) - Jean Renoir

Rank 4 (46 Votes)
Sunrise - Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau

Rank 5 (43 Votes)
L’Atalante - Jean Vigo

Rank 6 (40 Votes)
M - Fritz Lang

Rank 7 (39 Votes)
Singin’ in the Rain - Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly

Rank 8 (35 Votes)
Vertigo - Alfred Hitchcock

Rank 9 (34 Votes)
Children of Paradise (Les Enfants du Paradis) - Marcel Carné
The Searchers - John Ford
Greed - Erich von Stroheim

Rank 12 (33 Votes)
Rio Bravo - Howard Hawkes
To Be or Not to Be - Ernst Lubitsch

Rank 14 (29 Votes)
Tokyo Story - Yasujiro Ozu

Rank 15 (28 Votes)
Contempt (Le Mépris) - Jean-Luc Godard

Rank 16 (27 Votes)
Tales of Ugetsu (Ugetsu monogatari) - Kenji Mizoguchi
City Lights - Charlie Chaplin
The General - Buster Keaton
Nosferatu the Vampire - Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
The Music Room - Satyajit Ray

Rank 21 (26 Votes)
Freaks - Tod Browning
Johnny Guitar - Nicholas Ray
The Mother and the Whore (La Maman et la Putain) - Jean Eustache

Rank 24 (25 Votes)
The Great Dictator - Charlie Chaplin
The Leopard (Le Guépard) - Luchino Visconti
Hiroshima, My Love - Alain Resnais
Pandora's Box (Loulou) - Georg Wilhelm Pabst
North by Northwest - Alfred Hitchcock
Pickpocket - Robert Bresson

Rank 30 (24 Votes)
Golden Helmet (Casque d’or) - Jacques Becker
The Barefoot Contessa - Joseph Mankiewitz
Moonfleet - Fritz Lang
The Earrings of Madame de… - Max Ophüls
Pleasure - Max Ophüls
The Deer Hunter - Michael Cimino

Rank 36 (23 Votes)
L'Avventura - Michelangelo Antonioni
Battleship Potemkin - Sergei M. Eisenstein
Notorious - Alfred Hitchcock
Ivan the Terrible - Sergei M. Eisenstein
The Godfather - Francis Ford Coppola
Touch of Evil - Orson Welles
The Wind - Victor Sjöström

Rank 43 (22 Votes)
2001: A Space Odyssey - Stanley Kubrick
Fanny and Alexander - Ingmar Bergman

Rank 45 (21 Votes)
The Crowd - King Vidor
8 1/2 - Federico Fellini
La Jetée - Chris Marker
Pierrot le Fou - Jean-Luc Godard
Confessions of a Cheat (Le Roman d’un tricheur) - Sacha Guitry

Rank 50 (20 Votes)
Amarcord - Federico Fellini
Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête) - Jean Cocteau
Some Like It Hot - Billy Wilder
Some Came Running - Vincente Minnelli
Gertrud - Carl Theodor Dreyer
King Kong - Ernst Shoedsack & Merian J. Cooper
Laura - Otto Preminger
The Seven Samurai - Akira Kurosawa

Rank 58 (19 Votes)
The 400 Blows - François Truffaut
La Dolce Vita - Federico Fellini
The Dead - John Huston
Trouble in Paradise - Ernst Lubitsch
It’s a Wonderful Life - Frank Capra
Monsieur Verdoux - Charlie Chaplin
The Passion of Joan of Arc - Carl Theodor Dreyer

Rank 65 (18 Votes)
À bout de souffle (Breathless) - Jean-Luc Godard
Apocalypse Now - Francis Ford Coppola
Barry Lyndon - Stanley Kubrick
La Grande Illusion - Jean Renoir
Intolerance - David Wark Griffith
A Day in the Country (Partie de campagne) - Jean Renoir
Playtime - Jacques Tati
Rome, Open City - Roberto Rossellini
Livia (Senso) - Luchino Visconti
Modern Times - Charlie Chaplin
Van Gogh - Maurice Pialat

Rank 76 (17 Votes)
An Affair to Remember - Leo McCarey
Andrei Rublev - Andrei Tarkovsky
The Scarlet Empress - Joseph von Sternberg
Sansho the Bailiff - Kenji Mizoguchi
Talk to Her - Pedro Almodóvar
The Party - Blake Edwards
Tabu - Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
The Bandwagon - Vincente Minnelli
A Star Is Born - George Cukor
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday - Jacques Tati

