Citizen Kane
Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
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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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.
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.
"Citizen Kane" is possibly the single most "important" film of this century. Setting aside the (then) controversial subject matter and the grief Welles went through over this film, watch the film at least once for sheer enjoyment. The black & white cinematography is brilliant, the direction is smooth, and the key players all turn in outstanding performances. Orson Welles richly deserved his Oscar for Best Actor this time around. Even the makeup, while seeming "overdone" by today's standards, is effectively used. This movie belongs in every movie lover's library!
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
Powerful drama, fast paced
Citizen Kane is a great movie, a first of its kind to include a novelistic character arc, depth, scope and technical innovations that hadn't been so successfully directed previously, although given that hundreds of thousands of films were produced throughout the 20th Century, the claim that Kane is the "greatest movie of all time" is just glowing hyperbole.

But is the film really good? Yep. Follows the story of an impoverished child that lucks out with a land deed that makes him a super-wealthy industrialist (a plutocrat, really) and owner of multiple newspapers, he's a media tycoon and philanthropist who's designs for nationwide (global?) power and influence are bought down by the sensationalistic media and personality politics that he himself had made a lions share of his fortune from.

The acting is strong, every scene and sentence either moves the plot forward or develops character - if only Hollywood movies these days could follow these two concepts without digressing into pointless CGI "franchise" movies that infantalize their audience and dazzle them with computer rendered frames that the brain unconsciously recognizes as fake anyway, but besides all that, Kane is a movie about a seemingly real man, and an era: the American century.

I don't subscribe to the notion of American exceptionalism, and am not actually American at all (even if I did live there, I wouldn't consider myself) but the film is really about the birth of a culturally, and economically new power apart from "the old country", with new values, new leaders and new forms of equality and mass media. The film also explores the inherent contradictions and hypocrisies of the new ruling class of the 20th century; Kane goes from being a genuinely useful idealist, to being an obscenely wealthy fool, trying to dignify the lot of the working class (his own social roots) by pushing a music retail clerk and mediocre stage singer to the level of stardom through his own great wealth and media influence. You can see parallels to today's society in every sequence of Citizen Kane, and its worth seeing more than once.
About a boy
A word of warning: The following review and critique contains "spoilers" (dialog and plot-points which may - and in this instance - will give away scenes and surprises in the film), but it is unlikely that this will be the first time you have read or heard this information. After all, what can really be said or written about this film that hasn't be said or written before? Everyone who writes about film (from it's release in 1941, to me tonight, to someone else tomorrow) has written something either about or in reference to "Citizen Kane". It is a true classic. "Citizen Kane" is not only one of the most talked about films ever, it is also one of the most influential films ever. And, perhaps, singularly the best film American cinema has ever produced. Art is a very subjective thing, and this film is clearly filled with it. Only great art or great tragedy can produce such lengthy and long-term discussion. So what can be said that has not been said previously? Let me start by saying I did not like Charles Foster Kane, nor do I believe I was meant to. I do not take for granted that characters must be sympathetic. They do not. There is such a thing as the dark and mysterious (sometimes dangerous) character; someone who, simultaneously, will shock and infuriate us, yet from whom (for some reason) we can not turn away. In other words, it is possible to care about and become involved in the life stories of less than idyllic people. This is especially true with regards to Charles Foster Kane. Mr. Kane is a tyrant. He's as hated as he is feared. By the second act we see Kane as a hostile, detached and driven man. But time offers the unique gift of insight to those who are willing to wait for it. Something did not occur to me until recently (I did not see or hear it in any speech or interview, nor have I read of it in any of the too-numerous-to-count reviews, write-ups and critiques of the film): Charles Kane is not a man at all. He is still the same scared little boy taken away from his home and his family, lost in the wilderness, scarred for life and seemingly irreversible damaged. Now, I am positive that I am not the first to come to this conclusion (simply based on my personal knowledge that I am not that bright), but I am the first (that I know of) to write it down tonight. What do we see in the beginning of the picture (which we don't realize until the end)? The end of innocence. Lost youth. Separation. These are the things that plague Kane as an adult and shape the broken soul who tried to purchase virtue, marry youth and fight for any kind of connection throughout his "adult" life. He needed a connection. To anyone. Or anything. Do you remember in the beginning of "Citizen Kane" when he says "Rosebud" and then drops the snow globe? The butler tells the reporter at the end of the film that Mr. Kane said it twice. You only hear him say it once in the beginning. But at the end of the film, when he tears apart the room after his wife walks out, destroying practically everything, he picks up the snow globe, and is about to break it, but notices the sled encased in it. He is crying and says "Rosebud". He then walks past several employees, including the butler (who clearly heard him) and then lies down, says it again, drops the globe and dies. Here is my point: He is redeemed. Regret equals redemption. Kane regrets everything. Susan Alexander, this wife that left him (whom he left his first wife and son for); Kane met her while on the way to the warehouse that contained his youth (including his childhood sled "Rosebud" which was his last physical bit of material possession that held any connection to his long-deceased mother). He never made it to that warehouse (that night or any other) because he met Susan. Because of this he never regained, retained or made peace with that lost youth. So instead he tried to buy happiness and marry the youthful Ms. Alexander, in an attempt to hold onto some sort of ideological notion of what childhood could have been. Only after the second Mrs. Kane walks out, and he sees that sled in that snow globe, does he recall what he would have or could have been had he never accepted that "hot water" that Susan Alexander offered him on that sidewalk that first night they met. He becomes a man in that instant. Charles regrets everything. Then, he makes peace with everything by remembering everything. And he dies with redemption.
Why I don't like this movie.
This movie is critically acclaimed as the greatest movie of all time. In addition to critical opinions, it is ranked 33 in the top 250. I went into this film, fully expecting to be blown away by the acting, plot, storytelling, and music. I was none of these things. I have no complaints with the acting, and the story is told effectively through the use of flashback.

