My Top 10 list of films for the Sight & Sound poll, 2022

Accompanying note: It is really tough to nail down ten films definitively, and one’s personality certainly plays a part in picking them. For instance, I still wanted to choose Vertigo or Citizen Kane but somehow these other (and newer) films kept raising their hands for inclusion. I have tried my best. I look foward to the results.

  1. In the Mood for Love
    Year: 2000
    Director(s): Wong Kar Wai
    Comment: This is a period film that feels timeless. This is a film set in a very particular geography, and yet feels universal. This is a film about the futility of a love affair, and is yet, it speaks to everyone who has been in love. It’s one of the saddest films ever made, and yet, oddly, one of the most hopeful – with one of the greatest film-endings of all time.
  2. The Godfather
    Year: 1972
    Director(s): Francis Ford Coppola
    Comment: A gangster movie about family, or a family movie about gangsters? A film about the corruption of a soul should feel tragic – Michael is a gangster, after all. So why do we feel so bad for him at the end, when the door closes on Kay? The sympathetic face may belong to her, but the sympathies are all his. It was tough choosing this over Apocalypse Now, but I guess I just did.
  3. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
    Year: 1974
    Director(s): Martin Scorsese
    Comment: Scorsese is considered such a “male” filmmaker that it’s stunning how much emotional violence erupts from Ellen Burstyn’s extraordinary performance as an Everywoman who wants to find herself and become someone special. Seen today, the “simpler” Scorsese seems so much purer a filmmaker than the more dynamic, kinetic filmmaker he became later. He’s always been great but I feel this is him at his greatest.
  4. East of Eden
    Year: 1955
    Director(s): Elia Kazan
    Comment: Yes, the theme of broken love, broken families continues. James Dean’s first major role has him wrestling with demons all of us have to some extent, and what better mode for a director to express this than melodrama? We seem to have become contemptuous of the genre, but its strengths are at their most glorious in this gorgeously shot movie.
  5. 8 1/2
    Year: 1963
    Director(s): Federico Fellini
    Comment: Who among us has not gotten stuck? But trust Fellini to visualise this mental state with one astounding set piece after another. The surrealism makes the film feel timeless and almost like a movie cave we enter to see what the inside of a mind looks like.
  6. Red Beard
    Year: 1965
    Director(s): Akira Kurosawa
    Comment: Not too many films offer such a vast (and wholly visual) commentary on human life. Behind the “simplicity” of the story and the characters is a depth that keeps you thinking about how interlocked our lives are with those of strangers.
  7. Two English Girls
    Year: 1971
    Director(s): Francois Truffaut
    Comment: One of the greatest “relationship movies”. When I saw Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, this was the film I kept thinking about (minus the man). I know some will prefer Jules and Jim, but the pain here goes far deeper.
  8. Charulata
    Year: 1964
    Director(s): Satyajit Ray
    Comment: One of the most perfectly “choreographed” films ever made. The rhythm of humdrum daily life staged with the flair of an Ophuls drama. And (like Red Beard) a great example of how a simple story can be told (rather shown) with quiet depth.
  9. Zodiac
    Year: 2007
    Director(s): David Fincher
    Comment: As an investigation turns into a slow-moving, never-ending nightmare, so does this film’s rhythms. Fincher makes the cinema’s first “non-serial killer movie”, stripping the genre of thrills and good-wins-over-evil satisfaction. Instead, he says chaos is the only thing. And the mood is what matters.
  10. Playtime
    Year: 1969
    Director(s): Jacques Tati
    Comment: A brilliant satire on modernism? Maybe. But that is too boring a description of what Tati has achieved in his richest film, with some of the finest comic set pieces since Buster Keaton. The gags are set at the lowest of volumes and it is often easy to miss one or two, but that is why the film bears so much repeat viewing

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