on June 23, 2004
So many of the films that critics unanimously pick as the greatest of all time are overrated, confusing, ponderous, overly symbolic art pieces that leave viewers scratching their heads. The collective reaction is, "What in the hell was the director smoking?" Arty camera work and tons of symbolism and metaphors can never take the place of good acting, solid direction and, most importantly, a good script.
Much has been made of Citizen Kane's technical brilliance -- Welles' use of overlapping conversations, Gregg Toland's deep focus photography, set design that incorporates ceilings, etc. However, none of this would really mean anything if the film didn't have a great story and screenplay. Citizen Kane may be a triumph in filmmaking technique, but it is also a deeply engrossing story with characters we can relate to and sympathize with. Welles' Kane is a selfish, unhappy, overly controlling dictator who has everything and yet still manages to make himself more and more unhappy. Most of us know the feeling of not appreciating someone or something good in our lives until he/she/it is gone. We see the promise and idealism in Kane's early life, like him and believe, as Joseph Cotten's Jed Leland does, that Kane is a great man who can do so much good in society. As Kane's life progresses, however, he becomes more and more bitter, alienates everyone who cares about him and dies alone, longing for the simplicity of his early life before he became wealthy. When Kane, as an old man, loses control when his second wife Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore) leaves him, we can't help but feel for him -- even though most or all of his unhappiness is his fault. That the audience feels such empathy for such a flawed character is Citizen Kane's greatest triumph and is the true basis for Kane's reputation as one of the greatest films of all time.
Up until recently I had never seen Citizen Kane in toto.I had seen bits of it here and there in arts classes and on TV.After watching this movie and reflecting I can only envision one man that could ever had played this part to perfection and that was Orson Welles himself.This movie is as much autobiographical as it is biographical,that is there is as much Welles in this picture as Hearst.From what little I have read on both subjects over the years it is amazing how much these two men had in common in real life in their personalities and their subsequent dealings in whatever concerns were of most importance to them at any given moment.It was almost art imitating life imitating art.
But in 1941 both came together in one glorious time which would never be repeated.The picture earned Welles and company I believe around 10 OSCARS(if memory serves) of which only one was issued denying Welles his just due.Hearst had won the battle but in the end Welles won the war.
On further reflection another thing that very much jumped out at me as I viewed this film was the cinematograpy.The camera work was phenomenal.The lighting,the angles and the placement of shots added totally to the entire feel and execution of this picture.
And another aspect that I noticed was the editing.Of course as Welles controlled just about every aspect of the picture this,I would assume,could also be laid at his feet.But take for example a scene which involves Kane and his first wife.It lasts about five minutes in all but it shows them sitting at either end of a large table.Through several dissolves we see Kane and his wife going from a newly happily married couple to two distant and cold individuals.Brilliantly done.
Technically this picture has been cleaned to perfection.It is a fine transfer.There are two discs here,one has the movie along with clips from the original trailer and opening night,a short interview with a co-star and two different commentaries.The second contains a special which(again) I only saw part of a few years back on PBS called:"The Battle for Citizen Kane",which was part of the American Experience series.You will notice that this disc alone is for sale so it is worth every penny to be included in this set.
All in all I highly recommend this set to everyone.I have really no complaints in any department.While I don't think this is THE greatest movie ever made,I do believe it is one of the most important and best ever done.And when you compare it to some of the best works ever to come out of any film producing nation in the world it is no small praise indeed.
on May 25, 2004
Charles Foster Kane; welcome to Xanadu the biggest fortress ever built. That opening sequence in which we feel inmediatly the presence of the purest sense of the german expressionism, gives us one of the multiple clues who will give Orson Welles, this legend name in the cinema story.
Ths story is told brilliantly for Welles; the way Welles introduces to the world of Kane is through a new who informs us about the death. Warning about this point because Kane will never be telling his life in first person, but through all those knew him in a far or close distance. In this sense Welles, cleverly gives us a huige puzzle that you as viewers must arrange , and thanks to all his countless devices, at the end of the film when you finally discover what Rosebud means , you leave your seat convinced you're a private eye; but rememeber what Welles said once about Rosebud: it just was Freud for one dollar.
