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Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
Orson Welles
Joseph Cotten as Jedediah Leland
Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane
Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane
Ruth Warrick as Emily Monroe Norton Kane
Ray Collins as James W. Gettys
Erskine Sanford as Herbert Carter
Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein
William Alland as Jerry Thompson
Paul Stewart as Raymond
George Coulouris as Walter Parks Thatcher
Fortunio Bonanova as Signor Matiste
Gus Schilling as The Headwaiter
Philip Van Zandt as Mr. Rawlston
Georgia Backus as Bertha Anderson
Storyline: A group of reporters are trying to decipher the last word ever spoken by Charles Foster Kane, the millionaire newspaper tycoon: "Rosebud." The film begins with a news reel detailing Kane's life for the masses, and then from there, we are shown flashbacks from Kane's life. As the reporters investigate further, the viewers see a display of a fascinating man's rise to fame, and how he eventually fell off the top of the world.
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Where do I begin?...
and how do I end a review of this film? Well bear with me while I try.

Why is Citizen Kane a great film and yet so hard to review? Because it is like a big ball of yarn with the ends of many threads sticking out. You can just yank on any thread, start writing, and go on forever. Let me start with its style, which is discussed in great detail in the late Roger Ebert's excellent commentary on the DVD of the film. Its unusual photography, editing, scene transitions, etc. are why it is shown in film school.For example, the lap dissolves in the scene with Joseph Cotten in the old-folks home were very unusual. The scene of Cotten talking dissolves into a flashback scene with Kane, and half-way through the dissolve, we see Cotton on the left side of the screen and the Kane flashback on the right side, and that is held for several seconds. It is a dissolve into a split screen by means of very clever lighting. The lights fade out on the right side of the Cotten scene, and they fade up on the right side of the Kane scene. That technique had never been done before, and I've seen it in only one or two movies made after that.

Then there is the story, the theme of which seems to be uttered by the reporters near the end of the film, as they give up searching for the meaning of Kane's last word - "Rosebud". They say Kane was a man who, though one of the wealthiest men in the world ,lost everything he ever had, even though he died rich. And so the story we have been watching is, on the surface, just that. The final scene showing you Kane's possessions that are considered of no value by auditors being tossed into the flames of an incinerator - one happening to be a sled with the name "Rosebud" on it, the sled Kane was playing on the day he became a rich man - as a child through a quirk of fate.

I used to be in the camp that believed that the snow globe was representational of Kane's nostalgia for his boyhood home and maybe for the sled. I no longer believe his attachment to the piece has anything to do with his pre-wealth youth. I think it reminds him of a time much later than that. That snow globe actually was a possession belonging to Susan Alexander before Kane ever met her, sitting on her dressing table in her small apartment. Kane picked up the globe during his rampage in her bedroom in Xanadu when she left him. Holding that globe abruptly put an end to his destruction of her bedroom. Why? I think it links back to the evening when they met and Alexander had no idea who he was. That night Charles Foster Kane was just a "schoolboy" who could wiggle his ears and do shadow puppets to impress a thoughtful and attractive young lady. This courtship was a period in their relationship that we can assume was not influenced by his money. For that one evening, he wasn't the richest man in the country. No other relationship that Kane had, once he was wrested from his sled as a child, began in that same manner. All the other people surrounding Kane as an adult were near him because of, or with full knowledge of, his wealth and power. Jed Leland was a friend from his college days. Mr. Bernstein was an employee. The first wife, who was met and courted on a buying tour of Europe, would know who Charles Foster Kane was when they met. Only Susan Alexander came into his life completely carefree of his wealth. And she brought with her that snow globe.

While holding the snow globe as he lay dying, Kane isn't thinking about the cabin in Colorado or his sled - even if that is the scene depicted in the snow globe. (What an odd coincidence that she would own a snow globe with a cabin and sled in it when they met. That is a bigger "huh?" than who heard Kane's last words.) Kane is thinking about this very personal artifact that belonged to Susan Alexander, the woman who, in spite of a toothache, offered some kind assistance to a stranger one night long ago.

Why does Kane whisper "Rosebud" on his death bead and not "Susan."? I don't know. Perhaps it is just where his mind wandered while reminiscing about that evening in a young woman's apartment when he was detoured from going to the warehouse that stored the artifacts of his youth.