Rank 86 (16 Votes)
America, America - Elia Kazan
El - Luis Buñuel
Kiss Me Deadly - Robert Aldrich
Once Upon a Time in America - Sergio Leone
Daybreak (Le Jour se lève) - Marcel Carné
Letter from an Unknown Woman - Max Ophüls
Lola - Jacques Demy
Manhattan - Woody Allen
Mulholland Dr. - David Lynch
My Night at Maud’s (Ma nuit chez Maud) - Eric Rohmer
Night and Fog (Nuit et Brouillard) - Alain Resnais
The Gold Rush - Charlie Chaplin
Scarface - Howard Hawks
Bicycle Thieves - Vittorio de Sica
Napoléon - Abel Gance

Top Directors
Charles Laughton only directed one film in his career, but with the votes for that film he managed to beat out Preminger, McCarey, Cukor and Tati in the rankings for most votes. Well done, Chuck. (One wonders if Laughton would have split his vote had gone on to direct 10 more projects. But we'll never know.)

Jean Renoir 155
Alfred Hitchcock 146
Fritz Lang 143
Charles Chaplin 128
John Ford 124
Orson Welles 114
Ingmar Bergman 113
Luis Buñuel 110
Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau 108
Howard Hawks 105
Jean-Luc Godard 99
Federico Fellini 99
Ernst Lubitsch 98
Luchino Visconti 90
Robert Bresson 90
Kenji Mizoguchi 87
Akira Kurosawa 86
Max Ophuls 83
Alain Resnais 82
Carl Theodor Dreyer 76
François Truffaut 75
Stanley Kubrick 75
Vincente Minnelli 73
Joseph Mankiewicz 73
Roberto Rosselini 73
Josef von Sternberg 69
Michelangelo Antonioni 67
S. M. Eisenstein 65
Marcel Carné 64
Billy Wilder 61
Buster Keaton 61
Yasujiro Ozu 60
Eric von Stroheim 60
John Huston 59
Elia Kazan 55
King Vidor 53
David Wark Griffith 53
Maurice Pialat 52
Jean Vigo 51
Nicholas Ray 49
Jacques Becker 48
Woody Allen 48
Francis Ford Coppola 47
Jacques Demy 47
Charles Laughton 47
Jacques Tati 46
Otto Preminger 45
Leo McCarey 45
George Cukor 44
Raoul Walsh 44


Anonymous said...

Hey, how come I'm not on that list? But they've got that movie "Playtime" on there? Have they even seen it? Allow me to explain "filmmaking." So in that movie, in that first shot, it's just like blue sky and clouds and shit....and that's it! Just the fuckin' sky, man! .... I know! I'll tell you what happened, man - what happened is that Tati guy accidentally turned the camera on and it was pointing to the sky and he didn't even realize it, so he was stuck with that shot...what a retard! You want to know what I would have done with that shot? Alright, I'll tell you. So we can keep the sky, alright, but not JUST the sky. No, flying through the sky is a big half-man, half-Tyronnosaurus Rex, half-helicopter .... riding a skateboard. But not just any skateboard! A skateboard that shoots LASER BEAMS! [stroke stroke stroke] And then, and then, and then ... and then he's like being attacked in the middle of the air by a giant bear riding a rocket ship [stroke stroke stroke] flanked by a bunch of aliens with 12 eyes who have big missiles coming out of their hands and feet. And that's not it, though ... no, there's also a bunch of flying stars that are exploding in the background and [stroke stroke stroke] 34 different planets are in the background, too, and they all have space stations on them that you can see, because when you're watching a movie, you want to see a bunch of STUFF instead of just the cocksucking sky. (I can see the sky any time I want, duh!) Anyway, then there's like a big explosion! [stroke stroke stroke] And then a bunch of candy falls to the nearest planet because everyone was caught in a force field that turned into a giant intergalactactic pinata ... only it's not candy at all, is it? No, it's a bunch of dead alien body parts.

Anyway, that's how I would have made "Playtime," and if I would have, it would have been No. 1 on that stupid French list.

"Attack of the Clones," man. Those Frenchies just don't understand.

Anonymous said...

They should have made "An Affair to Remember" number 1 on their list. Although if George Lucas made that movie he was talking about in his comment AND CGed in a shot of Buster Keaton teabagging Orson Welles, THAT would barely edge out what is otherwise the most deserving film. A stroke of genius, I'd call it.

Jeremy Mathews said...

This sounds like one of those personal films about light, motion and color that you've always been meaning to make, Georgie. By the way, when is the next Clone Wars movie coming out? I hope there are 10,000 clones of Crossdresser the Hut, each a slightly different shade of lavender so we can tell them apart.

Unknown said...

Well, I think if the Cahiers had gotten a dub with a more accurate approximation of Ziro the Hut's original voice we'd be looking a different list.

Jeremy Mathews said...

Too bad that the Frenchies could never understand what Truman Capote was saying, no matter what language he spoke, or they would have heard Ziro in all his glory.