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Currently playing at the AK film club: Kagemusha (Kurosawa 1980)

Kurosawa drops out of Sight & Sound’s directors’ top 10

Sight and SoundAs you may well have heard by now, Sight & Sound’s latest list of greatest films of all time is out now. Released once every ten years, the poll is one of the most respected in the industry and comes in two flavours: the critics’ poll and the directors’ poll.

This year, 846 critics (and programmers, academics and distributors) as well as 358 directors voted for what they think are the greatest cinematic works of all time. What has grabbed headlines these past few days is the fact that for the first time since the 1962 poll, Citizen Kane is no longer at the top of either the critics’ poll or the directors’ one. Instead, critics have chosen Hitchcock’s Vertigo, while directors have named Ozu’s Tokyo Story as the greatest film of all time.

The highest ranked Kurosawa film on the main list is Seven Samurai, sitting at number 17 with Bergman’s Persona, and six places down from the 2002 results. The other Kurosawa film in the top 50 is Rashomon, which shares place 26 with Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev, and has dropped from 13th in 2002.

A similar slip has happened in the directors’ poll, where both Seven Samurai and Rashomon have traditionally been in the top 10 (both were 10th in 1992 and both were 9th in 2002). This year, they have dropped out, but how far remains uncertain. The full poll results will be published in mid-August.

[Mid-August edit: the directors' top 100 has been published and Seven Samurai is #17, while Rashomon immediately follows it at #18.]

While lists like these are obviously a little silly, they do communicate something about the changing nature of “the canon”. For us, the interesting (and maybe a little disappointing) thing to note is that, at least on some level, the appreciation of Kurosawa has dropped somewhat (relatively speaking) from what it was in 1992 when he was, arguably, enjoying the highest level of recognition in his career, and again in 2002, at which point his death was still a fairly recent event.

It is also true, of course, that many directors and critics who were directly influenced by Kurosawa have since 2002 passed away themselves, and are therefore unable to take part in the poll any longer. This is what makes Sight and Sound’s one-in-a-decade system interesting, and it will be fascinating to see how Kurosawa ranks in 2022, and then again in 2032. Will his films slip down even further as even more people directly influenced by him pass away, or will there be a resurgence from a new generation that have discovered him again?

You will, of course, hear all about it here at akirakurosawa.info. Stay tuned!

11 Comments »


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Discussion: 11 Comments »

#1


Blah



Kurosawa did place in Coppola and Woody Allen’s lists: http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/read-new-all-time-top-10s-from-martin-scorsese-woody-allen-francis-ford-coppola-quentin-tarantino-more-20120803

Coppola listed Yojimbo and The Bad Sleep Well while Allen went with Rashomon.


 

#2


Ugetsu



I know these polls are a bit silly in many ways, but it is still disappointing to see AK films slip down the list. It just goes to show what a damp squip AK100 was, what a terrible missed opportunity. I can’t help thinking that if a fully restored Seven Samurai had been given a good cinema run it would be back in the top 100.

I don’t have any formal training in film, so I do find it somewhat mystifying as to the type of films professional critics like. For what its worth, I find the film makers list more interesting and chimes more with my own taste.

For me, Citizen Kane and Vertigo are to film what Lord of the Flies or Animal Farm are to literature. Works that are particularly highly rated because its so easy to disaggregate their parts and explain them to bored students. This isn’t to say they are bad films, I just think they are lazy choices in some ways. I often wonder about the high ratings for La Regle du Jeu is so popular – its a wonderful film but its political concerns are highly specific to the pre-war years, as such I don’t think it has the universal relevance of other Renoir films – perhaps some critics are reluctant to select films that say much about the world today? For me, Les Enfants du Paradis is the greatest of French films, I’m so surprised it doesn’t rank more highly.

The Searchers is a choice which always baffles me. Of course it has a memorable ending, and it is one of the few westerns to really get under the skin of the brutal and racist nature of the conquest of the west, but I don’t think its remotely even John Fords greatest film. Some of the acting in minor roles is almost embarrassingly bad and I don’t think it flows particularly well as a film.


 

#3


cocoskyavitch



Ugetsu, I actually have chills reading the director’s Sight and Sound top 10…what a wonderful list. Perhaps it is the sultan’s revenge, (ought not have had those last olives, maybe, before the plane) maybe it is the jetlag, but I was moved by the choices. Hey, they had to make way for Tarkovsky’s Mirror, so somebody had to go!

Popularity means nothing about quality or value…until there is a consensus…at which point “a consensus of opinion, proven over time” comes to bear fruit, according to Sir Kenneth Clark…and then we can claim “masterpiece”. That Kurosawa was in that crowd means that, yes, people have found his work exemplary. That he isn’t so popular right now is more about taste and fashon that true worth.


 

#4


Vili Maunula



I fully agree with Ugetsu about Vertigo, Citizen Kane, The Searchers, and the fact that the AK100 could and should have done so much more for Kurosawa’s popularity.

Then again, we must remember that Kurosawa still has two films in the top 30, so it’s not like he has been forgotten. It will also be interesting to see how many different Kurosawa films were listed altogether by the voters. Coppola’s list, to which Blah linked, is for instance indeed quite interesting, with Yojimbo and The Bad Sleep Well. I think with some directors it is easier to pick the best film to vote for. I really wouldn’t know which one to pick from Kurosawa.

