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Chantal Akerman’s ‘Jeanne Dielman’ Becomes First Female-Directed Film to Top BFI-Backed Critics’ Poll of Greatest Films of All Time

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Almost 50 years after its release, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Brussels — Chantal Akerman’s groundbreaking 1975 drama following the meticulous daily routine of a middle-aged widow over the course of three days — has become the first film by a female director to top Sight & Sound magazine’s once-a-decade “Best Films of All Time” poll in 70 years.

More than 1,600 film critics, academics, distributors, writers, curators, archivists and programmers voted in the poll, which the BFI-backed publication has been running since 1952, with the results, announced Thursday, seeing Akerman’s feature — which was heralded by Le Monde in January 1976 as “the first masterpiece of the feminine in the history of the cinema” — leapfrog from 36th position in 2022 to No. 1.

The 2012 winner, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigonow sits in second place, with Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (which held the No. 1 spot for 50 years) placed third and Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story fourth. Three more films are new to the top 10, including Wong Kar Wai’s In The Mood For Love in fifth place (up from 24th in 2012), Claire Denis’ Beau travail at number seven (up from 78th) and David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. in eighth place (up from 28th). Only four new films released since 2012 managed to break into the top 100 of the poll, with the highest slot going to Celine Sciamma’s 2019 drama. Portrait of a Lady on Fire in 30th place. Further down, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight was named as the joint 60th best film, Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite came in at a tie for 90th and Jordan Peele’s Get Out at a joint 95th.

Jeanne Dielman challenged the status quo when it was released in 1975 and continues to do so today. It’s a landmark feminist film, and its position at the top of the list is emblematic of better representation in the top 100 for women filmmakers,” said Mike Williams, Sight and Sound editor. “While it’s great to see previous winners Vertigo and Citizen Kane complete the top three, Jeanne Dielman‘s success reminds us that there is a world of under-seen and under-appreciated gems out there to be discovered, and that the importance of repertory cinemas and home entertainment distributors cannot be overestimated in their continued spotlighting of films that demand to be seen. . What currently undervalued masterpieces might emerge in 10 years thanks to this tireless work?”

Added BFI executive director of public programs and audiences Jason Wood: “As well as being a compelling list, one of the most important elements is that it shakes a fist at the established order. Canons should be challenged and interrogated and as part of the BFI’s remit to not only revisit film history but to also reframe it, it’s so satisfying to see a list that feels quite radical in its sense of diversity and inclusion.”

See the top 20 greatest films of all time, according to Sight & Sound‘s 2022 poll, below

1 Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)

2 Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)

3 Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

4 Tokyo Story (Ozu Yasujiro, 1953)

5 In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2001)

6 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

7 Beau travail (Claire Denis, 1998)

8 Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)

9 Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)

10 Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1951)

11 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (FW Murnau, 1927)

12 The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)

13 La Règle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)

14 Cléo from 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962)

15 The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

16 Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid, 1943)

17 Close-up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1989)

18 Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)

19 Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)

20 Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)



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