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Citizen Kane
Year:
1941
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
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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Reviews
Tried it, just can't take it!
I have tried to watch this movie 3 times. Each time I promise myself that I will watch it through to see all the facinating camera angles and light shading. I want to see the last ten minutes of the film and be awed and amazed as I realize that Rosebud is something extraordinary. I want to recognize Mr. Wells' genius, daring, and inventivness. I want to feel the passion, emptiness, and all the other powerful emotions that the actors and "unique" cinematography portray in this movie.

I have not been able to make it yet. This is the single most boring hard to watch movie that I have ever tried to watch. I can usually watch about any movie at least once, but not this one.

I don't need exciting special effects, car chases, shoot outs, or sex scenes to keep me interested. I just need the movie to be interesting. This film is not interesting to me. I love history and I watch many older movies and I appreciate most of them for what they are, and in the time frame that they were made. But this one is just very hard to watch. If you have to have a college professor,(who himself has had to read a book about it to understand it) explain a movie to you so that you can appreciate it, then I'm sorry folks but then it just "ain't good".

I have enjoyed thousands of movies, and I have disliked many also, but very few have I never been able to finish watching and this is one of them.

2004-05-05
Love The Cinematography; Story Not That Appealing
Hey, make no mistake: this film does deserve lofty status. It is a good film, fantastically photographed.....but the greatest of all time? I question that, but that kind of question - Who's number one? - is impossible to answer.

I would think to be number one you would have to have a great technical film, great story, great acting, great camera-work as this has, AND have it generally loved by the public. Then you have a true number one picture of all time. I'm not a fan of "Gone With The Wind," but that was a technical marvel, too, for its day and was universally loved by millions of people....so I can see that being listed number over Citizen Kane. The same goes for Casablanca, Ben-Hur and a number of wonderful films.

Anway, concerning this movie, I enjoyed it best for the cinematography. Orson Welles, the "genius" behind this film, was ahead of his time with his inventive camera-work. The acting is good and it's interesting to note that this was Welles' first acting role. Yes, he was an amazing talent, behind or in front of the camera. The story is pretty unlikable and, in this day and age would be too boring for most people under 50, sad to say. However, even older, more "mature" folks find this hard to get through sometimes from what I have read.

The unlikable part mainly comes from the lead character, "Charles Foster Kane," played by Welles. He is simply a selfish egomaniac. Other unpleasant parts of the story include several scenes with his second wife, in which she berates him in this shrill hysterical voice; the fact there is very little humor in here and the ending is anything but uplifting.

For those who find this a confusing story, I suggest giving it another chance. I found this film better the more chances I gave it. It also looks fabulous on the latest special-edition DVD. In summary, it was a great technical achievement but remember professional critics usually have the same mindset and are afraid to be their own person, so don't feel stupid or inadequate if this film doesn't do it for you. You are hardly alone. But, yet, that camera-work has to be seen and appreciated if you really love movies.
2005-12-13
An Expert On What People Will Think
The problem with writing about a film like Citizen Kane is that with 809 previous comments on the boards here, there is little that hasn't been said already. The best you can do is not look at any others and express your own thoughts your own way.

I've always felt the real reason that William Randolph Hearst so bitterly resented Orson Welles's masterpiece is that it got really too close to his own soul for him to be easy. Most folks who talk about Citizen Kane go for the obvious target, Welles's depiction of Marion Davies (Susan Alexander) as a no talent gold digger. In fact Welles himself in later years said he thought he was unfair to Davies then in Dorothy Comingore's performance.

What Welles showed in Charles Foster Kane was the insincerity of his beliefs. The key line in Citizen Kane I've always thought was what Joseph Cotten said that his friend Charlie Kane had a lot of opinions, but didn't believe any of them. To this day serious biographers of Hearst still wonder exactly what he did believe when the day was done.

Citizen Kane came up with a host of Oscar nominations, but only took home one award for original screenplay for Welles and Herman Mankiewicz. Original it certainly was in concept and execution.

The role that was written by Welles and Mankiewicz and directed by Welles for Welles is one of the greatest roles ever written for any film actor. The technique of Citizen Kane is always discussed, the flashbacks told from many points of view for the audience to get a grasp of what the title character was all about. What's not discussed is Welles himself.

What he does in fact is give several performances of the same man in one film. Welles reinterprets Kane five or six times depending on whose flashback we're seeing. He's a scared child being taken from his parents, he's a rich frat boy and incorrigible scamp as seen by George Couloris the J.P. Morgan like banker, he's an idealist and crusader as seen by his business manager Everette Sloane, a man with no core set of beliefs who will do anything to bend the public to approval by his closest and maybe his only real friend Joseph Cotten, a lonely man with a compulsion for real love by Dorothy Comingore, and as an aging tyrant by butler Paul Stewart. Welles makes every one of these Kanes come alive and each relates to the other.

