Sight & Sound Critics’ Poll 2012

  1. Vertigo (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
  2. Citizen Kane (dir. Orson Welles)
  3. Tokyo Story (dir. Yasujiro Ozu)
  4. The Rules of the Game (dir. Jean Renoir)
  5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (dir. F.W. Murnau)
  6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (dir. Stanley Kubrick)
  7. The Searchers (dir. John Ford)
  8. Man with a Movie Camera (dir. Dziga Vertov)
  9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (dir. Carl Th. Dreyer)
  10. 8½ (dir. Federico Fellini)

And the loser is – Citizen Kane. After 50 years at the top of the Sight & Sound poll, Orson Welles’s debut film has been convincingly ousted by Alfred Hitchcock’s 45th feature Vertigo – and by a whopping 34 votes, compared with the mere five that separated them a decade ago. So what does it mean? Given that Kane actually clocked over three times as many votes this year as it did last time, it hasn’t exactly been snubbed by the vastly larger number of voters taking part in this new poll, which has spread its net far wider than any of its six predecessors. [More…, x]

François Truffaut kept a copy of this Peanuts strip on the wall of his office.

François Truffaut kept a copy of this Peanuts strip on the wall of his office.

Huw Wheldon: The fact is, you’re in love with the movies, aren’t you?
Orson Welles: That’s my trouble! You see, if I’d only stayed in the theater, I could have worked steadily, without stopping for all these years. But, having made one film, I decided that it was the best and most beautiful form that I knew and one that I wanted to continue with. I was in love with it as you say, really tremendously so.

Huw Wheldon: Now, seeing that you had never in all your life ever made a film before Kane, and had never, so far as I am aware, been in a studio before Kane (Welles: It’s true…) quite apart from how you landed this contract, which was a result of enormous notoriety at the time and other gifts, what I would like to know is, how did you….
Orson Welles: No, really, I must interrupt you, I got that good contract because I didn’t really want to make a film.

Wheldon: Well, you had better develop that.
Welles: And you know, when you don’t really want to go up to Hollywood, at least this was true in the old days, the golden days of Hollywood, when you honestly didn’t want to go, then the deals got better and better. In my case I didn’t want money, I wanted authority, so I asked the impossible, hoping to be left alone; and at the end of a year’s negotiations I got it, simply because there was no real vocation there—my love for films began only when we started to work.

Wheldon: Now, what I would like to know is, where did you get the confidence from to make a…
Welles: Ignorance, ignorance, sheer ignorance—you know there’s no confidence to equal it. It’s only when you know something about a profession, I think, that you’re timid and careful.

Wheldon: How did this ignorance show itself?
Welles: I thought you could do anything with a camera, you know, that the eye could do and the imagination could do and if you came up from the bottom in the film business you’re taught all the things that the cameraman doesn’t want to attempt for fear he will be criticized for having failed. And in this case I had a cameraman (Gregg Toland) who didn’t care if he was criticized if he failed, and I didn’t know there were things you couldn’t do, so anything I could think up in my dreams I attempted to photograph.

Wheldon: You got away with enormous technical advances, didn’t you?
Welles: Simply by not knowing that they were impossible, or theoretically impossible. And of course, again, I had the great advantage not only in the real genius of my cameraman but in the fact that he, like all great men, I think, who are masters of a craft, told me right from the outset that there was nothing about the camera work that I couldn’t learn in half a day, that any intelligent person couldn’t learn in half a day. And he was right.

BBC Monitor - 1960.

The Films of Orson Welles

Part One: 1941 - 1952
Citizen Kane | The Magnificent Ambersons | The Stranger | The Lady from Shanghai | Macbeth | Othello

Orson Welles confers with Gregg Toland on the set of Citizen Kane.

Orson Welles confers with Gregg Toland on the set of Citizen Kane.

On the set of Citizen Kane

On the set of Citizen Kane

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree…

Orson Welles on the set of Citizen Kane.

Orson Welles on the set of Citizen Kane.

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane