It's a hell of a thing killing a man... You take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna' have.
2001: a space odyssey, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Spiderman 2, Citizens Kane, Pulp fiction, kill bill vol.1, Batman begins, The Dark knight, Goodfellas, Raging bull, Taxi Driver, Rear window, Psycho, Vertigo, Apo
Posted on 11/08/12 08:29 PM | Last edited on 11/08/12 08:29 PM
'The Greatest Film Ever Made,' well, until the recent critics cronies knocked 'Citizen Kane' of its high horse to be replaced by Hitchcock's 'Vertigo,' many considered Welles' debut effort the greatest film ever made; in fact, before such eccentric choices, it seemed like the official answer. 'The Greatest Film Ever Made,' a prestige title that has immensely riddled Welles' picture with such declamatory, that it could be the most talked about film ever made. However, paradoxically, such cultural preeminence could possibly destroy the viewing for the common viewer. While I don't personally want to dethrone the pictures title, but to classify a film as the greatest of its kind is simply too ambiguous; in short, labeling anything under the classification of such ambiguity seems superfluous and only eventuates as catalyst for altercation. What I am saying is that unless you inhabit an abundance of cinema knowledge, do not feel threaten to watch 'Citizen Kane' in awe of its glory; in fact, I would suggest on initial viewing that it would be more rewarding to push the enthusiastic notions and discourse aside and simply judge the film from your own merits. Bitchin' aside – believe it or not – I do consider Kane as one of my favorites, and while I do not consist of the cinematic knowledge to justify if the film is the best ever made, I will provide a review that, in equal measure, displays the essential qualities on why the film is so damn great. Reasons include the monumental and grandeur cinematography, the richly mysterious narrative, uncanny visual imagery, writing and a central performance, actually, rather an embodiment by Welles that is one for the ages (similar to De Niro La Motta or Ledger's Joker). And after 70 years it's quite obvious why Kane is consider a masterpiece.
Similar to most cinematic masterpieces, 'Citizen Kane' contains a history that captures a sense of inspirational autonomy that many directors strided for within the clutches of Hollywood's confinement. The year is 1938 and 'apparently' New Jersey is panic-stricken while Welles' authoritative voice booms over local radio stations while recounting H.G wells fictional extraterrestrial tale 'The War of Worlds.' Yes, this is why the fellow locals were in agitation; Welles' voice contained such a level of dexterous, authoritative and realism that many people actually believed that an alien invasion was occurring. Besides the listening of his fellow colleges and locals, Hollywood was also witnessing the ability of a phenomenal auteur. Believe it or not by the audacity of such a stunt, Hollywood was so impressed that they hired Wells to make a movie for RKO studious. Surprisingly, Welles' was gifted with complete autonomy for his first production and rejected the notions of using relatively accepted actors within Hollywood, but rather accepted his fellow members within his 'Mercury Theater Company,' an accumulation of creative talent, to produce an epitome of sheer audacity that would permanently alter the cinematic landscape.
Besides my personal input and its history, let's get started with on what makes Kane so great. 'Citizen Kane' details the rise and fall of the egotistical newspaper tycoon, Charles Foster Kane. Detailing his life from his beginning in publishing industry, to politics and then to 'Xanadu,' his fortitude of alienation.
To appreciate most masterpieces, we must consider everything that came before its release and everything after it. For 1941, Kane evidently consisted of narrative ingenuity. Interestingly, the sprawling tale of Charles Foster Kane begins at his death. As I previously mentioned in relation to judging Kane by everything that came before, with such an introduction, Welles' was obviously willing to challenge the senility conventions of movie-storytelling, as previous to Kane it seemed that the directorial credo was to provide film that consisted of a linear structure that would fit for its passive audiences. Hollywood wanted films for pure entertainment rather than artistic merit (like much has changed). Thankfully, Welles was undaunted by such notions. Now where we? Ah yes, narrative. As I previously mentioned Welles' begins his film with Kanes death and legacy, providing the pillars for the narrative as it does, in a sense, become chaotic. However, eventually we learn that the death of Kane and his legacy has become a monumental news story and journalist Jerry Thompson (Alland) is given the job to find the significance of Kanes final words “Rosebud.” Through the memories of key witnesses, Thompson attempts to dig as deep as possible to find out just who exactly was Charles Foster Kane. A narrative through memories with no sense of chronological time in 1941! audacious to say the least. On a subjective viewpoint, I personally believe that this eccentric form of story-telling is why the film contains such a modern resonance and replay value; our views of Kane are all perceptions from unreliable narrators (drunk girl and old mans), which simply leaves us with the pieces of puzzle; we, like the journalist, have to construct our own view of Kane and judge what type of man he was. It could be argued that, with such perceptive views among various viewers, that Kane could be the most ambiguous character in film history.
Furthermore, 'Citizen Kane' is often cited as a monumental technical achievement. With the collaboration of Welles and his trusty cinematographer Gregg Toland, they successfully expanded the scope and horizons on the possibilities within technical film-making. One of the most celebrated aspects of their efforts is the use of 'Deep Focus.' A technique that would allow the foreground and background to have a clear distinct image in equal measure, opposed to the traditional use of only keeping the foreground within focus. In a much celebrated scene, Toland draws the camera back from the window into the living room while keeping Kane, located in the background, as a distinct visual image. It's an important shot that would not have succeeded in conveying symbolic resonance to Kane's future without the use of 'Deep focus.' Additionally to this sequence, the film is riddled with wondrous visual imagery; from the morbid descent onto Kanes Xanadu, the reflection of the broken glass, the beautiful monochrome images of contrasting black and whites, the low and wide angle shot of Kanes political speech, the many Kanes reflected through the mirror and the brilliant tracking shot that descends from the roof-top into the seedy diner. Each image is a marvel to behold.
However, we can't judge a film on its technical aspects as most of us (I know I was one) are not familiar with the revolutionary technical aspects within its time period. So, back to that question that seems to be looming over this review, what makes Kane great? Well, I think that's just it; Kane himself. He truly is the definition of enigmatic and the great mystery of cinema characters. A man that we only know through the perception of other characters, and while we may think that we gain the knowledge of Kanes essential characteristics, there always seems like there is still so much more to learn. In fact, after two days of previously watching the film I am still pro-founded by the protagonist stirring mysteries. In the end, the only aspects that seem certain is that Kane was idealistic and has had his innocence stolen, and as we realize the significance of 'Rosebud,' the more tragic the story becomes. Kanes comments “You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn't been rich I might have been a really great man” ring with profound resonance as we watch his innocence burn in the flames of his own egotistical absorption. We ultimately question what kind of man would Charles Foster Kane be if he had I choice? But as Thompson says “I don't think any word can explain a man's life.”
Now all said and done, I can't label 'Citizen Kane' as the best film ever made solely due to the fact that I do not contain the wealth of cinema knowledge to even suggest an answer to such an ambiguous question. But what I can say is that 'Citizen Kane' displays, thematically, a notion and emotion that everyone has and will lose: Innocence. And besides my little sentimental input, it's impossible to fathom were modern films would be without the impact of this masterpiece.