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Citizen Kane
Year:
1941
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
Orson Welles
Joseph Cotten as Jedediah Leland
Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane
Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane
Ruth Warrick as Emily Monroe Norton Kane
Ray Collins as James W. Gettys
Erskine Sanford as Herbert Carter
Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein
William Alland as Jerry Thompson
Paul Stewart as Raymond
George Coulouris as Walter Parks Thatcher
Fortunio Bonanova as Signor Matiste
Gus Schilling as The Headwaiter
Philip Van Zandt as Mr. Rawlston
Georgia Backus as Bertha Anderson
Storyline: A group of reporters are trying to decipher the last word ever spoken by Charles Foster Kane, the millionaire newspaper tycoon: "Rosebud." The film begins with a news reel detailing Kane's life for the masses, and then from there, we are shown flashbacks from Kane's life. As the reporters investigate further, the viewers see a display of a fascinating man's rise to fame, and how he eventually fell off the top of the world.
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Reviews
CITIZEN KANE may let some people down, but it's still worth seeing.
It's a difficult undertaking for someone of my generation to watch a film like CITIZEN KANE. Not because it's "too old" or "too boring", but because it has been hailed--almost universally--as the single best motion picture ever made. And while the anticipation of seeing a film with such overwhelming acclaim may be quite exhilarating, actually watching it is ultimately an intimidating and somewhat disappointing experience.

This isn't to say that I thought CITIZEN KANE was a bad film; in fact, I thought everything about it was downright brilliant. From the enchanting performances right down to the meticulously planned camera movements and clever lighting tricks, there isn't a single element of CITIZEN KANE that isn't a stunning achievement in all areas of filmmaking.

CITIZEN KANE's storyline is deceptively simple. Even though the plot unfolds by jumping in and out of nonlinear flashbacks, it is surprisingly easy to keep track of. The straightforwardness and relatively fast pace of the story are what make it seem intimidating. Because everything moves smoothly along without any standstill, it feels like we are being fooled-like there is something much greater that we just can't seem to grasp. As a first-time viewer, I knew from its reputation that there must be *something* that separates this movie from all the others; something buried within its simple plotline that everybody else has seen, but that I just could not seem to get a handle on. And then, during those final frames, that something was revealed, and it all began to make sense. To me, it was these moments of confusion and uncertainty followed by a sense of enlightenment and appreciation that made watching CITIZEN KANE such a meaningful experience.

But no matter how great of a movie CITIZEN KANE really is, it can never live up to one's expectations. Although I do feel that it is deserving of its acclamation, the constant exposure to its six decades worth of hype and praise will invariably set most modern viewers' standards at a height that is virtually unreachable--even if it really *is* the best movie of all time.
2004-05-02
This? Boring?
Citizen Kane was the first movie I watched from the pre-war era, and maybe because I kept comparing other movies to this is why I couldn't appreciate some movies the way I liked this. Why's citizen kane this good? Because it has actual thematics even today. The whole movie is a sort of mockumentary/fake biopic of a multi-billionaire and some of the events in his life, a sort of a hunt for the scoop made by a journalist. The way the movie's plot is built is just great. Without counting the cinematographic pros that citizen kane has every other aspect was just great. To those who claim that they're cinephiles yet affirm that they got bored while watching this and fell asleep.... This film is much less slow than any Tarkovskij film, what would happen to them if they watched a Tarkovskij film? Like, they fall asleep at the opening credits?
2015-12-31
Tried it, just can't take it!
I have tried to watch this movie 3 times. Each time I promise myself that I will watch it through to see all the facinating camera angles and light shading. I want to see the last ten minutes of the film and be awed and amazed as I realize that Rosebud is something extraordinary. I want to recognize Mr. Wells' genius, daring, and inventivness. I want to feel the passion, emptiness, and all the other powerful emotions that the actors and "unique" cinematography portray in this movie.

I have not been able to make it yet. This is the single most boring hard to watch movie that I have ever tried to watch. I can usually watch about any movie at least once, but not this one.

