Any day now, the famous Sight & Sound poll of the greatest movies ever made will come out. Inevitably, Citizen Kane will be number one, as it has been for fifty years. By now, voting Kane The Greatest Ever is a film critic tic, or maybe a ritual, or maybe an initiation rite. Which is too bad. Not that Kane is a bad movie, and I understand that the technical achievements and the bravura of Welles’s vision of the film are a huge draw. But bravura is hardly in short supply these days, and those technical achievements are seventy years old.
Even older and out of date is the film’s view of money and power. The iconic image of Charles Foster Kane wandering his cavernous, cold mansion from which he wields unspeakable power seems ridiculously out of touch, a centuries-old “critical” presentation of state sovereignty grafted onto capitalist power arrangements. Capitalist money doesn’t isolate itself in mansions and surround itself with possessions that entrap it. It doesn’t congeal and fortify; it circulates and infects.
Well, except when it doesn’t. Like during the current crisis. But even when money stops circulating, it doesn’t pile up in mansions or become commodities for commodities’ sake. Instead it sits in offshore tax shelters or in the safe haven of government bonds, waiting not for an auction or a bonfire but for guaranteed returns, secured markets, and tamed labor.
So, since you asked nicely, here would be my ten favorite movies (this week), roughly in order, with some clips and keywords:
The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah): borders, the frontier, nation-building
The Sound of Music (Wise): micropolitics of nationalism
L’Age d’Or (Bunuel): desire, the church-state
Opening Night (Cassavetes): schizophrenia/transindividuality, creative labor
Lola (Fassbinder): real estate, development, sexwork
Woman Under the Influence (Cassavetes): domestic labor, family
Blue Velvet (Lynch): unwaged labor, (de)subjectivation
Far From Heaven (Haynes): intersection of race, gender, sexuality; colors
All About Eve (Mankiewicz): Fordism, heteronormativity, surface
His Girl Friday (Hawks): masculinity, marriage-work
[Edit: Well I guess I was wrong. It came out today, apparently, Kane was not number one, only number two. But still.]