The music is for the most part not bad, although it does not set the mood as effectively as the works of John Williams or Bernard Herrmann (Alfred Hitchcock), nor is it integral to the movie like the works of Danny Elfman (Tim Burton) or Enrico Morricone (Sergio Leone). One song in the middle of the film is supposed to be a composition written for Welles' character, and it is atrocious. I won't criticize the operatic parts, as they are intentionally sub par. All in all, the music is unremarkable.

Where this movie really fails is the plot. It is the most boring movie I have ever seen. Many movies, such as "12 Angry Men," contain no action, yet rank among the greatest and most captivating movies ever made. This movie is not one of them. The plot drags at a snails pace, and not very interesting in the first place. A few things are well done, such as the slow reveal of Kane's first relationship, and the twist at the end with Rosebud is impressive, but hardly enough to save the movie.

Many people call Citizen Kane timeless. I disagree. While the media still exercises considerable power today, the very way we access information has changed in the digital age. However, the death of newspapers does not kill this movie, as by that logic, any period piece would bore audiences. What kills this movie is how boring the plot is. I found myself not caring about 20 minutes into the movie. By the end of the movie, I cared even less. This movie is terrible, and though I speak against the widely accepted critical opinion of it, I am not afraid to say it because I truly believe that this movie ranks with the worst of them. I would rather watch Manos the Hands of Fate, because at least with that movie I can laugh at how bad it is. With Citizen Kane I can only cry.
Citizen Welles
Citizen Kane is probably the best that American Cinema has ever offered, nigh perfect from the start till the end. Often competing with The Godfather, to be numero uno, Citizen Kane is in a league of its own and nonpareil on countless number of fronts. The creative innovation and the technical advancements implemented, can be least regarded as incredible and astonishing, for a 1941 movie. The movie pioneered the phenomena of time switching and special effects in the world of cinema.

