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Saturday, February 4, 2023

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Film column Cinemascope: The best film is female

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Last weekend, a little shock went through the otherwise very hermetic world of film criticism. The British film magazine Sight and Sound published its major poll of critics, academics and filmmakers for the best films of all time, which is carried out every ten years. And to the surprise of many, the best film of all time is – officially, so to speak – no longer by Alfred Hitchcock (“Vertigo” ten years ago) or Orson Welles (“Citizen Kane”, for what feels like seventy years), but by “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” by the Belgian director Chantal Akerman, who unfortunately was not able to live to see this triumph. Akerman died in 2015 at the age of 65.

A canon is not a monolith

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The list, which is internationally regarded as decisive for the state of the art of film, was eagerly awaited in the scene. (Disclaimer: I’m biased, I was one of those surveyed.) The British Film Institute, publishers of Sight and Sound, announced in advance that it would expand its survey to 1,600 people – more numerous, diverse and polyphonic than ever before. The result now visibly reflects this step: it didn’t turn the current film canon upside down, but it did readjust it.

“Jeanne Dielman,” the 200-minute drama about a single housewife (the great Delphine Seyrig) who silently suffers from her role but keeps up the routine, was considered a “masterpiece of feminist cinema” the year it was released. However, it took another fifty years for Akerman’s film to be released as a the cinematic masterpiece is honored.

The realization of this new leaderboard is not fundamental: a canon is not a monolith, but alive and subject to reconsideration. And: the more people are surveyed, the more heterogeneously it depicts a current overall picture of opinions and tastes. The art world is already ahead of the cinema. Incidentally, Alfred Hitchcock is not out of the world, “Vertigo” takes second place. However, there is now a second director among the ten best films of all time: Claire Denis with “Beau travail”. And unlike Akerman, it only took Denis 23 years to reach a top position.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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