And this bitter opinion is due the fact that Rosebud means the iodea of something that never reached the complete process of growing up; a flower who never became the best of itself; I mean this point is remarkable because the sense of unfinishness is what Kane means ; nor more either less.
In fact Kane is a man who had everything he wanted; except just one thing; his stolen youth and the dreams contained in this unique stage of the life; the world needed just before he reached his twenty years old and made from him a man before the time comes.
That's why you can understand his outrageous character; and thanks to The Inquirer he can expand his biological time and in a certain way to try to live his lost years.
When he meets to Marian in that funny water accident; he confess her another clue; both of them are surrounded and involved by the loneliness even they are so distant in his respective social status.
And all his efforts walk in this direction. Remember by instance, the smart answer pronounced by Kane in a very special inflexion point of the story: "I'm all what you hate" .
Kane loves challenging the world, in every little detail; he plays with it and "no matter if he losses one million dollars each year , because he would lose all his fortune in Sixty years".
All his life turns around the sophistication, the greatness and above all to be remembered and loved or hated but never pass away by a sense of indifference. And this is an important issue, because there's a shakesperian mood in this point of view.
How can you translate the shakesperian spirit of glory and trascendence into a raising democatric country and also the new raisng empire of the world.
That impplies all his outrageousness; the expensive parties; the employement of the deepness of field which lets you watch the secondary planes just beside the first; remeber that dramatic sequence in which Welles and Cotten walk in the newspaper room.
The camera works at the floor level; another clever device of Welles; I think he wants to give us the sensation of being in a theatre hall , and in many ways that resource let add much more dramatism to every take.
Greg Tolland made an unfirgettable work behind the camera; because this film demands of you that the images through the travellings , dollies and objective use be another actor in this play.
The monumentality all along his achievements is obviously a consequence of his character; that justifies the fact of trying Marian be the greates prima voice female in the Opera ; (however; in the deep of his soul and his mind he knows she'll never reach that goal; but once more he's challenging the world)
Remember what Oscar Wilde said once: "The difference between a caprice and a passion who remains all the time of one life; is the caprice remains for a longer time" .
This film will be always a must for all the viewers of any age and as well as Bach , Mozart or Beethoven music or the Michelangelo works or Vermeer paintings , due his mythical essence; such its own force for transforming every time you watch them; but the question is Who really transforms: you , the work of both of two?
Orson Welles (1915-1985) still continues being a refernce point for many film makers , great or minors ; and to name his contributions would surpass certainly the permitted limit of this review.
A film is really good, when the camera is an eye in the mind of a poet, undoubtly a wise sentence of Orson Welles.
It's time for all those people who still hadn't watched this movie that literally is a must to make it.
A masterpiece in the widest sense of the word.
on July 10, 2004
Can you imagine what the perception of RKO was at the time they made this decision? Let's see, how about we give complete control of a major film to a twenty five year old radio voice with zero film experience (whose claim to fame was scaring the life out of the public with a fake story about aliens landing on earth) and even better, let him staff the movie with actors who have little to no screen experience. On top of that, we'll let it become one of the most controversial pictures of its time because it mirrors the life of one of the biggest names in America today. Why, it may never be able to be released because of the lawsuits-- Great idea!
I have just described Citizen Kane. All of the above is true, which makes the fact that it is possibly the greatest film in American Film History even more amazing. Everything is perfect. The script (which Welles co-wrote), the actors (all relative unknowns except Welles and Joseph Cotton), the special effects (listen to Roger Ebert's Commentary on this special edition for details) and finally, the makeup-- You won't believe how great a job they do making 25 year old Welles look 60.
As for the story, it's done in a most interesting fashion. Charles Foster Kane (Welles) dies at the very beginning of the movie and utters his famous last word "Rosebud". A reporter is given the task of finding out just what that one word meant. So he goes and interviews all the people who knew Kane to try to learn the meaning of the word. In the process, we are shown Kane through the eyes of those who knew him. We never see Kane through his own eyes, always what his former associates saw.