I don't need exciting special effects, car chases, shoot outs, or sex scenes to keep me interested. I just need the movie to be interesting. This film is not interesting to me. I love history and I watch many older movies and I appreciate most of them for what they are, and in the time frame that they were made. But this one is just very hard to watch. If you have to have a college professor,(who himself has had to read a book about it to understand it) explain a movie to you so that you can appreciate it, then I'm sorry folks but then it just "ain't good".

I have enjoyed thousands of movies, and I have disliked many also, but very few have I never been able to finish watching and this is one of them.

2004-05-05
Much duller than expected.
Considering how critically acclaimed this movie is I expected something that wasn't difficult to watch; then again Orson Welles is a bit droll. When looking at the way that the passage of time was shown off as, a time lapse, along with the slow camera move through the neon sign and through the glass of a skylight it makes you wonder just how that was managed by Welles. The character Charles Foster Kane was extremely two dimensional, granted that is more likely than not, the point, but he was a man set up for failure right from the beginning. He started with his heart in the right place but that was it. By the end everyone that has initially loved this man hated him with a passion due to his incessant need for self preservation. Overall I can appreciate this movie for what it is to the film world, but the title "greatest movie of all time" is extremely undeserving.
2016-11-16
All That Ballyhoo!
On the Criterion Collection DVD of Orson Welles' classic "Citizen Kane" there is an original theatrical trailer where Welles cleverly advertises the film by introducing us to the cast including the chorus girls, whom he refers to as some nice ballyhoo. That pretty much sums up my opinion of the often over analyzed film that always shows up at the top of the list of greatest films ever made. Even though this was the first time I sat down to watch the film as a whole, I knew everything about it from studying it in film class and from the countless number of essays, homages, and parodies that have come down the pike over the years. It seems impossible now to judge the film against a blank slate, but with great ballyhoo comes great scrutiny.

Released in 1941 by RKO as a Mercury Theater Production, "Citizen Kane" is the tale of an influential and shockingly wealthy newspaper tycoon (Welles) inspired by the life of William Randolph Hearst. The story follows the investigation into the origins of "Rosebud"-the mysterious word Kane utters on his deathbed. Following newsreel footage announcing Kane's death, we are then thrust into a series of flashbacks through interviews with various people who knew Kane that reveal the nature of his character.

From a technical standpoint, Welles' film is as innovative and engrossing today as it was yesterday. Every single piece of cinematic trickery, every dissolve, every long tracking shot, every seamless edit, every play with chronology, every special effect is perfect. Welles was audacious and inventive with his art, and it is for these technical aspects that "Citizen Kane" will always stand the test of time.

However, the story of "Citizen Kane" remains cold and distant. I didn't instantly connect with the characters and the plot the way I did with other classics from the period like "Casablanca" or "The Third Man" or even more recently, "There Will Be Blood." Often, the supporting players over-act, and the flashbacks are tedious (especially the one detailing Kane's second marriage) or emotionless (like the scene showing Kane's snow covered childhood). There's a certain smug arrogance to the whole production that makes it seem like perhaps Welles was secretly making a comedy. It leaves one wondering how it would've come across had Welles actually been allowed to do a straight up biopic of Hearst.

Is it any wonder that so many critics today hail this as THE all time great? Much of today's cinema is geared towards style and technique over substance, and way back in 1941, Welles was the first to author this very modern brand of cinema where the art is not in the story but how it is told and shown to the audience. His "Citizen Kane" is technically rich, layered, and enthralling but narratively vapid. Did I ever really care about Kane or Rosebud? No, but it was fascinating to watch. It's some very nice ballyhoo indeed.
2008-05-05
A case study in projection
I rented this movie almost accidentally on the route back from shooting pool, without any preconceptions of what it was about, although I was very aware it had been dubbed "the greatest film ever" by many.

