If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a motion picture is worth a million words. Unfortunately, Amazon limits reviews to a thousand words only so I'll have to be brief but no amount of words can do justice to "Citizen Kane."
I can't, and therefore won't, pretend to be "objective" about this film. As the great Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci once said, "Objectivity does not exist - it cannot exist ... The word is a hypocrisy which is sustained by the lie that the truth stays in the middle. No, sir: sometimes truth stays on one side only."
In the case of "Citizen Kane" the truth is on one side only: it is a truly great film and deserves to be ranked as one of the greatest films, if not the greatest film, ever made. And anyone who says otherwise is not only wrong but grossly ignorant of this film, the history of film, and its place in the history of film.
A few key highlights on "Citizen Kane."
First, "Citizen Kane" is a work of art. (Yeah, I know that is a cliche, but like most cliches, it's true). Most movies are merely entertaining because that is all they are meant to be and do. "Citizen Kane" tried to be more and do more and succeeded.
Second, Orson was a genius and "Citizen Kane" was his masterpiece.
Third, its screenplay is itself a masterpiece. Just as matter of fact, the actual shooting script was based on two scripts (written separately by Welles and Mankiewicz) that Welles combined into one for the final version. By the way, best screenplay was the only category that garnered an Academy Award for "Citizen Kane." By rights, "Citizen Kane" should have won all the categories but did not because of the efforts of William Randolph Hearst (incredibly, the real Hearst was even worse than the man "Citizen Kane" portrayed!).
Third, the look (and sound) of "Citizen Kane" is glorious. Gregg Toland was one of the greatest cinematographers in the history of film, period, and "Kane" proves it. Without going into the boring (actually not boring) technical details, this film was ahead of its time and used many techniques for the first time that we have long since gotten used to. Unfortunately, we have forgotten where they came from.
Welles and his cinematographer Gregg Toland developed or enhanced techniques for allowing the drama to develop on multiple planes of vision and sound. the film's deep focus photography, which allows actors and objects to remain in focus whatever their distance from the camera, allowed multiple actions to be shown within a single frame and remain comprehensible, allowing for complex interactions between foreground and background.
Welles and John Aalberg created a complex soundtrack that merged multiple dialogues, sometimes spoken simultaneously, and music into a comprehensible whole.
Fourth, Bernard Herrmann. Do I need to say anything more? Although Bernard Herrmann received an Academy Award nomination for his score for "Citizen Kane," he actually won the award that year for his music for ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY.
Fifth, the film editing was fantastic. Kudos to Robert Wise.
Sixth, the extraordinary cast of actors were drawn entirely from the famed Mercury Theatre troupe, which Orson Welles founded when he was only 21 years old.
Seventh, It was directed by Orson Welles.
Eighth, It was produced by Orson Welles.
Ninth, Charles Foster Kane was portrayed by Orson Welles.
Tenth, "Citizen Kane" was made by Orson Welles. Did I mention that he shared the credit for best original screenplay?
I think there is a pattern here.
Bottom Line: If "Citizen Kane" is not already in your DVD collection, get the two-disc set, you won't regret it.