It’s been eight months since the last Sight and Sound Best Films of All Time poll was released, and Paul Schrader is still annoyed at how quickly “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Brussels” climbed to the top of the list.
In a new interview with Sight and sound, Schrader has once again expressed his unease over Chantal Akerman’s 1975 film named the greatest film of all time. While the “master gardener” hasn’t contested the film’s quality, he sees its prominent place in the list as the result of an insincere attempt to highlight more female directors.
“They did two things to rig the vote, and a third thing happened socially,” Schrader said of the latest poll. “The first was that they greatly expanded the contributors. You have people who aren’t real film critics weighing in on a critic poll and the voting list goes from 500 or 600 to 2,000. This is a big change. The second is that they counted each film as an equal. And then you had the #MeToo movement, which meant that everyone thought there should be a female director on their list.
Ultimately, Schrader said he wanted to see critics take the film canonization process more seriously. He explained that he would prefer to see institutions like Sight and Sound prioritize objective quality over accessibility when attempting to identify the greatest films of all time.
“It goes back to this whole thing about the canon and its standards,” he said. “I remember speaking to my alma mater and a student made a comment about the importance of not being elitist. I told him, ‘What the hell do you plan on doing in college? The whole idea is elitist. It’s about gaining more knowledge, it’s not about being like everyone else.’ There is nothing wrong with being elitist. There is a modern myth that you can be an elitist and a commoner at the same time. You can thank Quentin (Tarantino) for some of that. He said, ‘Killer Car Girls’ is one of the great movies.’ But ‘Killer Car Girls’ is not one of the great movies. No matter how many times Quentin says things like that, he still doesn’t make it a great movie.