This week the British Film Institute's in-house magazine Sight and Sound published its Greatest Films of All Time list, the results of a poll the publication has run once a decade since 1952.
I'd guess impact and influence on world culture aren't amongst the criteria for selecting the greatest films, because not one of George Miller's four Mad Max films are in there, and I'd posit that watchability and connection to audience also aren't judging categories, because Miller and Chris Noonan's Babe doesn't get a mention.
The list is drawn from the contributions of 1639 participating film critics, programmers, curators, archivists and academics and all of those people couldn't come up with one single Aussie film when asked what makes a great film.
No mention of Baz Luhrmann, five-time darling of the Cannes Film Festival, nor of Rolf de Heer and his Cannes Special Jury Prize winner, Ten Canoes.
Instead, topping the poll is Belgian film director Chantelle Ackerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels, a three-and-a-half-hour work about mundanity itself, in which Ackerman's camera documents her lead character's repetitive life and facial expressions.
It is great filmmaking, though it may not sound like it. But I certainly wouldn't recommend it to friends. It makes me think of the 30 Rock gag about the Oscar-bait film called Hard to Watch.
Its meteoric ascent to the top spot, knocking off the likes of Hitchcock's Vertigo and Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (number 2 and 3 respectively), reflects the more diverse polled audience since the last list was published in 2012, when Ackerman was one of just two female filmmakers in the entire top 100.
This suggests the previous poll respondents were a certain demographic, which I would guess at being fairly white, fairly male, definitely old and suffering from a heavily Eurocentric worldview.
This time around, the magazine says it targeted a "wider and more diverse electorate", and that might be reflected in more films by women filmmakers (11), by black filmmakers (seven, up from one), but the list still feels like cinematheque onanism, like the pollsters were lining up against each other to compare the size of their obscure screening libraries.
The top 20 features just two films made this millennia - David Lynch's trippy and brilliant Mulholland Dr (number 8) and Wong Kar Wei's In The Mood For Love (number 5), a film the friend I dragged to see with me begged me to walk out of half way through.
The films that got knocked out this time around say a lot about this list too. In what world is David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (booted out of this year's 100, along with Polanski's Chinatown and Scorsese's Raging Bull) an objectively worse film than some of the silent films included, like Buster Keaton's 1924 film Sherlock Jr (number 54) or Carl Dreyer's 1927 film The Passion of Joan of Arc? (number 21)?
It isn't. It's far superior. Those pioneer filmmakers might have laid filmmaking's foundations, but successive generations learned from them and built upon this with new thinking in storytelling and structure and technique.
Australians do appear throughout the list, such as Naomi Watts's career-making role in Mulholland Dr, while Jane Campion's The Piano makes the cut. But while Campion is a Sydney-sider these days, this New Zealand-set and shot film tells a very New Zealand-centric story. But just like Russell Crowe, Rebecca Gibney, Crowded House, Phar Lap and the pavlova, Australians will claim it as their own when it is convenient to do so and means praise coming our way.
But how can our stories, so meaningful to our sense of national identity and so genuinely good and worthy as artworks, make no impact on the international stage?
Rolf de Heer's The Tracker, so raw and powerful, is, in my opinion, one of the greatest films of all time. But it's ghosted along with Canberra filmmaker Cate Shortland's Cannes Camera D'Or nominee Somersault, along with Wake in Fright and Walkabout.
One of our greatest living filmmakers, Peter Weir, had his very greatness recognised with an honorary Oscar at a ceremony in Los Angeles on November 19, but his Picnic at Hanging Rock doesn't get a mention from any of the 1639 surveyed participants.
Are we, the Australian cinema audience and the Australian film industry, gaslighting ourselves when we think we're producing top-echelon films? Are we content with how much the films shot here are locations for American productions, rather than telling new Australian stories and fostering new auteur talent?
Are we not making prints of our films accessible enough for the programmers of the international cinematheque and film festival clique who make up so much of this voting audience?
Or is this list in itself a form of gaslighting?
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