The amazing story of a fabulously rich man.
Citizen Kane is a 1941 drama film directed by Orson Welles, written by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles, produced by RKO Radio Productions and Mercury Productions, and distributed by RKO Radio Productions. It stars Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton. The film was nominated for and won Best Original Screenplay. Otherwise, it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score. It has been selected for preservation by the National Film Registry..
"Rosebud." -Charles Foster Kane
After business tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies, a picture magazine takes it upon themselves to uncover the secretive life of the famous political figure. As the reporter who takes on the task interviews people who were a part of Kane's life, he tries to discover what the meaning of Kane's final word, Rosebud, is.
Cinematography and Direction / Screenplay / Story and Format / Charles Foster Kane / Orson Welles / Meaningless Scenes / Age / Not for Modern Audiences
Citizen Kane is widely regarded as the greatest movie of all time, and I can definitely see why.
While it is not one of my favorite movies, this film is revolutionary. Let's start with the cinematography and Orson Welles' direction. I watched Citizen Kane in a Film Studies class, so we rewatched multiple scenes to form a deeper understanding as well as a deeper appreciation for certain scenes. The craft with which this film is made is ridiculous. Every single shot is composed with impeccable precision. This movie is just filled with genius symbolism that will not be found in any other movie.
Welles also makes sure that you get this movie from the journalist's point of view. Mr. Thompson is the audience's peephole into the movie, as he goes around, interviewing different people in Kane's life as he tries to figure out the meaning of Rosebud. You get new information as Mr. Thompson does. One of the smartest things about Citizen Kane is the way that scenes with Mr. Thompson are shot. Since it's supposed to be from his point of view, you never really see his face. It makes the audience really feel like you are him.
The dialogue in Citizen Kane is as crisp and snappy as some of the dialogue in Pulp Fiction. There are some super intelligent lines. For example, Kane, as an older man, is reflecting on his life and says "If I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man.". That's one of the saddest and most honest lines in any movie. The script is a combination of smart, deep lines and snappy, fun dialogue. It also follows us through Kane's life, but never makes you forget about Rosebud, so the final reveal of what it is is very satisfying.
Another thing that was innovative about Citizen Kane was the way that the story was told. This investigative, non-linear style is a very unique way of doing a movie. The plot allows room for Charles Foster Kane's life story to be told while also building the mystery of what Rosebud is. Along with that, each new interview causes you to re-interpret a scene from before. In the beginning, we see Susan, Kane's drunkard ex-wife. Later in the movie, during an interview with the butler, we understand why Susan is a drunkard. It's details like that that make this movie iconic.
The story is essentially a character study of Charles Foster Kane. We go through his life and begin understanding different details about this character. He was given away as a child for money. He went from being extremely poor to being the richest man in the world. He then became the youngest tycoon ever. But as he gained more power and political influence, he began to lose his family and everything he loves, eventually leading to him losing his empire. It's a great use of the rise and fall template.
Kane himself is a sympathetic character. He has this shell that is Charles Foster Kane, newspaper tycoon and political candidate. But then the true Charles Foster Kane is a broken man that never had a childhood and was shoved into a life of money and power at the expense of his happiness. That's a really interesting and layered character.
And Orson Welles, who does also star in the film, is just incredible as Kane himself. He is incredibly charming and plays the part of egotistical rich tycoon perfectly, but also brings a level of emotion to a character that seems larger than life. He executes the political/personal perspective of Kane to absolute perfection.
Citizen Kane does have a few scenes that seem...unnecessary. For example, if you have seen this movie, there is a scene that involves a bunch of dancing women singing a song about Kane. I found that scene to be relatively annoying and meaningless. It didn't service the story or develop any of the characters. That's an example of a scene that didn't age well. Because the audio in 1941 was scratchier, hearing a bunch of girls sing a bad song in a high voice is not a pleasant thing to hear.
On that same note, the film is, at this point, exactly eighty years old. That is an old movie. It's been around for a long time and lots of things have changed since the 1940s. There are definitely some elements of the film that have not aged well. Especially the relationship between Kane and Susan. The movie also centers around newspaper...which isn't really a thing that modern audiences will relate to, because most of the news is online right now. Hell, this review is online.
Because of certain things like this, this movie probably will not satisfy most modern audiences. If you are a cinephile and can appreciate great movies while not necessarily caring how much you like them, you will be able to enjoy Citizen Kane. However, the average movie-goer who watches all these big, blockbuster, billion dollar movies and isn't really that into dramas will not like this film.
Analogy and Final Score
It's hard to find an analogy for Citizen Kane. If something is the greatest of a certain group, then you say it's the Citizen Kane of that group. Like Breaking Bad is the Citizen Kane of TV shows. So that's hard when Citizen Kane is usually the analogy. However, I'd say Citizen Kane is like Babe Ruth. Obviously Babe Ruth is a symbol of baseball and definitely considered one of the greatest players of all time. He was revolutionary, but if he were to play nowadays, he wouldn't be anything big. It's the same with Citizen Kane.
I'm not denying Citizen Kane is one of the greatest movies ever. It is. It just isn't one of my personal favorites. I can appreciate it much more than I can enjoy it.
I will go Savory. Age range is 10+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 4.5/10
Directed by Orson Welles
Rated PG for thematic elements, drug use, minor sexual content, disturbing themes
Released on September 5, 1941
1 hour and 59 minutes
Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane
Joseph Cotten as Jedidiah Leland
Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane
Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein
Ruth Warrick as Emily Monroe Norton Kane
Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane
George Coulouris as Mr. Thatcher
Ray Collins as Jim Gettys
Paul Stewart as Raymond
William Alland as Mr. Thompson