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Lunch » Tags » Movies » Reviews » Citizen Kane » User review

A Multi-Dimensional Enigma

  • Jul 8, 2003
  • by
Rating:
+5
This film was ranked highest when the American Film Institute announced its list of "America's Greatest Movies," followed by Casablanca, The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, and Lawrence of Arabia which complete the top five. It has been 62 years since its release and yet it remains one of the most interesting, indeed compelling films ever made. It was directed by Orson Welles who also plays the lead role of Charles Foster Kane. William Randolph Hearst presumably served as the model for Kane. (I have no interest in getting into all that now. Others have already discussed quite thoroughly the film's historical context and have much of value to say about it. The comments which follow are limited entirely to the film itself.) Perhaps only directors and cinematographers can fully appreciate Welles' technical achievements in this film. Even 62 years later, I am still fascinated by the analysis of Kane personality, especially as it is revealed in his relationships with various associates over several decades. His intelligence is formidable, his charm almost irresistible and yet....

Most of us have an indelible childhood memory or association. For Kane, it is "Rosebud," the last word he spoke before dying. Those who view this film accompany reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) as he seeks to understand the meaning of Kane's last word. We learn that Kane was relinquished as a child by his parents (Agnes Moorehead and Harry Shannon) after he becomes the heir to a substantial fortune; his conflicts with his guardian, Walter Parks Thatcher (George Coulouris); his impetuous decision to run a newspaper with the help of schoolmate Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten) and loyal assistant Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane) because it would be "fun"; his emergence from scandal sheet publisher to the owner of America's largest and most influential newspaper chain; his marriage to socially prominent Emily Norton (Ruth Warrick), whose uncle is the President of the United States; then Kane's bid for public office which is dashed along with his marriage when his opponent, corrupt political boss Jim Gettys (Ray Collins), reveals that Kane is having an affair with aspiring vocalist Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore); Kane's futile attempts to promote his second wife as an opera star; and his final, self-imposed exile to a massive but incomplete palace called "Xanadu."

Thompson conscientiously attempts to reconstruct Kane's life as best he can but even so, there are so many unanswered questions as the film ends. What does Kane make of his childhood? When was he happiest? Why embarrass and abandon Emily, a decent and devoted wife? Why did he decide to spend what remained of his life with Susan Alexander? As he lay dying, did he feel that his life (everything considered) was a success? I have thought about these and other questions a great deal and am dissatisfied with my responses to them. No doubt that explains why this film continues to attract and then frustrate me...and perhaps others. There are other questions which I would have asked of Welles, especially during his final years.

Perhaps (just perhaps) the answers to all of the questions which could be asked of Kane and of the man who created and then portrayed him cannot be answered. And perhaps (just perhaps) that is why this film continues to attract and then frustrate efforts such as mine and others to explain it. So I guess we must cherish its art and accept its ambiguities, just as ultimately we must accept the basic ambiguity of what it means to be a complicated human being.

