Thursday, April 23, 2009

Citizen Kane (1941)

Everybody knows this movie. Orson Welles' masterpiece. Everybody's pick for best movie ever. Nobody's pick for what they want to rent tonight.

I was given this film many years ago back when it didn't seem strange to give someone a VCR tape for birthday. I tried watching it once but found it long, confounding, and frankly rather dull. Maybe I got a half hour into it. Finally, I gave it another try.

The movie starts with the death of Charles Kane, wealthy newspaper magnate (in olden times, newspapers used to turn a profit!) His last word (although nobody is there to hear it) is "Rosebud". The media, fascinated by what this could mean, investigate Kane's life to find out what was so important to a man that had everything. Apparently there wasn't anything else going on in 1941 worth reporting. We learn about Kane's life in retrospective.

Charles Foster Kane is supposed to be William Randolph Hearst. There are lots of connections between the story and Hearst's life, and stories how Hearst tried to stop the films release, but I'll let you read them for yourself on IMDB or Wikipedia.

So, what's all the hullabaloo about? Camera angles? Clever narrative tricks? Techniques so apparent that they actually interfere with the story? Is this a film that nobody but a film student could ever love?

Nope. I really liked it. Now, I will say that the story wasn't all that compelling. It kept my interest, and was very well written, but it's not the "main feature". So much of the story is told with how Orson filled the screen. You could have the audio off and never be unsure what the character's relationship was. Every scene was layed out artistically. It's hard to explain.

And, if you are not paying attention to what he was doing, you could miss much of it. I was a little surprised how much I enjoyed watching Citizen Kane. Now, I do own the film, but I wouldn't have purchased it for myself. In truth, the story and acting do not distinguish Kane, and that is what I respond to in cinema, but still, AMRU 4.0.

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