When you write criticism, films and music primarily, you are constrained into rating a piece based on a set scale. This normally takes the form of a 4-star or 5-star pictorial option or a marks out-of-ten barometer to give your readership a quick and easy way to understand your sentiment towards what is being reviewed and gauge exactly which spectrum of the scale you fall in. Are you indifferent? Do you love the piece? Do you truly hate the piece? Is is somewhere lurking between all said options.
Occasionally, you come across something to review which is so utterly execrable, you award it no stars. This is a very satisfying and simple way to get across how awful something is. You can even slip into minus figures should it be, say, a Kevin Federline album or a Friedberg & Seltzer movie (or vice versa!). But, at the other end of the scale, there is little to satisfy should you find something which is so completely perfect that simply providing it with five-stars doesn’t seem enough. You will have already awarded five-stars to other pieces in the past and your thoughts will stray to how you could have done such a thing and placed it on even keel with the mastery you’ve experienced. Sometimes, you need to award an extra star, an extra mark, just to communicate the gravity of the situation.
Today I spent a magnificent 106 minutes rewatching Carol Reed’s masterpiece, The Third Man. It occurred to me once finishing that this really could not be fully encapsulated with a mere five-star review, which I’m sure it has received on a number of occasions in the past. The Third Man falls into a select group of films which can only really be categorised by six-stars, one extra, seemingly meaningless but symbolically imporatant further mark which will exhibit to readers everywhere that this is a film of such perfection, such untouchable brilliance, that it must be placed on a pedestal with only a select circle deserving of such praise.
I would immediately throw out names like Vertigo, Seven Samurai, Ran (most Kurosawa masterworks), Taxi Driver, The Godfather Parts 1 & 2, A Bout de Souffle. Just a few off the top of the head which deserve to be categorised as six-star works, too perfect that they must be exalted outside of traditional ratings systems into a rarified position looking over the rest.
So, the question is, what films would you consider six-star works?