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75 out of 136 people found the following review useful:

More to Citizen Kane than meets the eye...yet more direct than the modern crap covering screens

Author: cpieper23
3 December 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Citizen Kane was one of the first movies to portray the American Dream as anything less than attractive. As a child, Kane is fully happy as he plays in the snow outside the family's home, even though his parents own a boarding house and are quite poor. He has no playmates but is content to be alone because peace and security are just inside the house's walls. When Thatcher removes Kane from this place, he's given what seems like the American dreamâ€'financial affluence and material luxury. To most this would seem to be a piece of Heaven blessing them with good fortune for a happy life. However, Kane finds that those things don't make him pleased, and the exchange of emotional security for financial security is ultimately unfulfilling. The American dream is an empty, hollow shell for Kane. As an adult, Kane uses his money and power not to build his own happiness but to either buy love or make others as miserable as he is. When one watches the movie it seems that his purchasing of the newspaper was a fun venture. But if you look closer into the reality of the film, the newspaper was simply a means of touching thousands of people, and ultimately gaining their affection. Kane's wealth isolates him from others throughout the years, and his life ends in loneliness at Xanadu. He dies surrounded only by his possessions, poor substitutions for true companions. His last word is "Rosebud." Child hood and that which he missed out on. "I could have been great man without all of this money."

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17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

All That Ballyhoo!

Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
5 May 2008

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.

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18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

A textbook I would have liked to study in school...

Author: Jem Odewahn from Australia
9 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE (1941)was perhaps the first American film since the silent era to fully demonstrate the possibilities of the film medium, and the role of the camera. Welles' camera is mobile, no longer the static device used to merely show faces, and Toland's deep-focus cinematography revolutionary. Welles tinkers with traditional filmic narrative conventions to craft a work that is now often termed a 'textbook' of the cinema.

Welles himself plays Kane in a remarkable acting performance that requires him to age progressively (which Welles does very convincingly) over the decades. Welles draws significant parallels between Kane and media mogul William Hearst in a statement that probes wealth, power figures and what we perceive as 'truth'.

Kane is presented to the audience as an enigma- we never do get a full-bodied portrait of the man, only snippets of highly subjective memories from those who say they "knew him". In the newsreel, a montage of images that details Kane's life and eventual decline, a variety of viewpoints are established. He could be both a Fascist and a Communist- a megalomaniac manipulating power to his advantage or, indeed, being manipulated himself. It is ironic that the true meaning of 'Rosebud' is never discovered by the on-screen reporters, just as the true essence of the man Kane is never fully revealed to the audience. What is Kane searching for? Is it the untouched youth and innocence symbolized in 'Rosebud', or something he himself is not aware of?

Kane is never truly sympathetic, yet he is wholly fascinating. He seems to lament the status and power that wealth has given him ("If I hadn't been very rich than I may have been a very great man"), then buys another load of cold statues and ornaments. His cruel treatment of second wife Susan Alexander in his insistence that she train as an opera singer suggest his unwavering persistence, and unwillingness to accept defeat. Kane is willing to stand alone ("I am Charles Foster Kane!") yet seems to crave a filler to his loneliness ("I know too many people. I guess we're both lonely"). Kane is ultimately indefinable; a jigsaw puzzle that both Susan and the audience struggle to piece together into anything whole or real.

Welles used actors from his Mercury Theatre to populate this story of greed, corruption and vanity. Friend and close confidant Joseph Cotten becomes friend and observer Jebediah, who is a witness to Kane's slide into moral decay. Dorothy Cormingmore portrays Susan Alexander, a thinly veiled take on Hearst's real-life mistress Marion Davies. She possesses a similar honking Bronx whine and limited talent in her master's chosen area of success (For Davies this was dramatic roles in films; her talent lay in comedy). Distinguished actors Moorehead, Sanford and Sloane also feature in support.