What are the other threads you could pull on and write paragraphs about? Kane's parents and why his mother did what she did, apparently never seeing her son again once she turned him over to be raised by bankers, somehow seeing this as an act of love. Then there is the issue of memory and how people are not what they seem to be - the apparent sycophant Mr. Bernstein seeming to have a great deal of wisdom and depth in his old age that you would not have foreseen when he was young - he talks about a girl he saw on a ferry 40 years before and how a day hasn't passed that he hasn't thought of her. How Kane liked being "the voice and defender of the masses" but maybe didn't like the idea that maybe someday those masses would organize and demand their rights, as Jed Leland had said on his way out of Kane's life. And on it goes.

I'm sorry if this review is a bit disorganized, but "Citizen Kane" is not linear storytelling, or any other kind that I can identify with one word, yet it is storytelling at its best.
an example of a unique and well done movie
The movie Citizen Kane was loosely based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. The movie begins with the death of Charles Foster Kane, who was the editor of the New York Journal. He says the name rosebud and drops a crystal ball, which falls to the ground a shatters. News clips are shown about the different occurrences in Kane's life depicting how Kane acquired his fortune. Throughout the whole movie reporters are trying to figure out what the word rosebud meant and why it was the last word he said before he died. The reporters find people who knew Kane throughout his life trying to get information from them that would put some sense to Kane saying `rosebud' as his last word. Many of the stories told by the people interviewed show the audience a lot about his life through flashbacks. One of the opening scenes is that of Kane's mansion called Xanadu. It has a sign that says `no trespassing' that is hung from the outside gate. The shot is very dark and gloomy, hinting that maybe Kane's life was the same way. He was a very power-hungry man that went from being at the top to rock bottom. Many other movies have definitely taken note to style and effects of this movie. The camera work, lighting, acting a music contributed to making Citizen Kane one of the best American movies of all time. Orson Welles deserves all the credit that he receives from this movie. He was the leading character, producer and director; basically a one man show that still many of us appreciate. I thought that this movie was well done. It had so much symbolism that made the movie unique, although if you didn't know what was symbolic during the different scenes it would be hard to follow, but most of the symbolism is easily recognized. One of the best symbolic scenes that also foreshadows is when Kane is at the top of the stairs and he is told that he lost his position and as he walks down the stairs the camera is shooting from at the top and it looks like a spiral showing that Kane's life and career are out of control. Citizen Kane was very dramatic and all who took part in the movie played their roles well. The characters seemed very real and believable making this movie very memorable. This film has features that every movie should try to incorporate; symbolism, great actors, interesting storyline, excellent camera shots, lighting and sound techniques. I think everyone should see this movie at least once in their life time because it is one of the greatest American movies of all time.
The Melville of Cinema
The careers of Orson Welles and Herman Melville are eerily similar...there is the great early work that is thought by some to be the alpha and omega of their respective forms (Citizen Kane and Moby Dick), there is the long eclipse, there is the great late work rediscovered (Touch of Evil or (the yet to be rediscovered and absolutely flabbergasting) Chimes at Midnight and Billy Budd, sailor), and there is the irrepressible mindf**k (F for Fake and The Confidence Man). But even more than that, Welles and Melville were the two most disillusioned artists America ever produced, which goes a long way toward explaining why average people interested in the arts as mere "entertainment" don't like their work. Both Kane and Ahab are singularly unpleasant individuals who are crushed by the cosmos in one way or another in spite of their indomitable defiance. These are not pleasant archetypes in the least...but they are infinitely more valuable than all the "heroes" of popular fiction. Welles and Melville take a speculum to the human condition by testing these characters to destruction. Citizen Kane has one of the most difficult structures in film. Its fractured narrative prevents the viewer from truly understanding Kane--but this is the point of the movie...why else would the film conspicuously leave out one crucial viewpoint (Kane himself)? In this respect, Citizen Kane is also a lot like Hamlet, which is similarly impenetrable. Anyone who demands identification with the "hero" is going to be sorely taxed by Kane--this separates the men from the boys, so to speak.

Is Citizen Kane THE greatest film of all time? Of course not. To declare that any film holds that honor is ludicrous. After all, once a certain level of craftsmanship is attained, once a certain level of insight is expressed, these distinctions become meaningless. Star Wars lost the best picture Oscar to Annie Hall in 1977--is one better than the other? The experience of watching either of them is so radically different that the comparison is absolutely invalid...they have nothing in common except their relative excellence. Kane's hold on the honor stems from the fact that it invented more of the language of sound filmmaking than any other movie, but no one claims that the other contender based on that criterion is the greatest film of all time (that would be the extremely controversial Birth of a Nation). Dont get me wrong...Kane is ONE of the greatest films...but no film could or should be asked to stand as the alpha and omega of the art.