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More Citizen Kane reviews
review by . October 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Citizen Kane      "Rosebud..."       "Welles's accidental semi-autobiographical film stops trying to tell a good story, but tells a story perfectly."    Is this the greatest film of all time? Well to answer this question we have to understand the type of person who watches this film. When someone out of the blue decides to become a film critic, of course they rummage through various critic's lists and polls', …
review by . August 21, 2010
Hey kid, wanna make a movie?
I think Orson Welles was the greatest creative genius in film who never really reached his full potential.  Having said that, he remains one of the greatest creative figures in American cinema and radio!!!  Since Scotman has done an excellent review about the movie and the plot, I wanted this review to beprimarily about Orson Welles the creative genius and some information on the "back story" about the movie that made his reputation.      After creating a …
review by . August 05, 2009
There are lots of movies we can argue one must see in his lifetime.  Casablanca, Ben Hur, Star Wars, The Godfather, The Wizard of Oz, Gone with Wind... just to name a few, but few stand as high on that list of "Movies you should see at least once," quite like Citizen Kane.  At the time of it's release in 1941, it was hailed as one of the movies which changed the industry.  The reasons why are all but forgotten now.  So all Citizen Kane has to stand on now is it's story, …
Quick Tip by . August 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
I think Orson Welles was the greatest creative genius in film who never really reached his full potential.  Having said that, he remains one of the greatest creative figures in American cinema and radio!!!  Since Scotman has done an excellent review about the movie and the plot, I wanted this review to beprimarily about Orson Welles the creative genius and some information on the "back story" about the movie that made his reputation.      After creating a …
Quick Tip by . July 25, 2010
A really classic picture, depicting the attitude of that decade.
review by . March 04, 2010
In 1941 actor/director/writer Orson Welles would release one of the most cherished films to ever hit the silver screen. Many have cited it as the greatest film of all time, and many more agree that Citizen Kane is the quintessential American movie. Like all great films it transcends traditional narrative to become something all its own. The movie almost holds a surreal feel as audiences are thrust into the luxurious, yet lonely life of Charles Foster Kane.     Citizen Kane is …
review by . February 15, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Best movie ever? It makes its case     Cons: Ending no longer a surprise twist - EVERYONE knows it     The Bottom Line: My favorite movies are still Goodfellas, Lord of the Rings, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.     Whenever some film organization gathers up the list of the best movies ever made, Citizen Kane is the perennial chart topper. It doesn't matter what other movies are on it - Battlefield Earth could rank number 2 and Citizen …
review by . September 23, 2007
And so we come to this, the pinacle of American film making. Often cited as one of the greatest films in movie history, and one that I saw for the first time only about three years ago. Does it live up to the hype?    God, yes.    Much is made, and rightly so, about the technical inovations in this movie. There are many and they are notable. The use of zooms before zoom lenses, the use of deep-focus, the appearance of ceilings, Greg Tolland's wonderful cinematography, …
review by . December 13, 2006
This movie is very over rated and if produced today, it would seem rather humdrum. I believe that this movie is as famous and/or popular as it is because of how the film was made, rather than content itself. Allow me to explain, Orson Welles had a heck of a time bringing his vision to the screen. He faced production problems and funding issues and other thorns in the side. Once he was able to finish the film and the end product was like nothing done before, it was and is placed on a pedestal. However …
review by . August 30, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
I'm not going to weigh in on the silly debates over the merits of this film. All I will say is that I've seen it several times before in theaters with decent to mediocre prints, but I just picked up a copy of the "two-disc special edition" and the transfer is stunning. I have to say that up until I saw it on this dvd I merely "appreciated" the film as important; this time I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the compositions that look so fine on this dvd. Whether or not you like the film, this is …
About the reviewer
Robert Morris ()
Ranked #169
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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Citizen Kane is a 1941 American dramatic film and the first feature film directed by Orson Welles, who also co-authored the screenplay. It was released by RKO Pictures. The story is a fictionalized pastiche of the life of William Randolph Hearst and Welles' own life. Upon its release, Hearst prohibited mention of the film in any of his newspapers. The film traces the life and career of Charles Foster Kane, a man whose career in the publishing world is born of idealistic social service, but gradually evolves into a ruthless pursuit of power. Narrated principally through flashbacks, the story is revealed through the research of a newspaper reporter seeking to solve the mystery of the newspaper magnate's dying word: "Rosebud."

Citizen Kane is often cited as being one of the most innovative works in the history of film. The American Film Institute placed it at number one in its list of the 100 greatest U.S. movies of all time in 1997 and again in the revised list of 2007. In a recent poll of film critics and directors conducted by the British Film Institute, Citizen Kane was ranked the number one best film of all time by both groups.

The film opens in a night setting on a vast palatial estate, on which the sign "No Trespassing" is posted. We are in Xanadu, and witness the last word spoken by enormously wealthy media magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). He utters the word "Rosebud" while holding a glass globe of a snow scene, which ...
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