Film fans have few stronger vices, I would submit, than the making of lists. But we can take some small measure of consolation from the fact that certain auteurs have occasionally done it too. Yes they make their own lists of favorite films. Quentin Tarantino has done it. So have Stanley Kubrick and Woody Allen. Same with Andrei Tarkovsky, Susan Sontag and Akira Kurosawa. And then there’s one of the most interesting lists — that of Federico Fellini, which originally appeared in Sight and Sound. It runs as follows:
- The Circus/City Lights/Monsieur Verdoux (1928,31,47, Charles Chaplin)
- Any Marx Brothers or Laurel and Hardy
- Stagecoach (1939, John Ford)
- Rashomon (1950, Akira Kurosawa)
- The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972, Luis Bunuel)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
- Paisan (1946, Roberto Rossellini)
- The Birds (1963, Alfred Hitchcock)
- Wild Strawberries (1957, Ingmar Bergman)
- 8 1/2 (1963, Federico Fellini)
Never a slave to restraint, Fellini bends the tacit rules of list-making in a few different ways here. He includes not one but three films, all by Charlie Chaplin, in the top spot, ranks the complete comedic works of both the Marx Brothers (whose 1935 A Night at the Opera you can watch above) and Laurel and Hardy in third place, and, in the most audacious act of all, adds a movie of his own to the list. Maybe the fact that he puts it at number ten scores him a humility point?
Then again, the director of La Dolce Vita, Satyricon, and Juliet of the Spirits could have found his distinctively grotesque and celebratory worldview realized nowhere but in his own work. And upon reflection, putting 8 1/2 in last place looks overmodest. “I have seen 8 1/2 over and over again, and my appreciation only deepens,” wrote Roger Ebert in a piece on the film. “It does what is almost impossible: Fellini is a magician who discusses, reveals, explains and deconstructs his tricks, while still fooling us with them. He claims he doesn’t know what he wants or how to achieve it, and the film proves he knows exactly, and rejoices in his knowledge.” And he knew he was damn good.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.