Citizen Kane (1941)
Once again I find myself facing down cinema's most famous moment—no, that's not exaggeration. Every "credible" critics hails this piece as the best movie ever made and even if they don't—take Mark Kermode's stance that "The Exorcist" is, for example—they still have to shuffle around the picture to justify their likes and dislikes.
Then I come along...oh geez, can you feel the controversy already?
Today was the second day I had seen "Citizen Kane" and to be fair, I didn't like it the first time. Well, that's being nice, I was kind of bored the whole time. So this time around, I tried to clear my mind of prejudices and for a while it worked...and then it didn't work.
"Citizen Kane" while being extremely well crafted is hung up on too many ideas at once and for that it remains a confusing, preachy, and an altogether mediocre attempt at capturing a man's life.
Bold words for a nobody.
Take one of the last scenes in the movie for instance (oh, and SPOILERS): Kane's second wife is just leaving him, so he throws an adult tantrum. He heaves chairs at the walls, breaks record players, smashes vases, and then pauses right in front of a small glass snow globe, the same one that tumbles out of his hand and breaks against the floor in the notorious first scene, accompanied by the whisper of the movie's most famous line: "Rosebud". In this tantrum scene, Orson Welles is playing an old man, so he's a little awkward when he's tossing the furniture around. This scene is conveying a couple things: Kane is a selfish man, he's concerned only with himself, he is capable of love...but I was just chuckling at how awkward Welles looked bumbling around the room...does that make me a bad person? Probably.
The movie begins with the death of Charles Kane (Orson Welles) who was stinkin' rich. He has died in the seclusion of his own private mansion Xanadu. The press has heard about the last word whispered from his dying lips and as a news program about Kane is being prepared, a TV executive sends out a reporter to find out what "rosebud" meant. What it a person, place, thing, pet, inside joke? He needs to find out to better give the dying moments of the man their full due.
So the reporter goes out and tries to understand the man better...well, actually he's just looking for what "rosebud" is. He encounters several men from Kane's past and we are shown the life of a man told in flashback form.
It all starts on a small farm, where Kane's parents have accidentally stumbled onto a huge inheritance...a gold mine, literally. Kane's mother doesn't want him to grow up stupid so she sends him away with a man named Thatcher who becomes his guardian. When he turns twenty-five, Kane decides to take over a small newspaper called The Inquirer and he vows to only print the truth.
As much as anything else, "Citizen Kane" pokes fun at the media...which is something that still happens quite frequently seen in shows like "The Newsroom".
The reporter's task gets harder and harder as he tries to track down this elusive "rosebud". The information he's given, which the audience already knows having been shown a quick news clip that summarizes the movie nicely, tells us that Welles was not a great man...rather just a man.
He had "everything" yet still he wasn't happy or content at the least. It's a common theme in movies and "Citizen Kane" wouldn't be the first or last to try to tackle the issue.
Yes, the movie is splendidly made and the dark shadows that seem to overtake the screen enhance the movie's moodiness without making the film seem like noir. The camera lays low to the ground, making Kane seem like a larger-than-life figure and then it rises high up to make everyone else seem small in comparison. There is a large emptiness to the movie, a loneliness, the distance between man and wife.
Poetic, yes. Goofy? Equally yes.
My problem with the film, besides the fact that I find it a snooze-fest, is that I don't care about Kane or his doings. But maybe that's what I'm supposed to do...no, I don't think so. If this is the case then why at the end of the movie does the reporter say that he feels sorry for Kane?
Voted the best movie ever made for decades, "Citizen Kane" has amazed and hypnotized critics for a large percentage of a century; yet I am cold for the movie. It's a character study at its most naked, but there's more to it than that. The not-resolved issues of maternity, greed, broken promises, and hubris make me feel like Welles just wanted to make a dark film that hardly did anyone any good. Ironically enough, the film reminded a great deal of "The Wolf of Wall Street", though I'd hardly consider that a masterpiece either.
The movie's ending shot implies that Kane would have rather given it all up to return to being a child again, blissfully unaware of greed and deception....cute.
"Citizen Kane" doesn't wow me, it doesn't impress me. I can usually understand the reason why people love films but for this one? Really? Why it is so good? Surely the antihero had been better portrayed in film two years before with "Gone with the Wind".
The best film ever made? I think not.
Posted by Micah Jones