Starting 2023 with ‘The Greatest Films of All Time’…

Every decade the Sight and Sound Critics’ poll is a major talking point for film lovers. Whether that’s ticking off the films you’ve seen, stocking up on the films you’ve missed, lambasting the critics for the films that are missing, or simply not caring for the canon at all. Either way, most cinephiles have something to say.

On 1 December 2022, the new Sight and Sound list of the top 100 ‘greatest films of all time’, as voted for by critics, was announced. Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles took the prestigious top spot, becoming the first film directed by a woman to top the list in its 70 years of existence. The film pipped previous winners Vertigo and Citizen Kane into respective second and third place.

Opinions arrived aplenty. Some heralded the list for its new inclusions and the long journey that Chantal Akerman’s work took to recognition and the number one spot. Jeanne Dielman… itself having not been particularly well-received by all in 1975. Others were unhappy with the list and particularly, the number one slot. The crux of which seemed to revolve around one question; how could a film that isn’t a household name and hasn’t been widely available in the U.K. for many years even be at number one?

Of course, the list raises many questions. What does ‘greatest’ mean? Can we objectively judge and order cinema history, and if so, why? Are lists useful? Does the canon exclude and thus, oppress underrepresented voices? All valid questions for discussion and good reasons why any list should be taken with a healthy pinch of salt.

It could be said that the list itself may say more about the critics, or at least, the zeitgeist in film criticism. Inevitably, much has changed in the decade since the last poll, including the way in which many of us watch films. Although to some Jeanne Dielman… may not be a recognisable title and a surprise inclusion, it has certainly become available on Blu-ray in America and available on streaming platforms for the first time.

These paradigm shifts inevitably change access and choice for audiences and critics. In my own lifetime, things have changed drastically for film lovers. Where once we could watch only what was playing in cinemas, on television, or in our collections of home video, there is now a world of choice and instant access to large sections of cinema history. This in itself, of course, presents issues of inclusivity and representation.

With an increase in the independence of choice and a younger generation of critics that have grown up curating their own film access, one shouldn’t be surprised that the 2022 list presented a cultural shift. It is perhaps more surprising that the changes weren’t more radical and reflective of our collective broadening knowledge and appreciation of cinema. For example, although the list is topped by Chantal Akerman, it is one of only ten films directed by women to make the top 100.

If lists are flawed, why do we pay attention? I would argue for many reasons. For recommendations, for entertainment, to affirm or radicalise our opinions, to change our minds, to instigate experiencing new things… Lists can indeed be useful. However, the canon should only be seen as a starting point, a collection of things to admire that have been unknowingly formed into an order. The canon is something to react against. The films are something to be seen independently, more than the numbers on a list.

With that in mind, at Showroom Cinema we are proud to be starting off 2023 with a rare big screen outing for Chantal Akerman’s arthouse masterwork on New Year’s Day. A chance to see the film as it was meant to be seen, in the cinema. This will be followed by a selection of one-off screenings of the runners-up including Citizen Kane, Vertigo and Tokyo Story.

January is a great time to recalibrate and set intentions for the year ahead. Revisiting or watching a selection of ‘the greatest films of all time’ is a reminder of where we are now and what is considered ‘great’. Seeing the films is an opportunity to either revel in their greatness or indeed, be inspired to champion other great works of cinema.

If all that’s not enough, we will also continue to screen Charlotte Wells’ sublime Aftersun, named by Sight and Sound as the best film of 2022. Just in case you wanted another list to debate.

Tickets for ‘the greatest films of all time’ are available now.


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