Earlier today, I praised the Evening Standard Awards for drawing people’s attention to forms and flavors of contemporary British film beyond the dressy heritage cinema that so many associate with the country.
This morning, London’s Time Out magazine posted a fascinating feature that does much the same for the past: a wide-ranging list of the 100 Best British Films of all time, compiled from the individual Top Tens of 150 industry figures, including directors, actors and critics.
When I was invited to participate in the poll — check out my list here — I anticipated a familiar list of chestnuts to emerge from the project. But while the final Top 100 leans heavily (and necessarily) on the canon, there are some surprises in the mix, including such recent titles as “Fish Tank” and “Hunger.” That Powell and Pressburger have two titles in the top 10 won’t raise any eyebrows, but that Nicolas Roeg managed the same feat is rather less predictable.
Does the fact that Roeg’s peerless 1973 psychological thriller “Don’t Look Now” pipped more venerable title “The Third Man” to the top spot betray the influence of a younger generation of film voices? Not really, when you start sifting through the individual lists posted on the Time Out website: the films on veteran auteur Mike Leigh’s list span from 1929 to 2005, while young comic Richard Ayoade’s collective scarcely features anything from his own lifetime. The range and individuality of lists from the likes of Wes Anderson, Alfonso Cuaron, Sally Hawkins and Thandie Newton makes for most enjoyable reading.
For my part, I was delighted to see how many of my own selections made the Top 100. (Note: my list is actually in alphabetical order, despite the numbering.) When I voted for Bill Douglas’s astonishing trilogy of autobiographical shorts, restored and re-screened at last year’s Berlinale, I had no idea how many others had seen them, much less treasured them as I did — yet there they are at #27. And it’s gratifying to know that others also found room for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Sabotage” (#44) amid his more frequently celebrated early works. Alas, I seem to be out on a limb for one or two titles, but I’m sure the fanbase for Lynne Ramsay’s 2002 sophomore feature “Morvern Callar” will grow with time. (After all, her impressive debut, “Ratcatcher,” makes the cut.)
As a taster, here’s their Top 10 — with not one piece of corseted royalty porn to be found:
1. “Don’t Look Know” (Roeg, 1973)
2. “The Third Man” (Reed, 1949)
3. “Distant Voices, Still Lives” (Davies, 1988)
4. “Kes” (Loach, 1969)
5. “The Red Shoes” (Powell and Pressburger, 1948)
6. “A Matter of Life and Death” (Powell and Pressburger, 1946)
7. “Performance” (Roeg and Cammell, 1970)
8. “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (Hamer, 1949)
9. “If…” (Anderson, 1968)
10. “Trainspotting” (Boyle, 1996)
[Photo: Time Out]