The Sight and Sound poll was released after ten years of cultural, economic, global and political change and emerged virtually unchanged from the decades preceding it.
When it was finally announced that Vertigo had, at last, squeaked by Citizen Kane to become the most admired film among critics it reminded me of an old couple staring at their salt and pepper shakers for fifty years until finally deciding to move the pepper to the left of the salt. Then they sat back down and stared at them again.
It is a terrifying thing, to age ten years. To age and not change is even more terrifying. Great films should not cease being great because you’ve grown out of them. They should not cease being great because YOU’VE changed. Had the 846 critics and film scholars they polled this year picked a new film from the list to supplant Citizen Kane, rather than one that’s been kicking around for decades, it might have been more credible. But it’s hard to look at the top two films on that list and think, yeah, that was a justifiable change, moving Vertigo one place up over Kane. Most looked at it and thought huh? That’s because if this is the only radical shift you’re talking about in the world of film it is not that radical at all; it is like moving the pepper to the left of the salt.