One aspect that is perhaps ignored in favor of focusing on the technical innovations is the truly amazing screenplay, one which offers just as many quotable snippets of dialogue as a 'CASABLANCA' or 'ALL ABOUT EVE'. Welles' understanding of the soundtrack is often overlooked. A memorable scene involves a bored Susan Alexander whining to Kane that she "never gets any fun" because they "live in a castle". The visual portrait is fascinating, with Alexander perched on a seat as a princess, complete with tiara in her hair. The echo of her words and Kane's mechanical replies in the huge, yet empty, room speaks volumes for Welles' understanding of the film as a sum of all parts. Here, the sum adds up to perfect- direction, acting, writing, photography and music.

The imposing, haunting Xanadu is similar to Hitchcock's Manderlay in REBECCA (filmed the previous year) in that the mansion operates as a both a character and a symbol of the protagonist. Kane's half-finished palace seems to come the closest to suggesting his character- grandiose, larger than life, powerful...yet strangely empty and unfulfilled.

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46 out of 80 people found the following review useful:


Author: bigfoot127
11 July 2007

I was reading the list of the top movies one evening on the AFI, and I saw this movie was #1 American Film. So I decided I would rent it and I saw it today. I was expecting to be blown away and this would be the best movie I would ever see. Well was I in for a surprise.

This movie is by far one of the worst films I have ever seen in my life. The worst would have to be Zigfield Follies but this comes pretty close. I do like and enjoy classic films. I don't care if a movie is in B&W either. But this movie is just dated, and I don't see what the hype is about. This movie is just 100% overrated. I am someone who can sit through movies but this one I got bored of.

I thought maybe it was because I got interrupted in the beginning of the film, and maybe it would get better later on. Well it just kept dragging. So I got to basically the last 36min of the film and had to just turn it off. So a few hours later I figured I would try to watch it again, but I couldn't even watch 5min. I just went to the last 10min of the movie and was disappointed.

All I can say is watch this movie at your own risk, and I hope you enjoy it more then me. Seeing the reviews on here I feel good I am not the only person who didn't enjoy it.

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17 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

The Role of Sheer Chance in Life

Author: Tobias_R from United States
16 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One commentator made the original point that Kane may have uttered "Rosebud" as his dying word not because he was nostalgic about his childhood but rather as a symbol of sheer chance in affecting and changing his life. As the commentator pointed out, Kane would never have met Susan Alexander, his mistress and later his second wife, if he hadn't been at a warehouse looking over things from his childhood home. If Kane hadn't met Susan, his life would have turned out quite differently. Indeed, if one looks carefully at the childhood scenes of Kane's life, one would see little that Kane, as an adult, would be nostalgic about. There are strong suggestions his father beat him and that, however caring about Kane's welfare his mother was, she seemed emotionally cold and distant. Indeed, Kane's association of his sled Rosebed with the role of chance in his life would be reinforced by the fact that he was interrupted playing on Rosebud and told by his mother and Mr. Thatcher about the radically different turn his life was taking from that of a poor boy to a quite wealthy one really overnight. Indeed, by subtly showing the decisive role of chance in Kane's life, the filmmakers were undermining the powerful American myth of the self-made man. Hard work didn't make Kane's fortune, it was the result of his mother inheriting the title to a mine thought to be worthless but wasn't.

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18 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful Cinematography

Author: Lechuguilla from Dallas, Texas
29 June 2008

If ever there was a film that I had a love-hate relationship with, "Citizen Kane" is surely it. Some of the non-script elements are as good as what one would find in any other film. Yet, the story of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), an early twentieth century newspaper tycoon is terribly dated and painfully boring.

The film's B&W cinematography is arguably the best in film history. DP Gregg Toland uses high-contrast lighting and murky shadows to create a wonderfully noir look and feel. And in some scenes bright back-lighting puts foreground characters in stark silhouette, creating an authoritarian and oppressive tone to the story. This is true especially in the film's first thirty minutes. Throughout the film, frame compositions are clever and interesting, like one scene in the second half wherein a woman, with her back to the camera, blares out an operatic aria on stage to an audience that we viewers cannot see, amid murky, shadowy lighting; it's like something from a nightmare.

And the film's visuals are laced with strange optical illusions, as a result of Welles' use of deep focus camera techniques. In one scene, for example, background windows appear normal in size relative to characters in the foreground. But when a character walks back to the windows, we see that the windows are actually much larger and higher than first appeared, and that renders the character small, by comparison. The same optical effects show up in the Great Hall of Xanadu, with a fireplace that appears average in size, until a character walks back to it; at which point the fireplace is seen in its true size; it's so big and high as to overwhelm the human figure.

