Citizen Kane

March 15, 2010

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane is arguably the greatest film of all time.  But that doesn’t detract from the fact that the story itself isn’t as interesting as you’d hope to find in a film.

Orson Welles came to Hollywood and basically changed the way that films were made.  He wasn’t trained in making films, but he decided he was going to make one and he decided on what he wanted and then he expected it done.  From the set designs which were disproportionately large to the actors at times to lighting schemes which allowed for the whole scene to be in focus from front to back, he did things his way.  And it progressed film forward with a giant leap.

That is what makes this film great.  It doesn’t hurt that the story isn’t bad and the acting is very good as well, but what makes this film great is the technical achievement in this film and how it progressed the film industry.  Sometimes industries are progressed one step at a time, and sometimes there is a film like Citizen Kane that just takes it ahead a couple of leaps.

The story is a look back into the life of Charles Foster Kane.  From his humble beginnings to his news paper empire, to his political life, and to his extravagant ending.  The basic through line is that of “rosebud”.  The story begins at the end of his life where “rosebud” is his dying word.  It then follows a reporter who searches down those who know Kane in an attempt to find out what that final word meant.  If you’ve read Peanuts, then you know what that last word was, but if not I won’t spoil it for you.   The story itself is just a bit dull and the method of telling it, while interesting doesn’t translate into the greatest screen play.

The acting itself is quite strong.  Orson Welles doesn’t only direct the film but stars in it as Charles Foster Kane.  He certainly has a swagger playing the pompous business man and politician so full of himself that he can’t see anyone else.  The thing about the performance is that it wasn’t actually acting.  Orson Welles was that pompous and this ultimately led to Hollywood not wanting anything more to do with him and his films and forcing him elsewhere to make his films.  The supporting case is also very good, but they pale in comparison to the icon that Charles Foster Kane is both in the story and on the screen.

Visually I’ve touched on what makes this film great.  The depth of field work is simply phenomenal and ahead of its time.  What the real treat from this depth of field that Welles created was the fact the audience was able to focus on anything in the shot.  It wasn’t a situation where only one person was in focus or the background of the scene didn’t matter.  Welles allowed the audiences eye to float from one point to another and they could choose to see what they wanted to see.  Even in films today this technique is very rare as the director as story teller often has a specific story that he wants to be told.

Overall this is a film that anyone who is interested in film as film should watch.  It is a masterpiece and even if you don’t get it as a story and as entertainment the significance for the film industry makes this the legend that it is.

Entertainment Grade: B-

Critical Grade: A+

Overall Grade: B+


One comment

  1. I netflixed this a couple years ago and got so bored I turned it off halfway through. I completely realize that I was missing something and that if I watched it all the way through I could understand its critical value more – but my entertainment value on this was not very high. i should watch it again knowing what to look for, I think that would help.

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