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The 2012 Sight & Sound poll - Citizen Kane dethroned after fifty years


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So in case you've never heard of this every ten years loads of critics and directors vote on this bad boy. It's a pretty big deal as far as polls go I guess. Bit of a surprise at the top of the critic's list this time around but certainly a more than worthy winner.

Here's the critic's top ten (full top fifty here):

1. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)

2. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)

3. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)

4. La Regle du Jeu (Renoir, 1939)

5. Sunrise: a Song for Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)

7. The Searchers (Ford, 1956)

8. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)

9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1927)

10. 8½ (Fellini, 1963)

And the director's:

1. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)

2. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)

4. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)

5. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)

6. Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)

7. The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)

7. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)

9. Mirror (Tarkovsky, 1974)

10. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)

Apparently they'll be putting a full, interactive list of the critic's individual top tens up in a couple of weeks with the directors following suit a week later. So that'll be a couple of afternoons probably wasted if you've anything like me.

You can peruse some of the older results here (if they've re-done that page somewhere on the new site I'm fucked if I can find it).

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Depends how old/young you were when you first saw it. I do think it's a film you can understand and relate to more and more the older you get. It's also fucking brilliant (whatever you think of the film overall, some of the sequences are completely burned into my memory due to their beauty/bizarreness, as they evidently are in the memories of many filmmakers, notably Gilliam and his ilk).

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With Vertigo steadily climbing over the years, maybe it's just a case of some of those Kane voters.... dying off. Give it 200 years and Transformers: Dark of the Moon will be topping the poll.

I'm not sure that this hypothesis fits with a couple of pre-war silent films coming into the top ten as new entries, and The Godfather steadily slipping down the list.

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I was very confused why Sight & Sound were voting on best wrestler of all time until I read the list properly.

Amended for clarity.. Though clearly Ravishing Rick Rude would've been the established historical winner.

Surprised to see Man With a Movie Camera move up so far, especially ahead of Potemkin. It's really nice to see Mulholland Dr. in there, especially since I don't think Lynch has been represented at all before. Interesting that Vertigo only scrapes in the top ten in the director's poll by a couple of votes.. I do get the feeling that the critics may have either consciously or subconsciously become bored of Kane winning by default and voted accordingly; personally I think it's a better film than Vertigo (though there's not much in it) but it's still refreshing to see a shift in the canonical view.

Interesting that Tree of Life missed out on the top 100 by one vote. That being the case I'd find it slightly depressing if all of his other films weren't ranked somewhere between 50 and 100. But then sometimes you get a freak occurence on these polls when something is very fresh in the mind.

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I'm not sure that this hypothesis fits with a couple of pre-war silent films coming into the top ten as new entries, and The Godfather steadily slipping down the list.

It's less of a hypothesis and more an attempt at a miserabilist joke.

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Like Eisenstein’s warhorse, it’s an agit-experiment that sees montage as the means to a revolutionary consciousness; but rather than proceeding through fable and illusion, it’s explicitly engaged both with recording the modern urban everyday (which makes it the top documentary in our poll) and with its representation back to its participant-subjects (thus the top meta-movie).


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This made me laugh:

But both of these men, basically, do the same thing. They relentlessly chase something in a futile pursuit of their passions. But it is HOW they do it that is different. It's recognizing this difference, I think, in which we'll see a key change as we now roll up our sleeves and dive into the 21st Century.

Charles Foster Kane is an achiever. He builds industry. He sees an opening and he works at it. He's active. He is virile and aggressive and when he sees the woman he wants he, to paraphrase Henry Miller, fucks her so she stays fucked.

Scottie Ferguson jacks off. He gets his fetish item just the way he likes it – the green lighting and hair curled just right. Sure, he kisses her, but Vertigo is all about watching. There's, what, a thirty minute stretch of us watching Scottie watch Madeleine, following her like a stalker, him safe in his car, behind a screen, getting all hot and bothered and leering at this woman.

So what has happened in 2012? We've picked the wanker over the fucker. We've swapped our obsessive doer, our builder of wealth and nations, and traded him in for someone whose obsession, whose purest pleasure, is to sit from a safe distance and stare.

What do film critics do all day? Where are film critics most comfortable? In the dark, taking notes, noticing connections between things, thinking up tweaks that can take something we like and make it a little bit better.

Dear God, don't you see what's happened here? The voters have voted for themselves.

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Yeah it's predictable but personally I'd struggle to think of anything much from the last forty years that I'd feel comfortable chucking in that top ten that isn't already represented in the director's poll. Maybe a couple of other Tarkovskys, but Mirror's in there already.

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