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White Nights (#110 of 3)

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Kenji Fujishima’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Kenji Fujishima’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Kenji Fujishima’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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.

In trying to whip up a Top 10 for this alternative Sight & Sound poll, I decided from the beginning to try to forgo any extra-cinematic considerations and simply go with 10 films that mean a great deal to me personally. There’s an implicit canon-building aspect to this particular exercise, and surely some would feel a need to take into account not only previous Sight & Sound poll-toppers (Citizen Kane, The Rules of the Game, , etc.), but also such things as historical importance in coming up with a list for posterity. But where’s the fun in that? Besides, screw posterity: I’m totally willing to admit, at the outset, the possibility that any of my favorite 10 below may decline in estimation over time, to be replaced by another film entirely that I may begin to appreciate more as I grow older. For now, though, these are 10 films that I could not part with in my life.

White Nights at the Saint Petersburg International Kinoforum 2011

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White Nights at the Saint Petersburg International Kinoforum 2011
White Nights at the Saint Petersburg International Kinoforum 2011

When asked by Russians whether this was my first visit to St. Petersburg, I replied enigmatically, “Yes and no.” The answer was that I had been to Saint Petersburg, Florida and Leningrad, neither of which has much in common with the spectacular present-day Russian city, the ideal setting for a film festival. The Kinoforum in its first bona fide year (there was a small experimental version in 2010) is one of the only festivals that gives equal importance to tourism, debates, and movies. Held during the celebrated White Nights in July, the superbly organized touristic side gave guests the chance to attend a ballet (Don Quichotte) at the Marinsky Theatre; a huge open-air show put on especially for us at the Summer Palace, with a banquet thrown in; a symphony concert beside a lake, including Tchiakovsky’s “1812 Overture,” which concluded with a fireworks display instead of a cannon; a magical boat trip up the Neva by night; and a visit to the Hermitage, one of the world’s greatest collection of paintings (the festival enabled us to jump the long, long line to get in).

5 for the Day: Cinema of the Personal Daydream

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5 for the Day: Cinema of the Personal Daydream
5 for the Day: Cinema of the Personal Daydream

“The cinema substitutes for our gaze a world more in harmony with our desires.” —credited to André Bazin in Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt

Bazin may or may not have actually said or written those words, but the above quote certainly explains a great deal about the universal appeal of the movies. Most of us would probably agree that, at its best, cinema can function not just as mere escapism, but also as a way of satisfying a desire to see characters or an entire world depicted on a big screen that reflects one’s own yearnings. (Why, for instance, do some moviegoers sometimes find themselves half-admiring movie killers like Jef Costello, the lonely contract killer with the sharply honed senses in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai (1967); or Jules and Vincent, the two talkative hit men in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994)? Often there’s just something damn cool about them that makes you want to be like them.)

Even within that particular definition of cinema at its height, however, there is a certain category of cinema that I would like to propose—what I would call (somewhat reductively) the “cinema of the personal daydream.”

What makes up a “personal daydream movie,” you might ask? It is the type of movie that inspires—whether during the movie, days afterward, or both—a mood in the viewer of wanting to linger in the film’s particular world for hours on end, in the same way one might desire to linger in a dream at night before having to wake up to eye-crust-ridden early-morning reality. It’s the kind of movie whose mood might suddenly materialize in your mind as you sit during your lunch break at work (or, in my case, in a college classroom waiting for a lecture to start). One filmmaker’s daydream, in other words, becomes your daydream. And perhaps your reaction to a filmmaker’s vision reflects deep pools of yearning that the movie touches upon, whether consciously or subconsciously.