The names of all those I've mentioned in the cast before were from Welles's Mercury Theater Company, nearly all went on to substantial movie careers. Others from the cast who did are Ray Collins, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, and Erskine Sanford. I don't think any other film comes close to introducing so many talented players to the screen.

The film begins with the aged Kane's death and that single word 'Rosebud' which sends everyone scrambling to find out just what he had on his mind in his final moments on earth. Those searching never do find out, but you the audience does and the unveiling of Charles Foster Kane's inner soul is something once seen and never forgotten.
2007-04-25
Quite frankly the most intelligent film ever made
Citizen Kane is a marvelous piece of cinema. It transcends all efforts made before and after it. What we have here truly is the great American film. The black and white cinematography is to die for. Kane is by far the most visually appealing film ever made. I find something new in it's shadows with each viewing and it takes a really great film to offer that to a viewer. American movie making really owes it all to Kane. It really is the only film I can think of that fails to break into a sense of monotony.

And of course Welles' performance must be praised. Here we have a twenty six year old man fresh off of a lucrative stage career make a seamless transition into film. To see Charles Foster Kane is to see the perfection of characterization. There are no loose ends with this character he is wrapped perfectly. Of course he is a metaphor for the joys and evils of capitalism. We must ask and why did he become what he did? The great thing about Kane is that it still proposes questions that require answers.how

In each viewing of Kane I just think to myself what bias cinema come to? There was a time when motion picture making was a challenge and it meant something. Kane should be studied because it is a perfect film. It gives the viewer something to think about and yet offers dynamic characters. And to think the lobotomized masses of American cinema goers would rather be watching a Transformers film. Now there's a series I would care to forget about. I mean what kind of movie has stupid robots? And that isn't even the problem with those poor excuses for celluloid. Each film in that series is a blood curdling experience. I absolutely hate the parent characters and Shia whatever his name is. The racial stereotypes are offensive and the idea of a Transformer heaven where Shia goes to in the first sequel is beyond ridiculous. I mean come on! And what about that stupid government organization? Really? You expect me to believe that they were able to keep a giant robot within the Hoover dam without nobody knowing about it? Or how about the fact that they actually had the transformer ship crash into the moon? You might infer that some telescope would catch wind of it. And the actor they got to play John Kennedy in the beginning of the film was doing the worst stereotypical Massachusetts accent ever. Transformers is dumbing down America pure and simple. All it exists to do is sell toys to idiot kids. Michael Bay makes millions of dollars while Orson Welles was abandoned by the Hollywood system. Really! It infuriates me.
2011-10-08
Overrated
I was reading the list of the top movies one evening on the AFI, and I saw this movie was #1 American Film. So I decided I would rent it and I saw it today. I was expecting to be blown away and this would be the best movie I would ever see. Well was I in for a surprise.

This movie is by far one of the worst films I have ever seen in my life. The worst would have to be Zigfield Follies but this comes pretty close. I do like and enjoy classic films. I don't care if a movie is in B&W either. But this movie is just dated, and I don't see what the hype is about. This movie is just 100% overrated. I am someone who can sit through movies but this one I got bored of.

I thought maybe it was because I got interrupted in the beginning of the film, and maybe it would get better later on. Well it just kept dragging. So I got to basically the last 36min of the film and had to just turn it off. So a few hours later I figured I would try to watch it again, but I couldn't even watch 5min. I just went to the last 10min of the movie and was disappointed.

All I can say is watch this movie at your own risk, and I hope you enjoy it more then me. Seeing the reviews on here I feel good I am not the only person who didn't enjoy it.
2007-07-11
i hate to say this but i was underwhelmed by this movie
OK,i'm certain i'm in the minority here,but whatever.i did not like Citizen Kane.first off,i didn't think it was profound at all.i also didn't think the look of the film was that great.many people say it has a great visual style,but i disagree completely.how this movie is number one all time on some lists is beyond me.to say this movie was a drag is understating things.there was and is too much hype for this movie.so it's directed by and stars Orson Welles.even worse is Welles is widely regarded as a genius as a result.big hairy deal.i was bored out of my skull.considering this movie is considered sacred and any negative comment is blasphemy,i'm glad nobody knows where i live,otherwise i fear i may be hunted down and killed.not too many people are likely to pay attention to this comment,but i don't care.this is how i feel about Citizen Kane.maybe i'm a complete idiot,or maybe i'm just missing something.either way,this movie rates a 3/10 at best.
2007-06-03
Greatest movie of all time?
I'm sorry for saying this but, in my opinion there are much better films. And for people who think this is just The Best, please don't just go off talking about how wrong i am or how i don't know anything. I'm not saying it was bad, cause i did enjoy it, I'm just stating that I've seen much better films. MUCH better films, like Chinatown and The Shawshank Redemption. But in my opinion, picking the best film of all time is difficult but i think it could've gone to a better film.

