Citizen Kane – Orson Welles

Continuing through those films in the IMDB Top 50 I haven’t seen, number 38 is Citizen Kane. I knew very little about this film but had read in various places that it is the ‘best film ever made’. Maybe these writers have a different idea about ‘best’ than I have. I found it hard to like. Admire the technical aspects, yes, but like, no. Of course, ‘best’ doesn’t necessarily mean I have to like it. I can’t help think that it’s a ‘filmmaker film’, admired for it’s technical achievements and structure, it’s shortfalls glossed over. However one film maker, the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman “stated his dislike for the movie, calling it “a total bore” and claiming that the “performances are worthless.” He went on to call Orson Welles an “infinitely overrated filmmaker.”

Spoilers ahead.

I didn’t really understand the event that shaped the film, the mother sending her child away to be brought up by a trust fund manager or banker. This made no sense to me, except the minimal explanation that it was to protect Kane from his abusive father and that the small boarding house was no place to grow up. Or something. Why would a mother abandon her child so readily? This one event leads Kane into a grand, luxurious mess for the rest of his needy life. The plot follows a loose mystery of Kane’s dying word, ‘Rosebud’, showing his newspaper days, political and personal life, and then descent into madness, imposing his will to the extreme. There’s a proper full-on rage scene, smashing up his wife’s room, that just keeps going. Kane ends his days in a preposterous palace, alone, buying stuff, apparently dreaming of happy times on his sledge and throwing snowballs at his house.

A couple of memorable quotes:

“I think it would be fun to run a newspaper. Grrr!”

“What would you have liked to have been?”
“Everything you hate.”

“You never gave me anything in your whole life, you just tried to buy me into giving you something.”

I noticed some odd comedy music between some scenes, also a few surreal shots, such as the heads in the ‘welcome home trophy’ and the cockatoo transition.

The telling of the failure of Kane’s first marriage in just a few short scenes at the dining table was excellent.


Here’s the post-modern original trailer:


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