Citizen Kane (1941) – Orson Welles

 

I first saw this movie in my film studies class at university. I was bored out of my skull. How was this considered one of the greatest movies ever made? In fact most of that course put me off film for the better part of a year.

So I was curious to see what I would think of it when the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book gave it as the next title to watch under its selection of dramas.

Sure, there are no surprises plot-wise in this film, almost everyone knows what “Rosebud” is now before they even settle into their seat to watch the story unfold.

Welles not only directs, but stars, and also had his hand in the screenplay. He stars as Kane, a man who started out in a small house, with his mother and father, before taken off to live a ‘better’ life, one without a financial care in the world.

He starts dallying with running a newspaper, and turns it into a very successful rag, while also trying his hand, less happily, at politics. He also does his best to find love, but in the end, the chambers of the human heart, especially his, are a mystery to those around him.

The film is told after his death, with journalists combing back through his life, collecting stories and tales, painting the picture of a larger than life man who seemed to believe, at least initially, that money could buy him anything he wanted. In the end though, his last spoken words, “Rosebud,” signify something that no one else understands, but which meant the world for him.

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Technically, which apparently I wasn’t wise enough to understand the first time around, the film is fantastic, the way the shots are laid out, the framing, the design, the way the story unfolds, it’s brilliant. The story, I could take or leave, but Welles, with this film, proved he was a master filmmaker.

The film is filled with excellent performances, I was delighted to recognize Joseph Cotten, as Jedediah (he pops up in another Welles film on the list, but for me he’ll always be Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt).

I really enjoyed this one this time around, and it truly is a masterful film. I was stunned by the level of craftsmanship when I watched it this time around, and was equally amazed that I didn’t notice it the first time around. Of course, the prof was really annoying and instead of letting us sort out what was going on in terms of themes and camera moves, she had to stop and explain it all step by step.

That’s not a good way to watch any movie!

But this time around, I was wowed, and was happy to see a master at work. And let’s just mention the fantastic make-up work that transforms Welles from a young man to a heavyset fella, that, honestly, was more than a little prophetic, but not nearly enough so.

Still, this was a fantastic watch, and I’m eager to see what comes up next!

What’s your favorite Welles film?

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