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The Third Man

[Editor's Note: In light of Sight & Sound's film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn't partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.]

Bearing in mind the fundamentally mercurial nature of any such list (at least as far as I'm concerned), apt to alter its constituent membership with the swiftness of a weathervane buffeted by hurricane-force winds, I hereby present the 10 films that rank as my current favorites.

The Leopard

10. The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1963). Luchino Visconti's film is quite simply the most lavish historical epic ever captured on celluloid, to which every subsequent sprawling sudser owes an incalculable debt of gratitude. It's also a perversely luxurious ode to the irretrievable past, to what Prince Fabrizio (Burt Lancaster) calls voluptuous immobility, that is, to death itself. Visconti was the arch-poet of decadence; in The Leopard, he fills every painterly frame with a palpable sensitivity to the beauty of enervation, the transports of degeneration, and the delights of decay.

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