Deeper Into Movies: “Citizen Kane” (1941)

Citizen KaneEditor’s Note: I now have Netflix and a suddenly overwhelming need to document every movie I rent.

Scattered thoughts on Citizen Kane after the jump.

Director Orson Welles’ transformation from a dashing, electric young publisher to a broken, lonely old man is, as one of our favorite rappers would say, some serious Benjamin Button’s shit. The cinematography is still fresh — from the opening sequence of establishing shots of Xanadu (very Fall of the House of Usher) to the worm’s eye view shots and the wide-angle sequences.

I was less impressed by the frame story. There’s not much drama in the reporter’s hunt for the meaning of Rosebud following Kane’s death, perhaps because the ending of the film has long since become cliche, but even Kane’s old acquaintances seem more bemused in their storytelling than anything else; plus, he’s dead. Where are the stakes? That said, the movie’s final moments are an incendiary payoff.

Having watched Scarface earlier this week, it’s easy to see the parallels between it, Citizen Kane and There Will Be Blood, though Kane‘s inverted narrative — making his life a semi-whodunnit rather than a present-tense story — is the most innovative of the three, and features the most sympathetic protagonist. Kane, unlike Tony Montana or Daniel Plainview, is undone by women as much as his own ambitions, a humanizing factor absent in the latter two films. Citizen Kane certainly remains impressive, but I wish — and I’m not well-versed enough to know if this is a product of its era, which I would assume — it had had just a touch more of the intensity of its descendants.

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