It has been on newsstands for a month or so already, but it has taken me awhile to ponder Paul Schrader's new article that tries to define a film canon (titled "Canon Fodder") in the September/October issue of Film Comment magazine. The editorial page brags that it's the longest article ever published by the magazine (except a 1973 two-issue essay on King Vidor). In it, former film critic, and current screenwriter and director Schrader was challenged to create the movie equivalent of Harold Bloom's The Western Canon. He began writing a book, but eventually stopped short with this long article. His reasoning is not optimistic; he claims that cinema, and especially the idea of finding aesthetic art therein, is mostly dead, a relic of the 20th century. He calls cinema a "broken down horse" and says that, if he were just starting out today, he would not turn to films for personal expression.

Nevertheless, he chooses 60 films for his canon, and I take exception with only a couple of them (All That Jazz and A Place in the Sun, if you must know). If those of us who still have hope for the form ignore the tone of the article, there is much joy and greatness to be found below. Currently, readers have responded exclusively online with their list of the most important, omitted directors, and Schrader responds to the readers (and, yes, the omission of Rossellini was an error).


1. The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
2. Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu)
3. City Lights (1931, Charles Chaplin)
4. Pickpocket (1959, Robert Bresson)
5. Metropolis (1927, Fritz Lang)
6. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
7. Orphée (1950, Jean Cocteau)
8. Masculin-Feminin (1966, Jean-Luc Godard)
9. Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman)
10. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
11. Sunrise (1927, F.W. Murnau)
12. The Searchers (1956, John Ford)
13. The Lady Eve (1941, Preston Sturges)
14. The Conformist (1970, Bernardo Bertolucci)
15. 8 ½ (1963, Federico Fellini)
16. The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)
17. In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-wai)
18. The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)
19. Performance (1970, Donald Cammell/Nicholas Roeg)
20. La Notte (1961, Michelangelo Antonioni)
categories Cinematical