Even so, Kane is a harrowing aesthetic experience.

And Kane IS massively entertaining. I resent the notion that a film has to elicit some knee-jerk emotional response to be considered entertaining--having the eye engaged and having the mind challenged ARE entertaining...but I sometimes forget that we as a people more and more value feeling over thought...God help us all.

(If anyone is interested, I also reviewed Cat People (1942)
It never gets old. I remember I first watched it back in 2008, and I was mesmerized, it sucked me in like Star Wars did when I was seven. It never ceases to be entertaining and fun, and yet Kane is such a sad character. Seen only from the perspectives of his friends after his death and from the cold machinery of a newsreel, no one really knows Kane, and sadly not even Kane himself, who after being second-guessed out of his childhood and subsequently second-guessing himself throughout life in search of his new stage or "snowglobe" in which to play, finds himself gazing through his own void, in pain and depression, with only the frozen memory of his happiness uttered in eternity through the walls of his palace in a single word. Through greed and misanthropy disguised in benevolent intentions Kane finds himself in a prison of things and empty halls, all new toys he acquired and just as hastily discarded, still a child when he played newspaper man, collecting his statues like action figures, all more things to fill the empty void in his life. When the one person he comes close to loving, Susan Alexander, leaves him, he no longer has anything to cling to and so destroys himself and lives a life of regret and longing. Susan Alexander is the only one who might have got through cage and saved him, someone who knew nothing of his reputation but just liked him for a night, but he imprisons her too like a pet.

The film shows the effect Kane's lifelong self-destruction has on others, particularly Susan Alexander who ends up depressed and alone, and Jed Leland (Joseph Cotten is great as always) the cynic who sees through Kane's glib charm for what he is.

I can relate to Kane, he's a very human character I think many can relate to. He may have had a way out of his pain with Susan Alexander, but it never happened, the damage was done early on. He was taken away from his sled and into the care of a cold, serious, heartless man upon discovery of gold on his mother's land. His mother seemed very attached and maybe he wanted to be perfect in his mother's eyes too, Leland mentioned that he loved his mother.

In the end it seems there is catharsis for Kane, as all his possessions are burned and his precious sled too, the truth of his famous last word incinerated forever into the atmosphere. It's very powerful and striking to see all the worth of this man's life turned into black smoke. The imagery in the film is striking and the way it's filmed too. Seeing Kane walk through a hall of mirrored reflections really makes me you feel his loneliness visually, and that's what cinema is all about.

Citizen Kane is held up on a pedestal, and much has been and written about it, but beyond the huge importance it has in film history, it's just a really entertaining, fun classic that anyone can watch and enjoy and relate to, not just film buffs, and that's why it's so fondly remembered.
surprised and disappointed
If you consider just the content, then all this movie does is make the following point: Charles Foster Kane wanted to be big and important to all American people, however he had nothing to give, he just had a lot of money. I should rather say that the movie hammers this point home, since the above point is stated explicitly by Kane's best friend and by his second wife (and probably one other person, I didn't want to take the time to check). Just in case you wouldn't get the message.

This movie is in my opinion crude and simplistic. We are dragged through the life of Kane at high speed. The movie doesn't flow naturally, there is no real development. It feels like nothing happens, you just get a single idea pushed down your throat. Throughout the movie there is the same atmosphere of doom and of emptiness. Even as a young man Kane is not an idealist. None of the characters is given any depth, there is no one you can identify yourself with or sympathise with.

The only quality of the movie lies in the camera work, the tricks with the lighting and the music. This should make it interesting for movie directors and people interested in the technical side of film making. I suppose it's is interesting to see how Welles manages to create a certain atmosphere in this way, but since it is always the same atmosphere, this is in my opinion rather limited.