This is interesting, because Kane is a tragic figure as seen by just about everyone. He is unhappy and lonely. We as an audience eventually learn the meaning of Rosebud. I have read reviews that complain that the movie is about this one thing (I won't reveal what it is). But long before we learn the identity of Rosebud, the film has made its point. What is the point? My opinion is that the film shows us basically the worthlessness and despair of materialism. Loving "stuff" or money will ultimately lead to unhappiness.
By the way, this movie almost was never seen. The man I spoke of at the beginning of the review is William Randolph Hearst, former newspaper magnate. He saw too much of himself in the film and sued to squash it. Fortunately he lost. The second disc in the set is a two hour documentary on this topic. It is also excellent and well worth a viewing.
One last thing. Although this movie has been ranked on the AFI list as number one American movie of all time, it did NOT win Best Picture in 1941. That film? "How Green was my Valley"
on August 27, 2003
It seems that every review of this film calls it "arguably the best film of all time." Get rid of the first word and you have it right. Ironically, for all the emphasis on Welles' cinematic breakthroughs here, Kane is Welles' most accessible film - it should have been a populist hit - but was suppressed by William Randolph Hearst. Welles and company are young and appear to be having lots of fun with this. The DVD has exceptional extras as befits a film of this caliber.
on April 1, 2002
In June 1998, on a much-publicized list, the American Film Institute named "Citizen Kane" America's Greatest Movie, sparking a controversy that rages to this day. Since then, when people watch "Citizen Kane", they've been analyzing it and dissecting to see why it made the list. They completely have forgotten what made it so great.
I am one of those who think any greatest movie list is ridiculous (Though, if asked to, I would make up a list). How can you judge the greatness of movies by ranking them 1,2,3? And what would you judge them by? Entertainment or artistic value? That is why most critics, when they make "greatest" lists, rank them alphabetically. However, I believe the best way is for a person to have several favorite movies and, if they are asked what is their favorite, they can name one of those. But they should also know why. "Citizen Kane" is one of these I would name because it's so creative. Every scene is a delight to watch in terms of cinematography, lighting, sound, writing, music or acting. Almost the entire cast was in their film debuts. Orson Welles, Joe Cotton, Everett Sloane, Agnes Moorehead, Dorothy Comingore, Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins, Erskine Sanford, William Alland, Paul Stewart and George Coulouris are all excellent and most would have long, productive careers. It's difficult to name who is the best, but I think that Cotton (For his talk to Mr. Kane while drunk), Sloane (For his speech about the girl with the white dress) and Moorehead (For her scenes at the boarding house) were the best.
My favorite quote from the movie comes early, in the newspaper office scene between Welles and Coulouris. Here, after being asked by Coulouris "Is this really your idea of how to run a newspaper?!" Welles remarks "I don't know how to run a newspaper, Mr. Thatcher, I just try everything I can think of". As stated before, Welles and almost everyone else involved had no previous film experience, yet had been landed a huge contract to have full creative control on a movie. Much of Hollywood was envious at this and looked down upon Welles, hoping he would fail. However, Welles and company took advantage of any thing they had and doing anything and everything they could think of in the movie. No idea was too large or too small. One example was with the plot device, the last word of Charles Foster Kane called "Rosebud".
Film Critic Pauline Kael once called "Rosebud" a gimmick. Admittedly, this is correct. It seems to explain everything, but really doesn't explain a thing. What makes the movie's story so great though is that it gives us the inside on a rich and famous celebrity, the kind we are always interested in. Rosebud is the key of newsreel reporter Jerry Thompson (Alland), as well as ours, to unlocking the life of Charles Kane. Contrary to some statements, we really never sympathize with him during the story since he is a jerk. He uses people to his own advantage and kicks anyone around who gets in his way. Nevertheless, his story is fascinating. The screenplay by Welles and Herman Mankiewicz (Surprisingly, the film's only Oscar winner) was one of the first to take liberties in the plot. It doesn't have a linear narrative, but rather jumps from interview to interview, from event to event. Gaps made by one interview are filled by another and oftentimes a new gap is created.
