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Vertigo Named Best Film Ever; Topples Citizen Kane

Posted on the 03 August 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
FIlm poster for Vertigo FIlm poster for Vertigo

The background

For the last 50 years, Citizen Kane has topped Sight and Sound magazine’s list of best films. Now it’s been toppled – by Alfred Hitchcok’s Vertigo (1958). A panel of 846 distributors, academics and critics, reported the BBC, chose the thriller, which features James Stewart and Kim Novak, beating Orson Welles’ 1941 film by a whopping 34 votes into second place. See the top ten below.

Vertigo, in the last poll, ten years ago, came in at number 5. Coincidentally, the film’s win comes at the same time as the BFI’s Genius of Hitchcock season. It sees Stewart’s character, retired police officer Scotty Ferguson hired to follow Kim Novak’s mysterious blonde. Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story came third, and Jean Renoir’s La Regle du Jeu came fourth. The most recent film in the top 10 is Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“It is a dream-like film about people who are not sure who they are but who are busy reconstructing themselves and each other to fit a kind of cinema ideal of the ideal soul-mate,” said Sight and Sound editor Nick James.

Vertigo is here to stay

Vertigo “could well be here to stay,” said Tim Robey in The Telegraph. Hitchcock’s “international standing as a titan of his medium has never been higher.” Vertigo isn’t thought by many to be his masterpiece – Psycho is scarier, Rear Window is “more playful”, Strangers on a Train “more suspenseful.” But Vertigo has “a special intensity.” Something “deadly serious” is going on in the film, with something laid bare “about … deepest propensities and fears.” And yet it wasn’t always thought to be great – it was a flop when it came out. But it’s “the ultimate grower” – we see more in it every time we see it. It’s “profound, penetrating and unfathomable”, not “perfectly formed art.” The film is an “abyss, and we’re still falling into it and for it.”

Psycho’s better

Peter Bradsaw in The Guardian said that he felt Vertigo was “inferior” to Psycho, which is “more brutally explicit”; he put the choice down to a “persistent gentility in the critical world” which “feels it necessary to reward the classier and more subtle film.”

Lists are silly, but at least they get us talking. And boy is Vertigo good.

Joe Meyers on the Connecticut News site said “List-making seems like a foolish pursuit for the most part, but I suppose polls like the one taken by the BFI do get people talking and thinking about older movies and that’s a good thing.” But remember, said Roger Ebert on The Chicago Sun Times, that “all movie lists, even this most-respected one, are ultimately meaningless.” Basically they exist to give us “viewing ideas.” There’s nothing surprising on the list – no recent directors. But Vertigo deserves its place – go through it shot by shot and you’ll see “something amazing.” “Oh, this is an even deeper film than it seems.”

Oh I forgot, we’re supposed to threaten people who don’t agree with us. Don’t like VERTIGO? I’m totally going to push you off a belltower.

— Anne Billson (@AnneBillson) August 2, 2012

The Top 10

1. “Vertigo”
2. “Citizen Kane”
3. “Tokyo Story”
4. “The Rules of the Game”
5. “Sunrise”
6. “2001: A Space Odyssey”
7. “The Searchers”
8. “Man With a Movie Camera”
9. “The Passion of Joan of Arc”
10. “8 1/2″

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