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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Citizen Kane (1941)


In the end, being rich and powerful never quite works out.

Rosebud“, for one reason or another, was the final, dying word of a rich and powerful man. But what does it mean? The life of tycoon and publishing powerhouse Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) is a documented legend. But his last word remains a mystery – one that intrepid reporter Thompson (William Alland) intends to solve.

Anytime you ever hear anybody mention the best movie of their desired genre, you always hear that it’s the “Citizen Kane of *insert genre here*”, which pretty much means that this movie is considered one of the best of all-time and deserves to be watched by all, movie buffs and non-movie buffs. I can definitely see why, but I still wouldn’t go as far as to call it a “masterpiece”.

Unpopular opinion, I know, but bear with me, folks.

Let me just put it like this: Orson Welles kicks ass in everything he does and shows that he has such an original and inspired mind whenever it comes to taking over your own film. The dude not only stars in this flick, but he also directs, produces, co-writes, films himself, and even made sure that no studio exec tinkered with his final product. You can call Orson Welles a control-freak, but when the final-product ends up turning out as good as this, all unpopularity can be brushed aside.

Not that Kane, you sillies.

Not that Kane, although, how awesome would that be?

Which brings me to the way the story is told to us and why Welles was such a master at his craft. The film starts off with the death of Kane (not a spoiler because it happens in the first two minutes), then we get a very sharp newsreel that tells the life of Kane in almost three minutes, and then goes on to show you that the whole film will be about this one reporter, learning about the story and life of Kane, just through flashbacks and discussions with other people that knew and loved him very well. I know, I know, I know, you’re probably sitting there right now wondering what’s so damn special about some plot-device that seems to happen all of the time, but the fact that Welles first gives us the big picture, only to go to the smaller details and trust us our minds to know what’s going to happen next, is something of genius, especially back in 1941. It was damn inventive for its time and it’s still a plot-device that works now, especially considering well it’s done.

Another inventive aspect behind this film was the camera itself and how everything is filmed in it’s noir/art style. There’s a lot of neat shots that that hold themselves here throughout and it’s very inspiring to see because it adds a mood to a lot of these scenes and shows you that Welles wasn’t afraid to move the camera around just a bit, you know, to convey emotions and keep this story going at a very smooth, but relatively rapid pace. The music also enters the film perfectly and adds a dark feel to this whole product and it sticks with you every time you hear it because it usually sounds so bleak and freaky. Those two words right there may not go perfectly well together, but you get the gist of what I’m talking about.

But what really separates this film, from all of the others that were coming out around this time is that it can still be easily enjoyed all these years later. I have never seen this flick ever before in my life, (kill me now, I know) so the first time I ever got to see this flick, I was surprised by how brisk of a pace it had and just how much it kept me glued to its story. Welles takes a great deal in making a story that’s compelling, but also very truthful in how it speaks about human nature. This movie is all about how absolute power corrupts even the best of men, regardless of what it is that they do for a living, or want to do in their lives. The more you get, the more you start waste away the things that mean the most to you and even though this is no shocking revelation in the year 2015, it’s still great to see and hear it all from a flick like this. Welles was only 26 when he made this and it only shows me that I got about four more years left until I come out of my cave and make the next best thing for Hollywood.

Wow, bro.

Wow, bro.

Yeah, no pressure at all.

However, as much of a masterpiece that this film may be regarded as, I still do think there are problems that this film does have here and there. The main problem with most films from these days are that there are parts that are more dated than others, and here, I didn’t find much of that and barely anything that annoyed me either. Except, there was one big problem I had with this film and that was Dorothy Comingore’s performance as Kane’s second little honey-bunny of a wife, Susan Alexander. At first, seems like a very nice and sweet girl who makes it obvious as to why Kane would fall for her in the first place, but once she starts to get bigger and bigger with her Opera career, she predictably starts to get more and more needy, whiny, and annoying. This was an obvious character arch that Welles went for here, but her performance annoyed me more just because all she did was yell and scream, but it wasn’t realistic or understandable; it was just hammy. It almost seemed like she was in her own movie altogether, which didn’t bode well for the rest of the movie.

But, where there is one bad performance, there is one that’s amazing and rises above the rest. I’m talking about Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane, and gives one of those brilliant performances where we see little snippets of a man, but due to Welles’ powerful acting, we feel like we know this character for everything that he was, as well as what he wasn’t. Welles has this strong delivery with his lines that makes it seem like he’s always talking with a purpose and every single line that comes from Kane’s mouth is just another powerful piece or artistry, whether or not Welles had intended for it to be heard as so or not. Though, there are small shadings of this character that, if you’re paying enough attention, you’ll be able to find and relate to, even if by the end, Kane does become something of a dick. Albeit, a very rich one. Which is to say, with money and fame, comes sadness.

Wah.

Consensus: Though not all of it holds up, Citizen Kane is still a wonderful piece of film-making for what it introduced to the film world, the themes that still hold up well today, and the fact that Welles, even at such a young age, was able to make this baby his own and threw himself into the history books because of it.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

"Anticlimactic."

“Anticlimactic.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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5 responses to “Citizen Kane (1941)

  1. Wendell March 11, 2015 at 9:03 am

    You are right about this being an excellent piece of film-making. What makes it a masterpiece in my eyes is how this film did so many things first that have become commonplace. Certain camera angles and movements, which you alluded to, and lighting techniques, and of course the way the story is told are things Welles pretty much pioneered. And he didn’t do them in a clunky manner, they were all pulled off very smoothly. Then there is his performance on the screen, too. It’s just an all-around masterful film. I’m inclined to agree with your assessment of Dorothy Comingore’s performance, but hey, no movie is perfect. Great review, Dan.

  2. Keith March 11, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Funny you say it doesn’t all hold up. I rewatched it recently and was blown away by how effective it still is. Such an influential cinema piece.

    Fine review!

  3. Hunter March 11, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Always nice to see people watching this for the first time!! I feel like everybody’s like “ugh Citizen Kane” but usually end up liking/appreciating it once they give it a chance! It’s one of my favorite movies.
    Though I see what you’re saying about Comingore. She definitely gets a bit annoying, but I am general able to sympathize with her character because of how trapped and lonely she is, and also I get really bad stage fright. But yeah she can get a bit screechy. The aging makeup Welles has leaves a bit to be desired as well.
    It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s pretty damn close! Nice review.

  4. Victor De Leon March 18, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Epic write up, Dan. Good work! I think it still holds up subjectively, metaphorically, visually and dramatically on almost every level. Due for a re-watch and your fine review has prompted me to pull this bad boy out today. Thanks!

  5. Pingback: Landmark Films Of The 20th Century – 1940-1949 |

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