However, there are other elements that make the film work. In addition, there is the photography of Gregg Toland (The only major team member with previous film experience), the film editing courtesy of Robert Wise (Who would become a great director in his own right), and the sound created by Bailey Fesler and James G. Stewart. One must also cite Maurice Seiderman's makeup work, which convincingly makes many of the actors look aged. In fact, some of the actors would resemble their older characters in later years (Compare Welles's appearance as the older Mr. Kane with his Detective Quinlan in 1958's "Touch of Evil"). Blend all these elements together, allow to bake and you got a great movie. Even after 60+ years of age, the movie is still as fresh and entertaining as though it were made yesterday, just as it will be 60 years from now.
If you decide to watch the movie for the first time, do not expect it to be the greatest movie you have ever seen. Instead, don't expect anything. Only expect another movie and you will get your money's worth. On the cinema mountain range, there are few on or near the same height as this one in terms of artistic and entertainment value. Sadly, many of today's teenagers aren't getting raised on films like this. In fact, when I told someone about this movie recently, he said "Citizen Kane? Is that a movie?" Most unfortunate, especially since the filmmakers of tomorrow need better inspiration than from today's good but largely forgettable movies.
on March 28, 2002
i had this film as an assignment in a film noir class. i'd never seen it before and had read very little about it, knew nothing of the plot, or who bill hearst was, etc etc. if you'd asked me about "rosebud," i'd have assumed it was an obscene reference (and according to roger ebert it is). i was essentially unbiased as to the content of the film.
on first viewing i found it "sentimental," yet effective for the really good (by any standards) performances of welles, cotton, et al. it's a "life story," quite literally, from early childhood to death, of a larger-than-life figure; so it's bound to impress the viewer with the sheer scope of its subject and its inevitable tackling of monumental life issues, including the meaning of life itself in a way more direct, really, in its simplicity than has ever been achieved before or since in cinema. the ultimate sentiment implied by the word "rosebud," the snow-globe, the sled itself, is that of childhood innocence lost. that winter day when his mother handed him over to the bank might have been the last of his life. there is the idea that the world and worldly life corrupt the soul, and that his mother, though she may have felt she was acting in his interest, had therefore sold his soul to the devil as it were that day and sealed his fate.
there were a few points i missed the first time through, so i decided to watch it again with one of the commentaries - roger ebert's. this is certainly one of the better commentaries i've heard on dvd; all too often they degenerate into brainless pedantic ramblings that have nothing to do with anything, but ebert brings his knowledge of the making of the film, of welles himself, of the sundry ground-breaking techniques and effects used in the film - nearly every shot is a special effect - and of the many layers of meaning in the elements of the story, adding comprehensively to one's knowledge and appreciation of the film. plus he actually talks about the scenes that are on the screen as he's talking. how often can you say that. so i watched the whole thing again, and the vista widened.
the next day i watched it again, this time with the peter brogdonovich commentary. this was just as informative as ebert's, and by the time it was over, i felt like i'd made the damn movie. i also felt like i never wanted to see it again, it having occupied something like 9.5 of the last 24 hours of my life. of course, i did watch parts of it again and again as i wrote my paper.
by the way i got an "a". these director commentaries on dvds are great for film classes. (the teacher recommended we watch them, i wasn't "cheating" at all.) very comprehensive and facinating. oh - i watched that hearst documentary and the "making of" thing too, they also helped a great deal. i bought this dvd for this asignment, but i havent watched it since my paper, i admit - i did burn myself out on it. but it's still a powerful movie, unique in the history of cinema for the degree of nigh-omnipotence the hollywood "powers that be" allowed to be invested in one genius - the 26-year-old orson welles - to realize the project, and for the inevitable epoch-making backlash thereby incurred, which really did cripple welles' career permanently and probably set everybody back a few decades.
a legendary film in every sense. i can't believe another reviewer called it "boring" but hey, no accounting for tastes. he probably thinks "dude wheres my car" is the paradigm.
on January 13, 2002
I can very well see why this movie is considered as one of the best movies yet made. It is intelligent, and soul-penetrating. The story is a simple telling of the rise and fall of a newspaper magnate. But the movie ascends this commonplace theme by working like a 'sometimes dreamy / often dark' documentary about the life of Kane, intertwined with (and this is important,) the MEDIA BUZZ created by one single word at his deathbed, ".....Rosebud."
