Britain's Greatest Living Movie Analyst?
May 4, 2013 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Philip French, Observer Film Reviewer and possibly Britain's Greatest Living Movie Analyst puts down his pencil after 50 years. A living repository of cinematic knowledge, French's ethos is "You should assume your reader is intelligent, but not necessarily as well-informed, since they spend their days doing something else for a living." He will retire from August.

To give a taste of his writing, try his top 10 of 2012, 2011, 2010 (all link through to reviews), his Screen Legends column or just browse his significant back collection of reviews and film related articles.
posted by biffa (10 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Philip French's pick of the top 50 films from the past five decades.
posted by Hobo at 2:37 PM on May 4, 2013

My new benchmark of movie criticism is whether or not they enjoyed "Holy Motors". If they do, I stay far far away.
posted by newfers at 2:55 PM on May 4, 2013

Respect to the lad for picking Neil Jordan's mystifyingly underrated "Angel". Terrific film, that. Somehow it has slipped off the radar and no one seems to have heard of it. Baffling.
posted by Decani at 3:40 PM on May 4, 2013

Hope and Glory (John Boorman, 1987)

One of the greatest British directors revisits his World War Two childhood.

Au revoir les enfants (Louis Malle, 1987)

Malle finally confronts his childhood experiences in Nazi-occupied France.

That's a good start for a semi-autobiographical-accounts-of-childhood-during-World-War-II-as-depicted-in-films-relesed-in-1987-themed movie night. Follow up with Steven Spielberg's film of J.G.Ballard's Empire of the Sun and Woody Allen's Radio Days.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:59 PM on May 4, 2013

I just want to say that is an awesome ethos. I wish more reviewers of all things thought the same way.
posted by Eekacat at 5:36 PM on May 4, 2013

To me that's one of the values Roger Ebert brought to his reviews too. He had seen more movies than his readers had, but he didn't write like they were stupider for it.
posted by kandinski at 7:13 PM on May 4, 2013

My new benchmark of movie criticism is whether or not they enjoyed "Holy Motors". If they do, I stay far far away.

Good luck with that; it's at 90% at Rotten Tomatoes. I see your point, though; it's a challenging, bizarre, messy and (too often) dull film. But the first 45 minutes of 'Holy Motors' is amazing - a mythic, mind-expanding turn-your-brain-sideways kind of film. That it degenerates in the 2nd half into a slow-moving, sorta turgid mess with a few brilliant moments and a ridiculously silly ending doesn't change that it's still one of the most interesting films I've seen so far this year. I'm finding it hard to think of another film that aimed higher/odder.

Thanks for the post, biffa; I'm finding myself disagreeing with a lot of his year-best picks but love the "assume your reader is intelligent, but not necessarily as well-informed" framing.
posted by mediareport at 7:42 PM on May 4, 2013

Philip French's pick of the top 50 films from the past five decades.

Well, I just topped off my Netflix queue again....

Of those, one of my favorites is Secrets & Lies, an amazing, human film.

Wilder's Ace in the Hole, btw, is very well worth watching, though not my favorite of his works (that would be The Apartment).
posted by dhartung at 12:27 AM on May 5, 2013

This is sad. For many many years, almost since the beginning, French was the guy who helped me decide which movie to go to. On retrospect I think he helped me a lot in not wasting my time on pretentious crap, blockbuster blah and general boredom. I go to the movies to be entertained and sometimes to think. So thank you Mr. French for being such a good mentor. I can only hope that I am still as thoughtful and lucid as yourself at the august age of 80.
posted by adamvasco at 4:07 AM on May 5, 2013

Oh dear, I can't believe how much I disagree with much of his top 50 list. So many boring, safe, Oscar-intended choices.
posted by goatdog at 7:20 AM on May 5, 2013

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