Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Citizen Kane (1941) - Keeps me Riveted

Everyone knows about 'Citizen Kane," so it's not as if I'm bringing a forgotten film to your attention.  This goes in my top three film experiences, along with "The Third Man" and "Gone with the Wind."  The surprises are many in this film, with shifts of emotion and tone throughout.  The scenes of Kane as politician are absolutely the best depiction of politics you will ever see, as true today as they were the day this was filmed.

Charles Foster Kane lives here

This film excites me. It keeps me riveted for its entire length. Virtually every scene teaches me something about the human condition. The sheer brilliance and raw originality of this film astonish me every time I see it.

Certain scenes stand out. The speech that Kane gives while running for Governor captures the essence of a politician to perfection, with the dramatic gestures and pompous promises. That it has perhaps the most famous backdrop in film history - the huge picture of Kane - hanging behind him, as if to say the man can never live up to the image, is icing on the cake.

Orson Welles Citizen Kane 1941
Orson Welles at the premiere

The ravaging of Susan's room followed by the walk past the mirrors, is perfection.

The early scenes, where Kane's parents are bought off, and the significance of the financial settlement on their austere life is made plain, along with their weak principles, are terrific.

Everything is wacky and cockeyed

The scenes of the young Kane when taking over the Inquirer, full of fight and conviction, larger than life, committed to principles, capture the essence of youthful idealism. An essence that the remainder of the film commits to smashing, with certainty.

The scenes of his contemporaries, recalling Kane's life with a strange mixture of reverence and contempt, is as close to real life as anything I can recall in film. All that anyone is certain of is that they don't have the whole story - and who does, about anyone?

A man of many facets

The overloaded house, full of a jumble of things that together form their own vast, undecipherable jigsaw puzzle, is the perfect metaphor for Kane (jigsaw puzzles actually appear now and then in the film to reinforce this theme). Huge and unmanageable, but full of the details that could reveal the truth if only one knew where to look.

I realize there are a lot of people who think that "Citizen Kane" is over-hyped and can't possibly be as good as touted. I am not in that group. It's easy to find fault with any film, and it's certainly not impossible to do with this one, either. But the caliber of the performances by complete newcomers, and the natural intelligence that is thrown on the screen can't be denied. No film is right for everybody. But I believe that, if given a chance, this film will strike a chord with any viewer.

One of the very few "must sees" in film history.

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