Who is Rosebud? The film finds its driving force in this one simple question amidst subthemes of greed, power and corruption. And, the true magnificence of "Citizen Kane" lies not in the solution to this mystery, but in the viewer's realization of the central human truth attached to it. There couldn't have been a more appropriate name other than Rosebud, for this movie is indeed a rosebud in itself. The real meaning is hidden until the petals of mystery unravel themselves.
I leave you to unravel the mystery of Rosebud......
on October 5, 2001
It makes me ill to read some of the negative reviews posted for this movie. A perfect example of the MTV generation more interested in action, gore and sex than a movie as poignant and profound as Citizen Kane.
Don't read this review thinking of some desiccated old reviewer who remembers "the good old days" of film making, as I am only a normal 22-year-old guy, and had only seen the movie for the first time yesterday. Then I saw it a second time later that night, and a third time this morning.
Boring? Slow? The time seemed to fly by watching the movie. With the cinematography better than any I've seen today, and with the intriguing story of an equally intriguing man who never finds what he needs the most in anything he did in his life filling your mind with possibilities of exactly what Rosebud is. A movie that makes you think 60 years after it was made. Then again, it is probably that fact that makes this movie such a turn off for the younger crowd. They don't want to think, all they want is a mind-numbing action-packed drug of a movie, if you will.
It pains me to imagine a persons mind so restricted to the point where any picture outside of what is "normal" sends their minds into a fit of rejection.
Was this the best movie of all time? I'll have to think about it. But it certainly ranks up there with the best I've seen.
In case you were wondering, I will buy this movie, and add it to my collection of DVD's, and it will be the first black and white movie I own. I'm a science fiction guy first and foremost, owning Independence Day, Men in Black, The Fifth Element, Fight Club, Gattaca, Dark City, The Abyss etc. I will make Citizen Kane a proud addition to them.
What is the one thing a man who has everything could never get back? If you can answer this question, you know the secret of what Rosebud is.
Don't criticize a movie just because you don't get it. People of small minds have a problem reaching beyond the trash put out by the studios today. Believe me, most of it is trash, I try to go to the movies once a week, and have yet to see a movie this year I will buy when it comes out on DVD.
Rent it, borrow it, buy it. Just watch it. You won't be disappointed.
on August 28, 2001
Sometimes "they" are right, and that's all there is to it. "They" say that _Citizen Kane_ is still the best American movie ever made, and so it is.
Best for its innovative cinematography (shot after shot have been copied by other filmmakers ever since), witty script, and superb acting - with Joseph Cotten, in my opinion, taking the honours from Welles himself on that score. But also best for being so incredibly entertaining while being self-consciously clever. There are lots of good jokes (including one famously rude in-joke*), and it's splendidly cynical about business and politics in a way that US films probably aren't allowed to do any more.
The DVD release does everything a DVD should: giving us a generous supply of outtakes, "making of" information that help you look at details (even now) with a fresh eye, discussions with the people who made the film, and some of the many critics who've carved themselves a living out of talking about it.
But in the end, I don't expect I'll watch all that other stuff very often. Maybe once more. In the end it's the film, _Citizen Kane_, in a format that beats the hell out of video, looking crisp and clear and sounding terrific, that makes this a worthwhile buy.
* "Rosebud" wasn't just a symbol of Kane's innocent, lost,childhood. It was also, out in the real world, a pet name that William Randolph Hearst used for, er, an intimate part of his lover's (Marion Davies) body. And though in public Welles insisted the film was not getting at any corrupt and powerful newspaper magnate in particular, that detail made it clear to Hearst that Welles meant Hearst, and he meant it _personally_. No wonder Hearst went out to destroy Welles. I might have been annoyed myself.