#66: Citizen Kane (1941)

When and how did I watch this?

December 20th, 2016, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Orson Welles mega-classic.  It’s #1 on the AFI “100 Years…100 Movies” list, which is meaningful.

What do I know about it now?

“Rosebud.” For the two hour stretch of this film, we’re itching to know what Kane’s dying word means. So we progress through his whole life, learning of his rise to power, scandal, sudden decline and tragic demise in a world of disillusionment, and in the end the mystery is finally revealed, only to be torched in his palace fireplace. There’s an emotional pull in this reveal, for we now know about his upbringing and what he “missed” while growing up and growing famous and rich. To some degree, we can all relate — a deferred opportunity, a moment missed, a door slammed shut.  Citizen Kane‘s story itself is compelling, but what makes it the brilliant work that it is has to do with how it was filmed.  Welles uses zooms, pans, and framing unlike any film of its time.  The editing is perfect; the imagery is often breathtaking, even in simple moments.  Susan Alexander’s decrepit self in her widowed state at a table of her low-end establishment is filmed in a way to demonstrate her brokenness; we see Kane standing at the podium with a huge banner behind him, a triumphant long-range shot, sharp lines demonstrating how everything is in order for him, just before the fallout of his scandalous affair; dark and dusty rooms, creaking gates leading to Kane’s looming and oversized estate, and so forth. Nothing is done flippantly.  My only “complaint,” and perhaps a generational one, is its pace.  I nearly fell asleep.  But perhaps I missed even more that was there, or perhaps I was tired.  This one needs to be watched more than once, for sure.

What are some themes in the film?

Power, pride, politics, missed childhood, and the price of all of this.

Did this affect me personally?

Despite all of this, not really.  The images were nice, but nothing about it, to me, was “riveting” — only in hindsight and as a form of art to be analyzed.

Why is this ranked #66?

Rotten Tomatoes has this at #2. It appears this is ranked too low, but perhaps there’s something my generation notices (or misses) and doesn’t resonate with in this film. Then again, IMDb’s visitors have Wizard of Oz ranked incredibly low, so it’s possible we have some discrepancies everywhere.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She was distracted for most of the film.

Would I watch it again?

Yes, certainly for clarity.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Sure.  I’d love to know my peers think about it..

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Yes, I believe so. We’re in an era of wholly different films, but from what I’ve watched and know, this film set precedents that we’re still copying. Orson Welles is a bona fide screen legend. I didn’t care for Touch of Evil, but this is certainly his magnum opus. It bears greatness that might go over some people’s heads, and there is depth here that many (like myself) are overlooking today.

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