I mean, i frankly didn't like Orson Welles. At all. He was just extremely annoying at parts, and i know that the character wasn't meant to be the greatest guy in the world, or a good guy at all, but listening to Orson Welles and also knowing he directed it gave me a bit of a headache. I mean whats the point of giving his film "Greatest Film of All Time" if he doesn't even appreciate the film industry. To me, its just mocking other better films and directors. Thus, i change my mind, i don't really like Citizen Kane. AT ALL.
2006-05-16
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.
2015-10-31
All That Ballyhoo!
On the Criterion Collection DVD of Orson Welles' classic "Citizen Kane" there is an original theatrical trailer where Welles cleverly advertises the film by introducing us to the cast including the chorus girls, whom he refers to as some nice ballyhoo. That pretty much sums up my opinion of the often over analyzed film that always shows up at the top of the list of greatest films ever made. Even though this was the first time I sat down to watch the film as a whole, I knew everything about it from studying it in film class and from the countless number of essays, homages, and parodies that have come down the pike over the years. It seems impossible now to judge the film against a blank slate, but with great ballyhoo comes great scrutiny.

Released in 1941 by RKO as a Mercury Theater Production, "Citizen Kane" is the tale of an influential and shockingly wealthy newspaper tycoon (Welles) inspired by the life of William Randolph Hearst. The story follows the investigation into the origins of "Rosebud"-the mysterious word Kane utters on his deathbed. Following newsreel footage announcing Kane's death, we are then thrust into a series of flashbacks through interviews with various people who knew Kane that reveal the nature of his character.

From a technical standpoint, Welles' film is as innovative and engrossing today as it was yesterday. Every single piece of cinematic trickery, every dissolve, every long tracking shot, every seamless edit, every play with chronology, every special effect is perfect. Welles was audacious and inventive with his art, and it is for these technical aspects that "Citizen Kane" will always stand the test of time.

However, the story of "Citizen Kane" remains cold and distant. I didn't instantly connect with the characters and the plot the way I did with other classics from the period like "Casablanca" or "The Third Man" or even more recently, "There Will Be Blood." Often, the supporting players over-act, and the flashbacks are tedious (especially the one detailing Kane's second marriage) or emotionless (like the scene showing Kane's snow covered childhood). There's a certain smug arrogance to the whole production that makes it seem like perhaps Welles was secretly making a comedy. It leaves one wondering how it would've come across had Welles actually been allowed to do a straight up biopic of Hearst.

Is it any wonder that so many critics today hail this as THE all time great? Much of today's cinema is geared towards style and technique over substance, and way back in 1941, Welles was the first to author this very modern brand of cinema where the art is not in the story but how it is told and shown to the audience. His "Citizen Kane" is technically rich, layered, and enthralling but narratively vapid. Did I ever really care about Kane or Rosebud? No, but it was fascinating to watch. It's some very nice ballyhoo indeed.
2008-05-05
See it for what it is
OK look, let me settle something between those who love and hate this film. A lot of people hail this film because it is technically brilliant and ground breaking. Director Orson Welles did a lot of things visually that no one had ever done before. Nearly every film maker was in some way influenced by this movie. This movie also had a great impact in its time. The title character was based on media giant William Randolph Hearst. He was that generations Donald Trump. He opposed this film so much he did everything in its power to stop its release and almost succeeded. Lastly this film contains some of the strongest and most common themes in literature; Life versus death. It is for these reasons why this film is so revered.

On the contrary people who hate this film mainly complain that it is boring. Which is a legitimate complaint. The story is slow compared to today's standards, and there is no real Hearst character alive today in which to relate. So yes, the story on the surface is outdated. However, this does not make it a bad movie. It was not made as a Matrix/Star Wars type of movie which can be enjoyed even at surface level. This is not pure entertainment. Remember there is more to film than storytelling. This film was designed to be cinematically beautiful and to tell a basic story of love and redemption. There is much more to the story than the thinly veiled attack on Hearst, one just needs to look deeper. Look at Shakespeare or Hawthorne for example, their literary works are universally loved. Yet, many people blow them off because they refuse to look past the outdated language into the beautiful prose and simple ubiquitous themes. Just because something is outdated does not mean it lacks worth in today's world.

My advice to those who did not like it the first time or have not seen it yet is simple. Watch it again for what it is. Do not expect to be on the edge of your seat for two hours. Watch it for the cinematography that alone makes this film among the best (I don't agree with AFI's number one ranking but I think it still ranks high). Look deeper into the story and try to connect with it on some level. At the very least appreciate how influential this film was and where the industry would be without it. If you can do this, then maybe some of the naysayers will change their minds. Again, you do not have to love Citizen Kane, but at least respect it for what it is.
2004-04-21
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