Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorehead.
time: 119 minutes
kids, there's a reason this 66-year-old black and white movie
routinely tops the American Film Institute's list of the best
100 American movies ever made - it makes virtually everything
Hollywood churns out today look like the garbage it is.
set a standard that's never been surpassed, and I mean never.
a start, director (and co-writer and lead actor) Orson Welles
devised groundbreaking camera angles and shadow effects that
lesser filmmakers have been copying ever since. The story
also jumps from past to present in "non linear"
fashion, instead of following the traditional "one-damn-thing-after-another"
school of storytelling. Read any filmmaking manual and you'll
find this film referenced as a "how to" technical
the Oscar-winning script is magnificent, a witty, literate
and often savage portrayal of the rise and fall of a great,
but flawed man. Controversial in 1941, it still has bite today.
the players don't look like they're acting at all - they're
living and breathing their roles, none more so than Welles
who ages from a passionate young man with the world at his
feet to a disillusioned, lonely recluse. It's not just the
amazing makeup; Welles knows how to shuffle and react like
an old man.
in great sets, tight editing from the young Robert Wise (director
of The Sound of Music 25 years later) plus a moody score from
famed composer Bernard Herrmann (Vertigo, Psycho, North by
Northwest) and you'll see the film has everything.
more thing, the 60th anniversary version of the film, which
was completely remastered from the best surviving copies,
is simply magnificent. Even in a smoky, crowded room it's
possible to clearly identify co-star Joseph Cotton standing
in as an extra. The picture gleams like no other of this era
and the sound is admirably clear.
story is well known: The 24-year-old Welles, who scared America
with a War of the World's radio play that was so real it started
a panic, subsequently won an incredible contract with RKO
to basically do what he wanted. Citizen Kane was the result.
movie begins with the dying word of Charles Foster Kane (Welles)
"Rosebud" - and the efforts of a reporter to discover
its meaning. Born to poor parents who give him up to be raised
by a banker, Kane inherits a fortune as a spoiled, arrogant
young man. He buys a failing newspaper, The New York Inquirer,
and builds a publishing empire based on sensational journalism
After marrying well, Kane dreams of a political career, but
a reckless affair with a young singer puts everything in jeopardy.
it's been argued Kane was a composite of many influential
figures, most of the film's elements point firmly to William
Randolph Hearst as its inspiration. Like Kane, Hearst was
a practitioner of "yellow" journalism, had political
aspirations and a mistress in the entertainment business (actress
Marion Davies versus Kane's singer Susan Alexander. While
Kane built a palatial Florida mansion called Xanadu, Hearst
designed San Simeon, a fantastic California castle. Both were
stuffed with expensive collectibles.
strenuous efforts to prevent the release of Kane are documented
in a fascinating documentary in the 60th anniversary DVD release,
The Battle Over Citizen Kane.
Kane turned out to be oddly prophetic of Welles's own life.
Like Kane, he achieved success early then faded, living a
life filled with disappointment and setbacks. Citizen Kane
remains his towering achievement - the best American film