And there are so many good films on those lists. I may not always agree with the order they are in, but all in all… just wow. Makes me momentarily proud of being part of this species that produces stuff like this.

So Coco, no I don’t think it’s just the olives…


 

#5


Ugetsu



There is a nice theory here in the Crooked Timber blog by philosopher John Holbo about why critics pick the films they do.

I’m also reminded of something that old adman Gossage wrote, about ‘the shape of an idea’: “Imagine that a person sits in the center of a circle that represents his comprehension. He can comprehend anything within the perimeter, but the farther it is from the center the fainter his ability to criticize it will be. However, anything outside the perimeter is beyond his comprehension; he won’t criticize an idea placed out there because he simply won’t know what you’re talking about. So the trick is to place an idea close enough in so he gets it but far enough out that he’s not able to flyspeck it, only accept it.” Would it be too unkind to suggest that critics probably pick their Top 10’s by analogous operation? (Obviously I’m just saying that critics are incorrigible hipsters and coolhunters of the past. Duh.)


 

#6


cocoskyavitch



Ugetsu, My cultural anthropology professor at Yale explained to us that there is nothing outside our ken, unless it be from a dimension outside our universe. He said that if an alien placed an object from another dimension in front of us we might not be able to even see it or be aware of it. But, he dismissed that as not our concern, and emphatically stated that all things human were within our understanding. It was his job, you see, to believe that. Not to believe that is to succumb to all kinds of bigotry and intolerance, Orientalism and the romance of the exotic….all that ethnographic nonsense.

I tend to believe that’s true. Therefore, I believe the shape of comprehension would, theoreticaly, be all things of this existence-a circle with the shape of the universe. Yes, I’m Greek like that.

Fashion and taste, though, play a role in what captures our attention. Humans are capable of much…but live within a certain set of culturally-imposed values…or shaping ideas. The flavor of a time infuses most writing, thinking, creative activity. That’s why Burkhardt can name a style ” Renaissance”- referring to those culturally-shared characteristics of works created in a particular time and place. So, in that way, John Holbo is making a valid point. I dare say it is less about human possibility and potential, but, actually more about cultural wisdom and its delineating forms…


 

#7


cocoskyavitch



Bwahaha, Ugetsu..whattafool I am.

:wink: I like John Holbo’s blog…it’s Gossage’s idea of human comprehension I’ve taken umbrage at…!


 

#8


Vili Maunula



The directors’ top 100 has been published and Seven Samurai is #17, while Rashomon immediately follows it at #18.

Re: John Holbo, I think that there are many understandable reasons why films from the late 40s to the late 70s dominate the Sight & Sound list.

Modern film studies really began in the 50s and 60s and it created a focus of what has since been studied, influencing the people who vote in S&S’s poll. Older films have (until quite recently) also been harder to get hold of, meaning they have been less often seen and less often written about, and when they have been written about, the writing has for obvious reasons concentrated (and promoted) the few films that have been widely available.

In many national cinemas, artistic independence was also quite different in the 50s, 60s and 70s than it had been before or what it became in the late 70s and 80s, especially after the commercial failure of Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate and the beginning of the modern blockbuster and home video era.

Newer films also don’t yet have consensus — there is a lot of good stuff out there, but votes for them get scattered for understandable reasons. Some distance is needed before a canon can be formed.

Or that’s my take on the matter anyway. :smile:


 

#9


lawless



I think Vili’s take on what winds up on these lists makes a lot of sense.

In that regard, I would be interested in seeing forum member’s lists of their favorite films. I say favorite because I think that what one likes best is more telling and more important than a list of films one thinks are the best, which invites importation of other’s opinions and taste and kowtowing to fashion. I’ve been trying to put my own together; at this point, I’m up to 29 movies (maybe). Some of them I came up with on my own and some by looking at other people’s lists.

Other than Seven Samurai topping the list and Tokyo Story being somewhere near the bottom, with Street of Shame somewhere in the middle, I would be hard put to list them in order. Once I’ve let the idea percolate some more, I might put it here in a separate post.


 

#10


Vili Maunula



lawless: In that regard, I would be interested in seeing forum member’s lists of their favorite films.

I thought about suggesting that myself, but when I tried to list any films, it became an absolutely impossible task to accomplish. However, if you do open a thread on this, I promise to try again. But someone else has to go first. :wink:


 

#11


lawless



Vili – I was going to say that I’m going to think about this a little more and post the list sometime this weekend, but I’m not sure what good more thinking will do. I still feel like there are movies I’m not remembering that should be on the list, but I’m going to put it up in another thread as soon as I post this.

I suspect the composition of the list will come as a surprise to most of you. Perhaps not because it’s (relatively) heavy on Japanese movies, particularly Kurosawa’s, but because it’s heavy on non-indy Hollywood movies and light on European movies. In fact, there are no movies by any of the French New Wave, Italian Neo-Realist, or in fact any Western European directors who made films considered art film fodder after the 30s, although a Renoir film or two might be on the list if I could remember them better than I do. (I’ve seen two of them — The Rules of the Game and The Grand Illusion.) There is a European film from the 60s on the list, but it’s a spaghetti Western, not an art film.


 

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