I cannot possibly understand why this is considered the best movie ever made. The only (unsatisfactory) possible explanation I could come up with was: a) The average person is far more visual than me, or easier satisfied with single impressions, b) People like to parrot the "experts".
Yet another movie that people pretend to like just to be like sheep and follow everybody else. The story is terrible and boring. I honestly nearly swallowed my tongue and died when i saw this was in the top 30 movies of all time. Some of the movies it is rated above is just ridiculous. People need to start making their own minds up instead of following others. The Dark Knight was a great movie, but come on people, do you really think its the 3rd best movie of all time. Thats another example of people rating it highly based on other peoples views. Its got nothing on The Shawshank Redemption. I wish they could sometimes re-release movies and erase their history, so everyone can have a blank slate and see what it really gets.
CITIZEN KANE may let some people down, but it's still worth seeing.
It's a difficult undertaking for someone of my generation to watch a film like CITIZEN KANE. Not because it's "too old" or "too boring", but because it has been hailed--almost universally--as the single best motion picture ever made. And while the anticipation of seeing a film with such overwhelming acclaim may be quite exhilarating, actually watching it is ultimately an intimidating and somewhat disappointing experience.

This isn't to say that I thought CITIZEN KANE was a bad film; in fact, I thought everything about it was downright brilliant. From the enchanting performances right down to the meticulously planned camera movements and clever lighting tricks, there isn't a single element of CITIZEN KANE that isn't a stunning achievement in all areas of filmmaking.

CITIZEN KANE's storyline is deceptively simple. Even though the plot unfolds by jumping in and out of nonlinear flashbacks, it is surprisingly easy to keep track of. The straightforwardness and relatively fast pace of the story are what make it seem intimidating. Because everything moves smoothly along without any standstill, it feels like we are being fooled-like there is something much greater that we just can't seem to grasp. As a first-time viewer, I knew from its reputation that there must be *something* that separates this movie from all the others; something buried within its simple plotline that everybody else has seen, but that I just could not seem to get a handle on. And then, during those final frames, that something was revealed, and it all began to make sense. To me, it was these moments of confusion and uncertainty followed by a sense of enlightenment and appreciation that made watching CITIZEN KANE such a meaningful experience.

But no matter how great of a movie CITIZEN KANE really is, it can never live up to one's expectations. Although I do feel that it is deserving of its acclamation, the constant exposure to its six decades worth of hype and praise will invariably set most modern viewers' standards at a height that is virtually unreachable--even if it really *is* the best movie of all time.
One of the Best
Ease the tension. Give it a 10-rating. I'm not sure if I could pick any movie and claim it was the Best Movie of All Time. That's a great deal of pressure. So I ignore such a label, and I watch the film.

"Citizen Kane" is powerful, but it's so well constructed as to give you multiple impressions of Kane that it's hard to realize how emotionally charged this movie is. I love it for lines such as Kane's explanation of what he would've been if he hadn't have been rich: "Everything you hate," he says. And I love the movie because of Welles's voice. You could look at this movie a hundred different ways, and the details would still remain to support you.

It's perhaps one of the most intricately-constructed films I've ever seen, and the honesty in the film is magnificent. This movie does make me sad, because among other questions, it asks this: "If you're remembered after you die for what you did, what you will it be?" And, to me, that's a very sad question to want to ask. A feeling that there is no absolute understanding between people. That it's all skewed by our own personalities. That who you are depends on the paper you chose to read.

How could anyone not think this movie is great? Best film of all time, whatever. The movie is brilliant, one way or another.
AFI #1 but not mine
Peter Griffin of the Family Guy said it best "It was his sled. It was his sled from when he was a kid. There, I just saved you two long boobless hours". Kane was about the only movie I have never been able to finish, maybe I'll try again some day. I can think of many better ways to spend 2 hours like watching the "Godfather" or "Shawshank". I just could not relate to the story. It is about a tycoon who becomes a recluse, it sounds like a good story but it was so long and drawn out I fell asleep and had to stop watching. I was disappointed mainly because the first time AFI came out with the top 100 movies of all time I wanted to see the best of the best. Many of the top 100 films I had seen, many more I hadn't (seen) and a few of the ones I hadn't seen were films in AFI's top ten. "Casablanca" is good I can see that, it is not in my top ten but its good. The "Godfather" is a masterpiece but for all the talk about the "Kane" I was extremely disappointed.
Why Is "Citizen Kane" the Best Film of All Times?
Anyone who sees "Citizen Kane" (1941) for the first time today does so because he or she has heard that it is the greatest film ever made. One simply doesn't come across the film by accident on TV, watching it "for what it is," so to speak. The common approach of seeing it to believe it can be at best exhilarating and at worst hostile. Unfortunately, the latter is usually, although quite understandably, the case. For how can one do anything but look down at a film that elitist snobs have praised for years and years? One simply must prove oneself right by falsifying the critics' claims, leaving the theater or the living room with a shrug and a condescending comment: "it was okay." This will not do. It is a great tragedy if "Citizen Kane" suffers from these kinds of incidents since it ought to be treated with the same kind of respect as Shakespeare's "Hamlet" or Beethoven's "9th Symphony". In order to make this happen, or perhaps enhance someone's viewing experience, I would like to try and explain not why "Citizen Kane" necessarily is the best film, but rather why people have considered it to be. There are over a thousand reviews of the film on this site, and mine will probably drown in the vast sea with them, but hey what can I lose, and who doesn't love talking about Welles and "Citizen Kane"?

