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A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

[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.]

For film critics, Top 10 lists are a fact of life. Yet, despite frequent complaints that Top 10s are a bore to compose at the end of each year, the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound poll is one of those rare lists to which most critics would love to be asked to contribute. It's the Top 10. The lists themselves tend to represent each critic's best effort to express the knowledge and creativity that the invitation supposes. You can imagine the arduousness, then, of limiting one's selections of the greatest movies of all time to just 10 entries.

Given that my role in the larger critical dialogue is minute as compared to those participating in this year's Sight & Sound poll, I took to the challenge of a personal Top 10 more in the spirit of fun than soul-searching. Indeed, I've spent a good deal of time thinking about all of the films below in various capacities and stages of my life. Some meant more to me years ago than they do now, while others have lingered in my thoughts and memories beyond what seemed like an ordinary experience of watching them. Some are predictable, others perhaps naïve. But they each played an important part in my own development as a film lover, a writer, and a person.

So while individual Top 10 lists represent an opportunity for all of us to showcase our film knowledge, I see them more as a reflection of who we are as people. They are all unique, interesting, and flawed, both in concept and execution, which also makes them less significant than their epic design would suggest. That's why I have opted for simplicity in deciding on the films for my list. While a certain amount of self-reflection is essential, some things are better felt than pondered. The following list is no doubt an expression of my personal tastes and knowledge about film, and perhaps even a statement about how I approach life. Then again, it is also a fairly arbitrary ordering of 10 films that mean a great deal to me.

Belle de Jour

10. Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967). Luis Buñuel was known for his surrealistic rendering of life, and nowhere is this better suited than for a story of an upper class housewife who becomes a prostitute. Belle de Jour tenders a portrayal of female sexuality engendering a lustful yearning to break free from a repressed social order. Buñuel contrasts this with violent, guilt-ridden dreams of men slinging mud onto Catherine Deneuve's bound, naked body. Vivid are these images, yet nothing in the film matches the camera's fixation on Deneuve's legs as she makes her decision to enter the brothel.

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TAGS: 2001: a space odyssey, a.i. artificial intelligence, aguirre: the wrath of god, alfred hitchcock, buster keaton, carol reed, charles reisner, david cronenberg, jacques tati, jimmy stewart, luis buñuel, monty python, mr. hulots holiday, orson welles, playtime, sight & sound, stanley kubrick, steamboat bill jr., steven spielberg, terry gilliam, terry jones, the third man, vertigo, videodrome, werner herzog

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