Citizen Kane has stood the test of time for well over six decades, serving as a benchmark and source of inspiration to the film-makers of different era. Citizen Kane is an obituary about a fictitious Charles Foster Kane, a business magnate and a newspaper tycoon. Through this movie, Orson Welles, not only immortalized Charles Foster Kane but also proved his mettle, as a writer, director, actor and most importantly as an auteur. The scenes presented as flashbacks, not only display his versatility as an actor (taking care of the nuances and the subtleties needed to portray the different stages and aspects of Kane's life), but also his story-telling brilliance. Kane's murmuring of the word 'rosebud' at the time of his death and him publicly annihilating his election opponent, Jim Getys, represent the two extremes of human life, the very low and the very high, respectively.

The scenes between Welles and Joseph Cotton are an absolute treat to watch, the latter being at his sarcastic best, depicting contrasting emotions of sympathy and disgust towards his childhood friend, owing to the dichotomy that he suffered, simultaneously taking care of his duties as a journalist, and his friendship with Kane. The movie is studded with numerous mesmerizing and unforgettable scenes and moments, which immensely contribute to the apotheosis that it so deservedly enjoys. A true cinematic magnum opus, without an iota of a doubt and a must for every cinema lover.
an over-rated movie
For the life of me, I have tried hard to understand how and why this movie could possibly be considered the #1 film in the first 100 years of American film-making. The first time I tried to watch it, I got a few minutes and hated it; I couldn't make myself care. I tried again, because it's a "classic" made by a "genius", and I sincerely wanted to understand how it could possibly be voted higher than Casablanca.

It is boring and noisy and the makeup is horrible. I will never understand why this movie was voted #1. I wouldn't even put it in the top 100.

It has failed in every way a film can fail. I don't care about the protagonist. I find it cliché, obnoxious and dull. Perhaps in its day it was fresh, but it doesn't stand the test of time the way Casablanca does.

I don't care what anyone else says about this movie; in my opinion, it is the worst thing a movie can be: boring. I will never force myself to watch it again.
tough sledding
I have an observation concerning Rosebud (and I don't mean that story about Marion Davies). Everyone seems to assume that Kane saying "Rosebud" means he was thinking of the one time in his life when he was totally happy and had what he wanted. For years I have also assumed that. The other day something occurred to me and I am curious to know if it has occurred to anyone else.

When Kane first meets Susan Alexander he says he is on his way to (or coming from? I don't recall which) a warehouse where his childhood belongings are stored which he has not seen in many years. He doesn't mention the sled, but presumably that is the one thing which drew him to the warehouse. Kane is splashed and Susan laughs at him and one things leads to another. But my point is this: Kane would never have met Susan but for Rosebud. If Kane never met Susan he would never have been caught in the "love nest" with her and lost the election for governor. Kane might have had another mistress, but this seems unlikely. Kane is not very interested in sex - perhaps because he feels he is making love to the whole world. His interest in Susan is primarily idealized and not physical. So but for the meeting Susan, Kane would likely not have had a scandal and would have been elected governor. We are told he would then have almost certainly been elected President. Also he would not have lost his wife and his son would not have been killed in the car accident. As President, Kane could have been the most powerful man in the world. Instead he loses this chance, loses his wife and loses his son - all because he happened to be on a certain street at a certain moment. And the reason he was on that street at that moment was Rosebud!

So maybe when Kane says "Rosebud" he is not thinking of when he was a carefree lad playing in the snow. Maybe he realizes that because of Rosebud his whole life went spinning in a completely different direction from what it otherwise would have taken. By pure accident Rosebud ruined his life and shut him off forever from everything he otherwise could have been and could have accomplished. And maybe that is why "Rosebud" is the last word he speaks.

But if this is true (and it seems quite logical to me) then why does no one else comment upon it? Why has no one spotted it? Or has someone I just don't know it? Or could it be that this is the kind of truth that no one wants to face? That all of our lives are determined more by blind, idiot accident than by design or purpose.
See Also
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