Citizen Kane (1941)
Reviewed on 2012 March 3
This was Orson Welles’ baby; his finest hour, in my humble opinion. With other works like Touch of Evil and The Third Man to his name it’s like trying to pick the winner in a neck-and-neck horse race, but I have to go with this. The techniques, artsy shots and really convincing (especially for the time) aging make-up just add cinematic bling to a very good story.
After a sprawling, moody opening sequence of an improbably huge and cold mansion, its occupant, Charles Foster Kane (Welles), is introduced to the viewer at his demise. He caused as much furor in death as in life — his final word was “rosebud”, an odd thing for a man who collected exotic statues and women in his life. As newsmen scramble to find the answer to who or what this “rosebud” is, Kane’s journey from poor child in Colorado to rich, reclusive former newspaper magnate is revealed in sequences, filtered through those who knew him best.
There was kind of an uproar about this being a thinly veiled telling of the life of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. As it is it humbles me a lot to think Welles crafted this thing, his debut, when he was all of twenty-five years old. That can’t keep me from watching it, enjoying it, and appreciating what it is. The scenes were incredibly filmed, with the snowglobe lens shot in Kane’s death being a whole new thing for 1941. That’s just the icing on the cake. If you strip away the superfluous stuff like the tricky camera work, you still have a strong script and powerful acting.
Four chocolate morsels. They didn’t break the mold when they made this; this was the mold.