A dispatch from the 2014 NYFF, including "Hill of Freedom," "The Princess of France," "Life of Riley" and "Two Shots Fired."
A man suited to expression but made to court contrition instead, the Georgian-born director Sergei Parajanov posed within his all-too-scarce filmography -- beginning with 1951's short "Moldavian Fairy Tale" and ending with 1988's "Ashik Kerib" -- a complete dichotomy of artistic vision and personal reality. His interpretations of the natural world's rhythms are distinctly his own, utilizing punctuations of artifice to decorate exquisite portraits of little-seen cultures set during the 18th-century. But his most critically acclaimed films, such as the tableaux-heavy "Color of Pomegranates," likewise garnered attention from Soviet authorities, and landed him outlaw status and even prison sentences with increasingly ludicrous accusations. Along with "Pomegranates," his 1964 drama "Shadow of Forgotten Ancestors" also fell at the center of controversy surrounding Parajanov, but in its blistering Shakespearian romance based on Carpathian folklore, the film offers an illuminating side to the Armenian director's aesthetic, and a perfect introduction to his stunning body of work.
OK, this is where it really gets interesting. Forget the consensus Top 50 Greatest Movies of All Time; let's get personal. Sight & Sound has now published the top 250 titles in its 2012 international critics poll, the full list of more than 2,000 movies mentioned, and all the individual lists of the 845 participating critics, academics, archivists and programmers, along with any accompanying remarks they submitted. I find this to be the most captivating aspect of the survey, because it reminds us of so many terrific movies we may have forgotten about, or never even heard of. If you want to seek out surprising, rewarding movies, this is a terrific place to start looking. For the past few days I've been taking various slices at the "data" trying to find statistical patterns, and to glean from the wealth of titles some treasures I'd like to heartily recommend -- and either re-watch or catch up with myself.
I know we're supposed to consider the S&S poll a feature film "canon" -- a historically influential decennial event since 1952, but just one of many. I don't disagree with Greg Ferrara at TCM's Movie Morlocks ("Ranking the Greats: Please Make it Stop") when he says that limiting ballots to ten all-time "best" (or "favorite," "significant," "influential" titles is incredibly limiting. That's why I think perusing at the critics' personal lists, the Top 250 (cited by seven critics or more) and the full list of 2,045 films mentioned is more enjoyable pastime.
It's wise to remember that, although the top of the poll may at first glance look relatively conservative or traditional, there's a tremendous diversity in the individual lists. Even the top vote-getter, "Vertigo," was chosen by less than one quarter of the participants.