One might begin with the basic fact that "Citizen Kane" wasn't immediately praised and considered the best film that has blessed the silver screen. It was a financial risk for the RKO studios to give free hands to the novice prodigy Orson Welles, who had gained quite a reputation with the radio show of H. G. Wells' "War of the Worlds", and not surprisingly it didn't pay off. Despite the praises of a few critics, "Citizen Kane" was soon forgotten, and the film wasn't, for example, screened at American cinemas during the late 1940's and early 50's. In France, however, the film was just discovered after the war, and the leading critic of the country, André Bazin hailed it as a masterpiece of the postwar stylistic tendency he characterized as spatial realism. Bazin's disciples, who we all know now as the nouvelle vague directors, followed and adored Welles' masterpiece. François Truffaut proclaimed that "everything that matters in cinema after 1940 has been influenced by 'Citizen Kane'." Thus the film's reputation grew and its new found reputation slowly found the other side of the Atlantic as well. But why did this happen? Why wasn't "Citizen Kane" forgotten, and why, for one, did it arouse the interest of Bazin?

First, it ought to be highlighted that the story of "Citizen Kane" is excellent. Loosely based on the life and times of media mogul William Hearst, "Citizen Kane" tells the story about a lonely giant who conquered the American media. It's a story about a man who dedicated his life to possession, but tragically became to be possessed by it himself. As one might have noticed, I am using the past tense, and such is the nature of Welles' narrative in "Citizen Kane". The film begins with the protagonist's death, and then portrays the attempts of a journalist trying to figure out the meaning of his last words -- "Rosebud" -- by interviewing people who knew the man. "It will probably turn out to be a very simple thing," he supposes. This kind of structure was not considered the done thing back in the day. Although the basic structure of finding out a person's past goes back to Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex" as well as numerous detective stories, the uniqueness of "Citizen Kane" lies in the use of different perspectives, creating a non-linear narrative that has echoes from ancient drama and epistolary novels.

Yet it wasn't really the intricate story that most fascinated Bazin. What Bazin emphasized was the film's style. Although all scholars have given up on the phoenix myth of "Citizen Kane" and its innovative use of various cinematic means, it is simply a fact that the film made the style public, thus standardizing it for Hollywood. The aesthetic features of the so-called spatial realism, which Bazin adored, supported by the technological innovation of the BNC camera, include deep-focus cinematography, sequence shots, and deep-space composition. These had been used before, but hardly with similar, dare I say, philosophic unity. This stylistic tendency is enhanced by Welles' relentless use of heavy low-angle shots and dynamic montage sequences. There are innovative cuts that spark imagination and soundtrack solutions that open the story and its characters to new dimensions. "Citizen Kane" is often celebrated as a bravura of the art of mise-en-scène since it puts a lot of emphasis on pre-filmic elements such as setting and lighting, but the real gist of the film's brilliance lies in the unity of these together with cinematographic and post-filmic elements.

More remains to be said, but space is running out. The end of the matter is, I guess, that none of the individual elements of "Citizen Kane" are, precisely, individual. They have not been distinguished from one another, but rather resonate luminously together in a unique fashion. Technological innovation goes hand in hand with aesthetic inspiration and both support the whole of story, theme, and style. Such unity may not have been present in Hollywood before 1941. From the groundbreaking use of the BNC camera to themes of power, loneliness, and defeat, which are reflected on the level of style, using setting and editing, for one, to reflect the emotional distances between the characters or their existential experience of emptiness, "Citizen Kane" remains a gem to any lover of cinema. It's up there with immortal works of art from poetry, music, and painting. It is, like all great art, a tightly and beautifully sealed original whole which is why (instead of one big nameable innovation) the film has been considered to be of such magnificent proportions.
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