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Citizen Kane (1941)

aka Citizen Kane

"Everybody's talking about it!"

Directed By: 
Details: 119 mins · English · PG (USA)

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(Review written in 2010)

I understand completely how Citizen Kane is supposed to be the best movie in the entire world. I don’t agree, of course, because I think that’s an extremely tall order and we all know how fond I am of Inglourious Basterds and Rumble Fish, but I do indeed understand the hype. I’m sure people have their reasons for thinking Citizen Kane’s the greatest. It’s the first to do this and the first to do that and blah blah – which is all bullshit, because other films used all of the techniques used in Citizen Kane before Citizen Kane, but if that makes them happy…I’m sure, at the time, it was a technical achievement, but now it could hardly be thought so, so that can’t be it. The plot, after so many copies, hardly seems inspired. So I’ve boiled it down to two things, that always make a movie excellent for me: Believable, dynamic characters, and acting that brings the true potential of these characters out, and makes them lively and watchable. And Citizen Kane does tha...(more)

(Review written in 2010)

I understand completely how Citizen Kane is supposed to be the best movie in the entire world. I don’t agree, of course, because I think that’s an extremely tall order and we all know how fond I am of Inglourious Basterds and Rumble Fish, but I do indeed understand the hype. I’m sure people have their reasons for thinking Citizen Kane’s the greatest. It’s the first to do this and the first to do that and blah blah – which is all bullshit, because other films used all of the techniques used in Citizen Kane before Citizen Kane, but if that makes them happy…I’m sure, at the time, it was a technical achievement, but now it could hardly be thought so, so that can’t be it. The plot, after so many copies, hardly seems inspired. So I’ve boiled it down to two things, that always make a movie excellent for me: Believable, dynamic characters, and acting that brings the true potential of these characters out, and makes them lively and watchable. And Citizen Kane does that well. Welles himself, of course, is the star of the show – not only as the brains behind the technical masterpiece, but behind the gripping titular character, who is as terrifying and deep and interesting and lovable in a strange way as any I’ve ever watched. And that, my dear friends, is the magic. (less)

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  Comment 1 Comments  • 

There's more to the plot than just the idea of a man's downfall from hubris. What made Citizen Kane stand out was the storytelling, with the stories within stories, the unique way that Orson Welles told the story. We look at Kane's life through the eye of an investigative reporter, unnamed and faceless. He acts as our surrogate and invests us making us feel like we are investigating him, becoming part of the story

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Cast:

Small Jedediah Leland
Small Charles Foster Kane
Small Mutter
Small Emily Monroe Norton Kane
Small Mr. Bernstein
Small Walter Parks Thatcher
No_movie_poster Susan Alexander Kane
No_movie_poster Jerry Thompson
Small Mr. Rawlston
No_movie_poster Young Charles Foster Kane
Small Raymond
Small Kane's Father
No_movie_poster Newspaperman
Small Reporter at Xanadu
Small Reporter at Xanadu
No_movie_poster Entertainer
Small Reporter
No_movie_poster Signor Matiste
Small Reporter Smoking Pipe at End
No_movie_poster Mr. Bernstein
No_movie_poster Herbert Carter
Small Mary Kane
Small Jim W. Gettys
No_movie_poster The Headwaiter

Crew:

Small Orson Welles Director
No_movie_poster Bernard Herrmann Original Music Composer
Small Robert Wise Editor
No_movie_poster Vernon L. Walker Special Effects
No_movie_poster Gregg Toland Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Edward Stevenson Costume Design
No_movie_poster Richard Baer Producer
No_movie_poster George Schaefer Executive Producer
No_movie_poster Van Nest Polglase Art Direction
No_movie_poster Herman J. Mankiewicz Screenplay
Small Orson Welles Production
Small Orson Welles Writer
Small John Houseman Writer
Small Robert Wise Editing

Taglines:

"Everybody's talking about it!"

"EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT IT! It's Terrific!"

"The classic story of power and the press."

"I hate him! I love him! He's a scoundrel! He's a saint! He's crazy! He's a genius!"

Plot:

Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), an enormously wealthy media proprietor, has been living alone in Florida in his vast palatial estate Xanadu for the last years of his life, with a "No trespassing" sign on the gate. He dies in a bed while holding a snow globe and utters "Rosebud ..."; the globe slips from his dying hand and smashes. Kane's death then becomes sensational news around the world. Newsreel reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) tries to find out about Kane's private life and, in particular, to discover the meaning behind his last word. The reporter interviews the great man's friends and associates, and Kane's story unfolds as a series of flashbacks. Thompson approaches Kane's second wife, Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore), now an alcoholic who runs her own club, but she refuses to tell him anything. Thompson then goes to the private archive of the late Walter Parks Thatcher (George Coulouris), a banker who served as Kane's guardian during his childhood and adolescence. It is through Thatcher's written memoirs that Thompson learns about Kane's childhood. Thompson then interviews Kane's personal business manager Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane), best friend Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten), Susan for a second time, and Kane's butler Raymond (Paul Stewart) at Xanadu.

Flashbacks reveal that Kane's childhood was spent in poverty in Colorado (his parents ran a boarding house), until the "world's third largest gold mine" was discovered on the seemingly worthless property his mother had acquired. He is forced to leave his mother (Agnes Moorehead) when she sends him away to the East Coast of the U.S. to live with Thatcher, to be educated. After gaining full control over his possessions at the age of 25, Kane enters the newspaper business with sensationalized yellow journalism. He takes control of the newspaper, the New York Inquirer, and hires all the best journalists. His attempted rise to power is documented, including his manipulation of public opinion for the Spanish American War; his first marriage to Emily Monroe Norton (Ruth Warrick), a President's niece; and his campaign for the office of governor of New York State, for which alternative newspaper headlines are created depending on the result.

Kane's marriage disintegrates over the years, and he begins an affair with Susan Alexander. Both his wife and his opponent discover the affair, simultaneously ending his marriage and his political career. Kane marries his mistress, and forces her into an operatic career for which she has neither talent nor ambition. Kane finally allows her to abandon her singing career after she attempts suicide, but after a span of time spent in boredom and isolation in Xanadu, she ultimately leaves him.

Kane spends his last years building his vast estate and lives alone, interacting only with his staff. The butler recounts that Kane had said "Rosebud" after Susan left him, right after seeing a snow globe.

At Xanadu, Kane's vast number of belongings are being catalogued, ranging from priceless works of art to worthless furniture. During this time, Thompson finds that he is unable to solve the mystery and concludes that "Rosebud" will forever remain an enigma. He theorizes that "Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted, and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get, or something he lost." In the ending of the film, it is revealed to the audience that Rosebud was the name of the sled from Kane's childhood – an allusion to the only time in his life that he was truly happy. The sled, thought to be junk, is burned and destroyed in a basement furnace by Xanadu's departing staff.

Release Dates:

Theatrical : 1941-09-05 : United States of America

DVD : 2001-09-25

1941-05-01 : United States of America