Universally recognized as one of the greatest movies ever made, Citizen Kane is, as movie pundit Scott Mantz might say, the Citizen Kane of movies.
Citizen Kane is one of those experience movies that anybody who considers themselves a cinephile must experience. Starring the director Orson Welles, Citizen Kane is a movie that has an amazing relevance to today’s world, almost 80 years later.
Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) was a newspaper magnet and one of the country’s richest men. Upon his death, he became even bigger news, and journalists searched for a hook for their audiences, in their attempt to discover something new about the millionaire. A group of reporters focused in on a riddle… the last word spoken by Kane was “Rosebud” and no one knew why. This mystery sent the reporters on a journey into the past of Charles Foster Kane searching for a clue to the true meaning of that allusion.
I had never watched Citizen Kane before, but I knew the answer to the riddle of :What was Rosebud.” It is one of the most iconic movie images ever put to screen. I knew about that allusion for decades. Heck, the first place I ever heard of it was from the Dr. Demento Show and the song “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” by Julie Brown. It was a pop culture symbol that everyone knew. That speaks to the successful nature of the film.
This movie was filmed in ways that would inspire directors and creators for years. In fact, many of the styles used to film here may not seem special when viewed today, but were, in actuality, influential to the film industry when Orson Welles did it. Techniques such as “deep focus” which is a technique that allows the filmmaker to keep objects in the foreground and in the distant background in focus at the same time. Images in the film are utter masterpieces of composition and imagination. They literally teach classes on the imagery found in Citizen Kane.
The story telling of the film was ahead of its time as well. The film starts off with the death of the main protagonist in Charles Foster Kane, setting up the film’s main mystery with the “Rosebud” utterance. Then the film is told in flashbacks to the different stages of Kane’s life, and it was not even chronological at this point. Yet the story is so well constructed that you are never confused about where in the story you are and what place in Kane’s life you are watching. The use of the news reel right after Kane’s death provides us with exposition in a manner that is both effective and entertaining.
I also found a disturbing comparison between Charles Foster Kane and another of our major public figures in today’s world. Another multi-millionaire narcissist with delusions of grandeur.
I avoided Citizen Kane for the longest time because I thought I might be bored by it. Au contraire… I found it completely compelling and fascinating. The tale of the life of this man and his hopes and his desires, along with a longing for what was and what could have been. Devastating. This is an amazing debut from Orson Welles and it had to be difficult for him to manage expectations after the first film you make is one of the most revered films in movie history.
A true masterpiece.