Basically, the film asks a highly abstract question of whether we can reconstruct a puzzle from a set of available pieces: are the pieces independent or can there be a piece which fundamentally affects the reconstruction? It also presents a very specific example of how this kind of projection applies to human psychology: can there be a single event or item, a "rosebud", such that a man's life cannot be wholly understood without it? We all project our persona every day to our fellow human beings, but no one else really knows what's running in our minds as we lay in bed in the evening: the portions of our minds with no trespassing.

I especially like how this theme is shown on so many levels at once. At the bottom, the reporter is trying to reconstruct Kane's life by anecdotal evidence; Kane's readers are trying to reconstruct the world state by Kane's newspaper; and finally, we the viewers are trying to reconstruct the meaning of the film by watching it. The film was based on the media mogul William Randolph Hearst, whose persona the writers first shattered to pieces and then reconstructed to form Charles Foster Kane.

An interesting add to the interpretation (forgot the name of the critic behind it) is that the whole movie is imagination, or self-inspection, by Kane himself in seek of his rosebud. In this case, the unseen Thompson could be seen as Kane himself, trying to find his lost childhood innocence from the inner depths of his mind.
2006-08-26
One of the Greats!
Citizen Kane (1941): Dir: Orson Welles / Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Everett Sloane, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead: Portrait of a wasted life full of luxury opening with Charles Foster Kane who whispers the word "Rosebud." With that he dies releasing an ornament that crashes to the floor such as his life. During his life he had alienated himself from everyone, focusing on a political career. Those who knew him are interviewed examining the meaning of his final words. Speculations evaporate into flashbacks to show his brief childhood to his introduction into the world of politics. Directed by Orson Welles who was only twenty-five when he directed this film, and its impact would render it his masterpiece. He also takes to acting and flawlessly portrays Kane through his adult life and mirrors his frustration and longing for the one thing he missed. Outstanding supporting work by Joseph Cotton and Everett Sloane who portray friends of Kane's who also worked with him, and both with different results career wise. Dorothy Comingore plays his mistress who grows tired and depressed until her only option is to leave. Agnes Moorehead plays Kane's mother who reluctantly makes the decision along with his father that ultimately affects his entire life. Brilliantly constructed with astonishing imagery and Welles revealing the big payoff in the final shot. Score: 10 / 10
2015-06-08
Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane was an incredible film. I was sort of mesmermized by it, more so the camera work with the unusual angles than with the story. I liked the way Orson Welles played with time and the beginning was really the end and the film was told through flashbacks which were really told by different characters. There were a few grand, grand scenes that I really enjoyed-the party at the newspaper with the dancers, ice sculptures, and the rousing song. I was overwhelmed by the scene when Charles Kane was giving his campaign speech. I did start to lose interest in the story somewhere in the middle and really felt no sympathy connection with Charles Kane. Maybe I wasn't supposed to connect with him, as his character was larger than life and because we learn about him through others recollection of him, making him mysterious and unknown. We can only infer from his last word that he was forever impacted by being torn from a place that he held such dear memories of. This film made you realize that you were looking at a film and not someone's real story.
2009-11-10
Why Is "Citizen Kane" the Best Film of All Times?
Anyone who sees "Citizen Kane" (1941) for the first time today does so because he or she has heard that it is the greatest film ever made. One simply doesn't come across the film by accident on TV, watching it "for what it is," so to speak. The common approach of seeing it to believe it can be at best exhilarating and at worst hostile. Unfortunately, the latter is usually, although quite understandably, the case. For how can one do anything but look down at a film that elitist snobs have praised for years and years? One simply must prove oneself right by falsifying the critics' claims, leaving the theater or the living room with a shrug and a condescending comment: "it was okay." This will not do. It is a great tragedy if "Citizen Kane" suffers from these kinds of incidents since it ought to be treated with the same kind of respect as Shakespeare's "Hamlet" or Beethoven's "9th Symphony". In order to make this happen, or perhaps enhance someone's viewing experience, I would like to try and explain not why "Citizen Kane" necessarily is the best film, but rather why people have considered it to be. There are over a thousand reviews of the film on this site, and mine will probably drown in the vast sea with them, but hey what can I lose, and who doesn't love talking about Welles and "Citizen Kane"?