Sound effects amplify these optical effects. For example, in the Great Hall, the cavernous, mostly empty, room strongly echoes human sounds, creating the impression of some huge, dark cave. The whole feel is one of oppression and death. Just terrific.

But the film's story, about a corpulent newspaper tycoon, is so dated as to be largely irrelevant in the twenty first century. Kane starts out with noble intent to help the lower classes. But over time he changes. And throughout, he is egotistical, overbearing, bombastic, loud, and generally too full of himself. His only real belief is in himself. He is fond of possessions, but is emotionally empty. In addition to an unlikeable protagonist, the script's dialogue is very talky.

The film's acting is generally quite good. I particularly liked the performances of Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, and Agnes Moorehead. Special effects are good too and, when combined with lots of stock footage, create the visual illusion of a cinematic epic.

Some viewers love this film; others loathe it. I love the cinematography and sound effects, but loathe the story. "Citizen Kane" should have won several Oscars, including especially cinematography. That it did not has caused Hollywood endless guilt, and to compensate, they routinely vote the film as "the number one greatest film in history".

But it does not deserve that lofty title. Hollywood needs to give the film several postmortem, but well deserved, Oscars, especially for B&W cinematography. Then, they need to let go of the guilt.

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37 out of 64 people found the following review useful:


Author: jonnyreggay1 from United Kingdom
1 January 2009

Yet another movie that people pretend to like just to be like sheep and follow everybody else. The story is terrible and boring. I honestly nearly swallowed my tongue and died when i saw this was in the top 30 movies of all time. Some of the movies it is rated above is just ridiculous. People need to start making their own minds up instead of following others. The Dark Knight was a great movie, but come on people, do you really think its the 3rd best movie of all time. Thats another example of people rating it highly based on other peoples views. Its got nothing on The Shawshank Redemption. I wish they could sometimes re-release movies and erase their history, so everyone can have a blank slate and see what it really gets.

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50 out of 90 people found the following review useful:

Love The Cinematography; Story Not That Appealing

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
13 December 2005

Hey, make no mistake: this film does deserve lofty status. It is a good film, fantastically photographed.....but the greatest of all time? I question that, but that kind of question - Who's number one? - is impossible to answer.

I would think to be number one you would have to have a great technical film, great story, great acting, great camera-work as this has, AND have it generally loved by the public. Then you have a true number one picture of all time. I'm not a fan of "Gone With The Wind," but that was a technical marvel, too, for its day and was universally loved by millions of I can see that being listed number over Citizen Kane. The same goes for Casablanca, Ben-Hur and a number of wonderful films.

Anway, concerning this movie, I enjoyed it best for the cinematography. Orson Welles, the "genius" behind this film, was ahead of his time with his inventive camera-work. The acting is good and it's interesting to note that this was Welles' first acting role. Yes, he was an amazing talent, behind or in front of the camera. The story is pretty unlikable and, in this day and age would be too boring for most people under 50, sad to say. However, even older, more "mature" folks find this hard to get through sometimes from what I have read.

The unlikable part mainly comes from the lead character, "Charles Foster Kane," played by Welles. He is simply a selfish egomaniac. Other unpleasant parts of the story include several scenes with his second wife, in which she berates him in this shrill hysterical voice; the fact there is very little humor in here and the ending is anything but uplifting.

For those who find this a confusing story, I suggest giving it another chance. I found this film better the more chances I gave it. It also looks fabulous on the latest special-edition DVD. In summary, it was a great technical achievement but remember professional critics usually have the same mindset and are afraid to be their own person, so don't feel stupid or inadequate if this film doesn't do it for you. You are hardly alone. But, yet, that camera-work has to be seen and appreciated if you really love movies.

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15 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A case study in projection

Author: mkauppil from Finland
26 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I rented this movie almost accidentally on the route back from shooting pool, without any preconceptions of what it was about, although I was very aware it had been dubbed "the greatest film ever" by many.

