The British media decided it was all about us- and that the absence from the list of any British film was an insult to the national honour. I wasn't particularly upset. British cinema has always been overshadowed by Hollywood- and our talent- everyone from Stan Laurel to Simon Pegg- tends to move West as soon as it's established itself. Besides Charles Laughton (whose Night of the Hunter fills the #2 spot) was English- and so were Hitchcock and Chaplin.
Still it's a little surprising that Powell and Pressburger were overlooked. Ditto Carol Reed's The Third Man.
All this is leading up to my own top ten. It's not in order of merit and most of the choices are a little provocative. When torn between two titles I've tended to go for the less well know.
1. Winter Light: Bergman.
I could have filled the list with Bergman. This represents him at his most concentrated and austere
2. La Voie Lactee: Bunuel
A road movie about great Christian heresies. I love Bunuel. He's at the top of my list of famous, dead people I'd have liked to have met. It's a very short list. In fact-now I think about it- there's only one name on it.
3. La Dolce Vita: Fellini
Fellini at the top of his game, before he got fat and ugly.
4. Celine et Julie Vont en Bateau: Rivette
Spooky, playful, wholly delightful. Girls just wanna have fun.
5. F for Fake : Welles
His last film. A masterclass in editing. Every bit as brilliant and original as Citizen Kane.
6. The Wild Bunch: Peckinpah
The greatest western by the greatest director of westerns. That final shoot out is just amazing.
7. Being There: Ashby
Because I adore Peter Sellers and this is his best film.
8. Weekend: Godard
In the movies anything is possible.
9. A Canterbury Tale: Powell & Pressburger
Poetic, perverted, patriotic. It makes me cry.
10. Les Enfants de Paradis: Carne
The film Balzac would have made. The French equivalent of Gone with the Wind- only so much better.
And one for the road:
11. Late Spring: Ozu.
Because Ozu is God