One might begin with the basic fact that "Citizen Kane" wasn't immediately praised and considered the best film that has blessed the silver screen. It was a financial risk for the RKO studios to give free hands to the novice prodigy Orson Welles, who had gained quite a reputation with the radio show of H. G. Wells' "War of the Worlds", and not surprisingly it didn't pay off. Despite the praises of a few critics, "Citizen Kane" was soon forgotten, and the film wasn't, for example, screened at American cinemas during the late 1940's and early 50's. In France, however, the film was just discovered after the war, and the leading critic of the country, André Bazin hailed it as a masterpiece of the postwar stylistic tendency he characterized as spatial realism. Bazin's disciples, who we all know now as the nouvelle vague directors, followed and adored Welles' masterpiece. François Truffaut proclaimed that "everything that matters in cinema after 1940 has been influenced by 'Citizen Kane'." Thus the film's reputation grew and its new found reputation slowly found the other side of the Atlantic as well. But why did this happen? Why wasn't "Citizen Kane" forgotten, and why, for one, did it arouse the interest of Bazin?

First, it ought to be highlighted that the story of "Citizen Kane" is excellent. Loosely based on the life and times of media mogul William Hearst, "Citizen Kane" tells the story about a lonely giant who conquered the American media. It's a story about a man who dedicated his life to possession, but tragically became to be possessed by it himself. As one might have noticed, I am using the past tense, and such is the nature of Welles' narrative in "Citizen Kane". The film begins with the protagonist's death, and then portrays the attempts of a journalist trying to figure out the meaning of his last words -- "Rosebud" -- by interviewing people who knew the man. "It will probably turn out to be a very simple thing," he supposes. This kind of structure was not considered the done thing back in the day. Although the basic structure of finding out a person's past goes back to Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex" as well as numerous detective stories, the uniqueness of "Citizen Kane" lies in the use of different perspectives, creating a non-linear narrative that has echoes from ancient drama and epistolary novels.

Yet it wasn't really the intricate story that most fascinated Bazin. What Bazin emphasized was the film's style. Although all scholars have given up on the phoenix myth of "Citizen Kane" and its innovative use of various cinematic means, it is simply a fact that the film made the style public, thus standardizing it for Hollywood. The aesthetic features of the so-called spatial realism, which Bazin adored, supported by the technological innovation of the BNC camera, include deep-focus cinematography, sequence shots, and deep-space composition. These had been used before, but hardly with similar, dare I say, philosophic unity. This stylistic tendency is enhanced by Welles' relentless use of heavy low-angle shots and dynamic montage sequences. There are innovative cuts that spark imagination and soundtrack solutions that open the story and its characters to new dimensions. "Citizen Kane" is often celebrated as a bravura of the art of mise-en-scène since it puts a lot of emphasis on pre-filmic elements such as setting and lighting, but the real gist of the film's brilliance lies in the unity of these together with cinematographic and post-filmic elements.

More remains to be said, but space is running out. The end of the matter is, I guess, that none of the individual elements of "Citizen Kane" are, precisely, individual. They have not been distinguished from one another, but rather resonate luminously together in a unique fashion. Technological innovation goes hand in hand with aesthetic inspiration and both support the whole of story, theme, and style. Such unity may not have been present in Hollywood before 1941. From the groundbreaking use of the BNC camera to themes of power, loneliness, and defeat, which are reflected on the level of style, using setting and editing, for one, to reflect the emotional distances between the characters or their existential experience of emptiness, "Citizen Kane" remains a gem to any lover of cinema. It's up there with immortal works of art from poetry, music, and painting. It is, like all great art, a tightly and beautifully sealed original whole which is why (instead of one big nameable innovation) the film has been considered to be of such magnificent proportions.
2015-10-31
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