Basically, the film asks a highly abstract question of whether we can reconstruct a puzzle from a set of available pieces: are the pieces independent or can there be a piece which fundamentally affects the reconstruction? It also presents a very specific example of how this kind of projection applies to human psychology: can there be a single event or item, a "rosebud", such that a man's life cannot be wholly understood without it? We all project our persona every day to our fellow human beings, but no one else really knows what's running in our minds as we lay in bed in the evening: the portions of our minds with no trespassing.

I especially like how this theme is shown on so many levels at once. At the bottom, the reporter is trying to reconstruct Kane's life by anecdotal evidence; Kane's readers are trying to reconstruct the world state by Kane's newspaper; and finally, we the viewers are trying to reconstruct the meaning of the film by watching it. The film was based on the media mogul William Randolph Hearst, whose persona the writers first shattered to pieces and then reconstructed to form Charles Foster Kane.

An interesting add to the interpretation (forgot the name of the critic behind it) is that the whole movie is imagination, or self-inspection, by Kane himself in seek of his rosebud. In this case, the unseen Thompson could be seen as Kane himself, trying to find his lost childhood innocence from the inner depths of his mind.

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20 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Narrative and Eye Disconnect

Author: tedg ( from Virginia Beach
28 May 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoilers Herein.

This an extremely influential film, by one of the very few inventors of cinema. But I do not think it is Welles' best. (That's either `Othello' or `Lady from Shanghai' depending on your religion.)

First of all, this is not the work of a genius, but the excellent product of three committed artisans: Welles, Tobin and Mankiewicz.

Mankiewicz, with his brother, were the industry's working intellectuals. Here (aided by Houseman), he simply got a client intelligent enough to know what was up. Similarly with Tobin, who was the Sascha Vierny of his day. These two men pulled on Welles, but as we will see, in independent directions.

The story, Hearst and all that, is irrelevant except for the notion that a writer in the right place can create reality if willing to pay the price. The acting is fine of course, uncharacteristically abstract -- but that's hardly innovative nor groundshaking. No, what makes this film important are two features, and the failed relationship between them.

The first of these is the incredibly complex narrative structure. Things that are normally nested frames: a reminiscent flashback, a text annotated with pictures... are here multiply set up and in turn enfolded into the film proper. We see a newsreel, whose footage later appears in the `real' action; we have a recalled death vision of a childhood but that becomes untenably self-critical; we see her singing and again from her perspective. We have several on-screen narrators but each gets swallowed. There are so many narrative devices at work it keeps us spinning, sledding as each comes into play and is then reabsorbed. The puzzle is assembled several different ways. Nowhere else is such narrative cleverness been even attempted, not by Lynch, Bergman, Wenders, anyone.

The other innovation is the breaking of convention with the eye of the camera. The camera takes positions -- physical and philosophical -- that were previously utterly unknown. Previously, the camera was audience supplemented by `context' shots: perspectives that a human observer might not see but that seemed natural. Now, the camera is something unto itself that we have to accommodate. The camera does things no human would or could. It sometimes (often!) sees two things simultaneously, something that never happens with the natural eye. It has a curiosity that we would not have directed. The eye defines the lighting, not the other way around -- here everything is colored not by what it is, but by how the film's eye changes it.

Both of these experiments are masterful. They changed the world of films, and hence dreams, and hence all of abstract thinking forever.

But the flaw, the lethal problem with this film is that the two experiments have independent lives. They are not coordinated beyond some fairly easy touchpoints and then only in the simplest of ways: an image that is being described by a speaker and the nature of the newsreel. It is as if there were TWO geniuses at work, each doing something important and neither communicating with the other. So when there is a shift or a trick in the narrative, the eye is ignorant of it.

But hey, it was just the man's first film. He quickly fixed that in `Othello' and especially `Shanghai.' The merger of eye and narrative is the real revolution. `Kane' raised the question, which is why it is important. Tarkovsky, some Bergman, Malick, Greenaway have subsequently succeeded with this merger using different devices, but the master is Kurosawa. Welles made Kurosawa possible. It all starts here, but only as a promise. In real terms, the film is a failure.

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