In a BBC poll this week, Citizen Kane was voted the greatest ever American film.
What is perhaps more interesting is how few recent films there were featuring on the list (the most contemporary being Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave ). This could, of course, be because it takes time and perspective for a piece of work to be deemed worthy of such critical acknowledgement. Or it could be that the studios, responsible, lest we forget, for Casablanca and The Godfather, for Singing in the Rain and 2001: A Space Odyssey just don’t want to make those kinds of films any more. Because their insight tells them that what moviegoers in multiplexes really want is more Marvel franchise sequels and films about dinosaurs revamped for a new generation.
I wonder if it is possible to draw analogies with book publishing. Will the larger houses that are competing to invest in data and analytics to understand their readers decide they just need to recommission the ancient repeating brands, plus more adult colouring books and titles that score highly when playing algorithmic bingo where this or this meet this? Will it be left to the independent publishers or indie writers, just as it seems to be left to the independent film makers, to create the classics of tomorrow; the books that came out of left field that no one knew they wanted? Who knows. But then again, when we look back in 50 years time, I think it is quite likely that Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See will be on a list somewhere, treasured, studied and deemed an ageless, modern classic. And that was published by 4th Estate, part of the mighty global conglomerate Harper Collins.