As a film obsessive and a ‘two time award winning director’, something I enjoy bragging about, I feel as though I am well placed to pronounce and, ultimately decide which are the greatest 10 films ever made.
10. Fight Club 1999 (David Fincher) – As with all great works of art this film was not properly appreciated initially. Indeed, the esteemed and peretempory critic Roger Ebert claimed the film was a mere ‘a thrill ride masquerading as philosophy’ and whilst ‘enjoyed by many’ it was not by him. Yet Mr Ebert has totally misunderstood the film. The beauty of the film is in the subtlety of its philosophical, deeply anti-consumerist, sub plot that it is intrinsically woven into the fabric of the picture. Unlike the utter self-indulgent nonsense that is Terrence Malick’s existentialist and thoroughly stolid Tree of Life, Fincher imbues, what is ostensibly a ‘thrill ride’ with a complex subplot and, perhaps, the greatest twist in cinematic history. Edward Norton’s rejection of the monotenous banality of society, descending into animalistic depravity owes much to Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey and Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde with the allegory being totally missed. If you are the moron that Roger Ebert clearly thinks everyone who enjoyed this is, you’ll be aware that the ‘thrills’, often violent in nature, are by no means gratuitous and are, by contrast, tasteful and clever.
9. Se7en 1997 (David Fincher) – It is probably demonstrable by now that I am something of a David Fincher fan yet this is the last appearance for Mr Fincher in this list. Like Fight Club, Se7en is very easy to misunderstand. In fact, I was arguing with a friend of mine who had committed the frankly cardinal sin of assuming that Fincher was trying to create a genuine detective film. It takes a special kind of imbecile to see Kevin Spacey’s name in the cast list (albeit cleverly omitted from the opening credits) and not work out, with only half an hour to go with a distinctly Spaceyless film thus far, that his is probably playing the villain. Instead, the film does not centre around Freeman and Pitt attempting to locate the enigmatic John Doe, but rather, the tensions in their own fraught relationship. Unfortunately, there isn’t much more I can say about this film without revealing to much of the plot, but all I can really say is that Kevin Spacey is incredible and almost begins to elicit sympathy from the audience.
8. The Mist 2007 (Frank Darabont) – Several people recommended The Mist to me, but the closest I ever got was watching the trailer on YouTube and then concluding that it was nothing more than a slushy, mindless, horror that would fail, inexorably, to scare. I persisted in thinking this way even though I am a huge fan of the director, Frank Darabont who directed my second and third favourite films of all time (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) until a friend of mine insisted I go to his house and watch the film. When the film began I did my very best to dislike the film, yet within fifteen minutes I was hooked. The inclusion of monsters in the plot is fairly superficial and always even those who are incapable of suspending their disbelief to enjoy an excellent film. The majority of the violence and 'gore' is implied and the film is more about the relationship between the fragmented society that propagates in the store where the survivors have taken refuge. (It's quite hard to describe without giving several plot points away). The real beauty and poignancy of the film is not in the struggle between human and monster but in the tension ultra and unrelenting scepticism, rationalism and religious zealotry in the face of what appears to be the apocalypse. Please don't let the look of the film put you off, it is not a trashy Hollywood film about a bunch or 'roided up Americans who kill the monsters and return in time for tea and fornication but rather a tasteful film that, I would argue at least, has more traits of a thriller or neo-film noir than a conventional horror.
7. Rear Window 1954 (Alfred Hitchcock) – In 2007 some idiot decided that it would be a worthwile commercial venture to make Disturbia which is cheap, nasty, rip off of Rear Window and fails to even acknowledge it. Despite D.J Caruso’s best efforts, Rear Window is, indubitably, Hitchcock’s greatest film of all time. The idea of watching a murderer commit his crimes whilst being forced to watch from a window is a truly terrifying thought. The fact that the audience is complicit in the passivity of a helpless James Stewart serves to make the idea of watching a murder occur whilst being physically unable to intervene serves to make this film more poignant. Hitchcock could perhaps be commenting on modern society.
6. Requiem for a Dream 2000 (Darren Aronofsky) – Everyone knows the score for this film, although most erroneously assume that it originated in The Lord of Rings. Yet Requiem for a Dream is easily one of the most overlooked films of the decade. Set in Coney Island, which is mentioned, fleetingly in The Great Gatsby the film ostensibly revolves around three drug addicts searching for a ‘fix’. Yet as this film progresses Aronofsky ingenuously begins to question what addiction means, in a style very similar to Fincher in Fight Club, the frequently lambasted concept of consumerism is presented as something akin to a drug. At risk of making a tenuous link Sara Goldfarb’s (Ellen Burstyn) obsession with fitting into her red dress, her hubris, echoes Fitzgerald’s depiction of Daisy Buchannan crying into the ‘beautiful shirts’, emotion in both pieces is directed at the artificial material world.
To Be Continued....