But already it is not quite as straightforward as it should be. Not only are there far too many movies, but every film you include reminds you of a director, star, country or genre that you have left out. And what about documentary, animation, the avant - garde, all those areas outside the realm of feature-length narrative fiction from which you have automatically constructed the list? Plus it all gets more difficult after the Sixties, as the divisions between genre and art cinema become more blurred, dif ferent national cinemas emerge and flourish, and any real sense of what might be a "classic" movie simply evaporates.
Then there is a more practical problem: even if you can hone your wish list down to 100 films, the BBC might only own the rights to 50 of them. Of the other 50, Channel 4 might have 20 and ITV could own 10. Which would mean some substitutions and a resulting list which was an approximation of a vague critical consensus as to what might be the 100 Greatest Films Ever Made (except for the ones you have been unable to acquire). It would probably also be a list that felt safe, predictable, worthy, and possibly a bit dull.
In finally selecting the BBC 100, and after exploring various permutations in 100 BBC meetings, I decided to bite the bullet and impose a basis restriction: the list of films would be drawn only from the titles which we currently have under licence, approximately 3,500 movies. In addition, I would limit the choice to sound films, given that the BBC's Cinema Century programming included two major series about silent film. These limitations, in fact, proved hugely liberating. The BBC's library includes a large number of classic titles which effectively selected themselves, from Kane, through Les Enfants Terribles, Casablanca, The Seventh Seal and Vertigo, to Spirit of the Beehive, Badlands and beyond. But the fact that we did not own, for example, The Seventh Samurai, Les 400 Coups and 2001: a Space Odyssey, all titles which "common sense" would have been voted onto the list, meant that places became free for less obvious choices. These are movies which might lack pantheon status but which would hopefully give the season a fresher and more diverse feel.
They range from underrated films by great directors (Anthony Mann's Man of the West, Wilder's Kiss Me Stupid), via titles which seem somehow symbolic or representative of something beyond themselves (El Cid, The Sound of Music, Easy Rider), to those which embody particularly unique forms of delirium (Gun Crazy, Performance, Dead Ringers). There was also space to have both early and later works by major film-makers, such as Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford and John Huston. The impact of Bergman inthe mid-Fifties could be embodied in three films rather than hinted at by one. And so on.
If, as a result, the collection becomes simultaneously more solid and more arbitrary, then it is also hopefully more stimulating. This is particularly more important with films from recent years. It is impossible to say whether A Brighter Summers Day, Sonatine and The Days would figure in a similar list in 2094, but there is little doubt that watching films from Africa and the Far East is currently more rewarding than the doldrums of European art cinema. Similarly, to include Jim McBride's Breat h less but not Godard's original, which the BBC does not own, is not just wilful or perverse, but an indication of how a film's status can change. The fact that Quentin Tarantino cites it as an influence throws new light on its wonderfully overheated visio n ofLos Angeles. And by grouping it with Rumble Fish and American Gigolo, you get a group shot of a certain kind of post-modern American art movie from that period, films which would probably never get made today. Oh, and Breathless does have the greate st ending in the history of the cinema.
Needless to say, scorn, abuse and outrage have already started to rain down, from Philip French to the Daily Mirror via Barry Norman. Eisenstein and E.T. are missing, and where is Kubrick?
Somewhere, they imply, is a correct, more sensible and responsible list, and this is definitely not it. But this Holy Grail approach misses the point. Not only of the practicalities of this sort of exercise, but also of the pleasurable meaninglessness
of the game. In the end, here are 100 films which, somewhere between Ingmar Bergman and Jerry Lewis, will give a sense of why the Centenary of Cinema is something to be celebrated. But the link between The Seventh Seal and The Nutty Professor? Your gues s is as good as mine.Reuse content