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Citizen Kane (1941)
The first time I watched Citizen Kane, while I appreciated the technical advancements and its influence on film in general, and while I thought the film was fantastic, I didn't really believe it to be the film to end all films in the aspects of character, plot, and entertainment. However, recently I decided to re-watch a lot of "Classics" that I watched at a younger age. Movies like Gone with the Wind, Crash, Avatar, Vertigo, Rear Window, the movies I watched as a kid and liked (Except for Rear Window, for some odd reason) but I never considered the best. While I haven't gotten to the movies I just listed yet, I did manage to sit down and watched Orson Welles's masterpiece, Citizen Kane. And you know what? I finally got it.
Everything about the movie made me feel something. There were scenes filled with energy, filled with emptiness, filled with tragedy, it really does take you through the full scope of such a successful man's life, and even though Charles Foster Kane himself can sometimes be arrogant, egotistical, and downright terrible, you don't feel justice when he fails. You feel sympathy. But why? Because in the end, through his ups and downs, he's a human being. He has emotions, he has flaws, he has likable traits, he's extremely fleshed out throughout the film, and while he may not be the most enjoyable, suave, or likable character, he certainly is one of the best in film history.
Another thing I feel is worth discussing is the ending. Everybody knows it, thanks to Family Guy feeling it was humorous to spoil it for no other reason just to do so, as well as basically every review mentioning it. So don't go any further unless you already seen the film. So, throughout the film, news reporters are eager to find the meaning to a famous millionaire's final word, "Rosebud" (Which before anyone throws that plot-hole in my face, I just go with the theory that he said it loud enough for the nurse outside to hear). At first, they believe it's a girl, possibly one of the many that he's dated throughout his life. This is understandable, as the millionaire, Mr. Kane, is famous for being around women.
However, in the end, Rosebud is not a woman, or anything anyone thought it would be. Rosebud was in fact, his childhood sled. Earlier in the film, we see Charles as a young boy, with his sled, which at this point, we don't know its name. Charles is taken away from his mother at a young age to get an education, leaving his sled, his home, and his childhood behind.
His parents had sent Charles away to become rich, and leave behind his poverty in which he grew up in. However, as Charles dies, he looks into a snow-globe, and with his final word, he remembers a time in which he was truly happy. Sure, he became rich and famous, but it would be entirely possible that in the end, he would have been happier if they decided to just let him play in the snow.
So in the final scene, you see the sled thrown into a fire, merely junk in everyone's eyes. It was an old sled to them, but to Charles Foster Kane, it symbolized loss of innocence, similar to Lord of the Flies, with the children becoming barbaric, mimicking the world they lived in, and by the end, they cry for the loss of their innocence, as instead of being shielded from the violence like the evacuation intended, they embraced it.
Orson Welles is fantastic, displaying power and greed, but also bolstering an ego. He also did a good job depicting the different ages of his character, with his make-up helping as well. The other actors do a great job as well, and while some of them were a bit hammy, it definitely matched the personalities of the characters they were portraying.
I could go on and on about what makes the film fantastic, the film is shot gorgeously, with both the camera-work and the sets matching the mood of the scene, the editing is extremely modern and keeps the film flowing at a good pace, and the film knows when music should be played, and when the scene should be silent, something a lot of films from the 30's and 40's fail at doing. But in the end, it would just be me reinstating how fantastic the film is, which I really don't think should be repeated, as I believe you get the picture by this point.
So, is this my favorite film? Well, it's tough to say, but I think it's just barely worse than Lawrence of Arabia, though that may have been for the bird scene in Citizen Kane, which, like the car scene in Tarkovsky's Solaris, it felt like a fourth wall gimmick to me. But when I'm comparing a film to something like Lawrence of Arabia, it's hard to come up with favorites. I guess that's why I list off my favorites rather than usually picking one. But I'm getting off topic here. Citizen Kane is a powerhouse of a film, the type of film that doesn't happen often, but the type of film that not only inspires all to come, but still manages, among the clichés it creates and amount of people who have the film spoiled for them, to remain fresh and new to all who watch it.