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A group of reporters are trying to decipher the last word ever spoken by Charles Foster Kane, the millionaire newspaper tycoon: "Rosebud". The film begins with a news reel detailing Kane's life for the masses, and then from there, we are shown flashbacks from Kane's life. As the reporters investigate further, the viewers see a display of a fascinating man's rise to fame, and how he eventually fell off the top of the world.Written by
Many scenes were shot during arduous, all night shoots. Many times after pulling a difficult all-nighter, Orson Welles and the rest of the cast and crew would sit on the curb at RKO and drink cocktails at 6:30 a.m., instead of 6:30 p.m. when every other "normal" Hollywood actor or crew member would break for refreshment. See more »
The large sofa (with a table behind) moves between the shot where Kane sits down in the armchair (while Susan does another puzzle), and the cut to Kane's POV. The sofa and table move almost into the line of sight between Kane and Susan between shots. See more »
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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