Posts Tagged ‘greatest films’

annie hall by lisa norwood

I’m in the process of moving out of Allen Hall after eight very happy years on the seminary staff. I’ve had one or two farewell gatherings, and some lovely gifts. The most thoughtful and unexpected one was from the seminarians themselves.

I thought they might give me something predictable like a bottle of wine or a manual of theology to set me straight after all the wild lectures I have given them. Instead, at a farewell dinner near the end of term, they presented me with a vintage 1977 poster for Woody Allen’s Annie Hall: one of the smaller ‘lobby style’ prints, with a certificate of authentication pasted on the back.

What a great idea! We just happen to have a vintage film poster shop round the corner – Limelight Movie Art (this is Chelsea…). They told me the lovely story of going into the shop. Knowing how particular I am, instead of random buying, they found a post on this blog about my favourite films of all time, and took this list in with them. They showed it to the shop assistant, who spent a few minutes perusing the list, looked back up to the seminarians, and uttered the immortal words, ‘Your friend has very expensive tastes…’ I took that as an indirect compliment from one film buff to another.

In the end, they opted for a small Annie Hall poster rather than a large but apparently less visually interesting poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s mounted, but I need to frame it and hang it in Newman House when I arrive. I’d love to start collecting, but just look at the prices…

This image I’ve pasted above isn’t the poster they got me, but it’s the only one I could find copyright free online. My one is Diane Keaton leaning over Woody Allen on the sofa, with him completely oblivious to her attentions as he reads the newspaper.

Oh, and by the way, in case you clicked on this post because of the title above, my new two greatest films of all time, that have risen quite unexpectedly to the top over the last two years, are The Tree of Life and The Place Beyond the Pines.


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I won’t apologise for publicising another ‘greatest films of all time’ list. I’ve discovered that I have an extremely rare condition that makes it psychologically and physically impossible for me not to post about lists that contain any or all of the words ‘greatest’, ‘best’ or ‘most popular’ in combination with any or all of the words ‘films’, ‘movies’ and ‘directors’, whether of not they are followed by any or all of the phrases ‘of the decade’ or ‘of all time’ or ‘ever’. I’m feeling strangely liberated by this new piece of self-knowledge.


Film director Andrei Tarkovsky


The Guardian is in the middle of a film season. Each day for the last week the Guardian/Observer critics have selected their 25 favourites films in seven genres. (I’ve managed to refrain from posting about these each day because my debilitating affliction does not extend to genre lists.)

You can click on each of the links below to see the individual genre lists.

The best romance films
The best horror films
The best crime films
The best comedy films
The best action and war films
The best sci-fi and fantasy films
The best drama and art films

And then from the seven winners in each category, the same critics decided to give the ‘Best Film Ever‘ award to: Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. Mmm…

I got some small personal satisfaction from having seen and loved every one of the seven contenders (apart from Chinatown, which I saw but didn’t manage to love), which shows how un-arty the selection is compared to most of the lists that have been concocted by critics rather than paying punters.

Here are the seven, in the Guardian/Observer order:

1) Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)

=2) Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

=2) Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)

4) Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1976)

5) 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

6) Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)

7) Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)

And here is my revised order:

1) Andrei Rublev

2) Annie Hall

3) 2001: A Space Odyssey

4) Psycho

5) Brief Encounter

6) Apocalypse Now

7) Chinatown

Chinatown definitely comes last.


Detail from The Old Testament Trinity by Andrei Rublev


Instead of dwelling on Chinatown, here are a few paragraphs from Steve Rose’s reflection on Andrei Rublev:

Viewers and critics always have their personal favourites, but some films achieve a masterpiece status that becomes unanimously agreed upon – something that’s undoubtedly true of Andrei Rublev, even though it’s a film that people often feel they don’t, or won’t get. It is 205 minutes long (in its fullest version), in Russian, and in black and white. Few characters are clearly identified, little actually happens, and what does happen isn’t necessarily in chronological order. Its subject is a 15th-century icon painter and national hero, yet we never see him paint, nor does he do anything heroic. In many of the film’s episodes, he is not present at all, and in the latter stages, he takes a vow of silence. But in a sense, there is nothing to “get” about Andrei Rublev. It is not a film that needs to be processed or even understood, only experienced and wondered at.

From the first scene, following the flight of a rudimentary hot air balloon, we’re whisked away by silken camera moves and stark compositions to a time and place where we’re no less confused, amazed or terrified than Rublev himself. For the next three hours, we’re down in the muck and chaos of medieval Russia, carried along on the tide of history through gruesome Tartar raids, bizarre pagan rituals, famine, torture and physical hardship. We experience life on every scale, from raindrops falling on a river to armies ransacking a town, often within the same, unbroken shot.

With Andrei Rublev, Tarkovsky was consciously crafting a language that owed nothing to literature, and it’s a pity so few others followed him. In today’s cinema, we’re still served up linear, cause-and-effect biographies of artists as if, by doing so, we’ll understand the person and be able to make sense of their art. Andrei Rublev operates according to a different understanding of time and history. It asks questions about the relationship between the artist, their society and their spiritual beliefs and doesn’t seek to answer them. “In cinema it is necessary not to explain, but to act upon the viewer’s feelings, and the emotion which is awoken is what provokes thought,” wrote Tarkovsky in 1962.

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