Nobody knows more about cinema than critics. But in an entirely different way, nobody knows more about cinema than directors. That, perhaps, is one of the reasons that Sight and Sound magazine has, for the past thirty years, conducted two separate once-in-a-decade polls to determine the greatest films of all time. Last week we featured the results of Sight and Sound’s latest critics poll here on Open Culture, but the outcome of the directors’ vote — whose electorate of 480 “spans experimental, arthouse, mainstream and genre filmmakers from around the world” — merits its own consideration.
As all the cinephile world knows by now, Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles came out on top of Sight and Sound’s critics poll this year. That temporally expansive masterwork of potatoes, veal cutlets, prostitution, and murder didn’t place quite so highly in the directors poll. It ranks at number four, below Ozu Yasujirō’s Tokyo Story, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, and — at number one — Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which, for those who make movies, evidently remains the “ultimate trip” that its late-sixties marketing campaign promised.
The roundup of individual ballots at World of Reel reveals that 2001’s supporters include a wide range of auteurs — Olivier Assayas, Bi Gan, Don Hertzfeldt, Gaspar Noé, Joanna Hogg, Edgar Wright, Martin Scorsese — not all of whose own work shows clear evidence of having been influenced by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s at once lavish and stark vision of mankind’s destiny in the realms beyond Earth. But 2001’s real achievement was less to tell its particular story, no matter how mind-blowing, than to expand the possibilities of cinema itself: to execute, as examined in the video essay above, a kind of cinematic hypnotism.
Of course, Kubrick is hugely admired by viewers and makers of movies alike. Barry Lyndon appears on both top-100 lists, though it seems as if critics favor The Shining more than filmmakers. The latter group cast more votes for Kubrick’s Cold-War comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Also among the dozens of titles only in the filmmakers’ top 100 include Abbas Kiarostami’s Where Is the Friend’s House? and Taste of Cherry, Kurosawa Akira’s Throne of Blood and Ikiru, Sergei Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates, and even Steven Spielberg’s Jaws — which, no less than 2001, surely appeals to any filmmaker’s innate sense of spectacle.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.