I read the Independent on Sunday this weekend for the first time in quite a while, and was very pleased to learn that David Thomson, the author of the awesome Biographical Dictionary of Film (new edition coming out I see) is compiling his Top Ten Films.
If there is one reason to buy the Independent on Sunday these days, it’s for its film coverage. David Thomson regularly pens articles and they have a decent amount of film coverage – and I don’t mean puff piece articles conducted with whichever star is in town and spent ten minutes with them in a suite at The Dorchester. The Sunday Times is an excellent example of the latter – they have a worse film review section than most of the tabloids. Of course Philip French in The Observer is unmissable. And for all his hobby horses, Alexander Walker in the London Evening Standard is well worth reading.
Anyway, back to Thomson’s Top Ten films. A couple of years ago Derek Malcolm compiled his century of cinema, which was published in weekly segments over a couple of years. Of course this sort of thing has been done before, but it’s much more satisfying when it’s someone whose opinion you respect, and who you know is going to open your eyes to many films that you’d not previously heard about. David Thomson is such a critic, so therefore I was very pleased about this top ten.
Thomson introduces his selection with a few rules – how else can you possibly pick a top 10? Thomson, does and here are my thoughts on the ones he’s chosen so far.
Number one is La R�gle du Jeu which I haven’t seen. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit this, since I was moved enough by a previous article that David Thomson wrote about this film to go out and buy the video – but I haven’t yet watched it! I even cut out and kept the article which warned me not to read it unitl I’d seen the film. I’m still sticking to this principle, so I’ve printed out Thomson’s notes to read after I finally see the film.
Number two is His Girl Friday – a film that I know and love. I have called it my favourite film of all time, since it was made at a time when they knew how to make comedies. More on this some other time.
Number three is Citizen Kane (these are ordered by Thomson chronologically by the way), which is widely considered one of the best ever films. Considering when it was made, its subject matter and the like, this is an astonishing work.
I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t even heard of numbers four and five – Ugetsu Monogatari and A Man Escaped. I shall have to read the articles like you to learn more. More additions to my DVD collection?
He also mentions that this September, Sight and Sound will once again be publishing its poll of critics of the top ten films of all time. This has been published every ten years since 1952, and as ever it will be fascinating to see where films come. I must admit to detesting the Empire magazine/Channel 4 school of best films ever, which see films such as Star Wars, The Shawshank Redemption and Gladiator, alongside true classics like Some Like It Hot. Of course Star Wars is a classic of its sort – but bearing in mind that it is essentially a homage to many other movies, in particular The Hidden Fortress – can it be the best film ever? It’s more down to the mentality of people who won’t watch a film that isn’t in the English language, isn’t in colour, and doesn’t have special effects. But we all know all this.