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Citizen Kane
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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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.

an over-rated movie
For the life of me, I have tried hard to understand how and why this movie could possibly be considered the #1 film in the first 100 years of American film-making. The first time I tried to watch it, I got a few minutes and hated it; I couldn't make myself care. I tried again, because it's a "classic" made by a "genius", and I sincerely wanted to understand how it could possibly be voted higher than Casablanca.

It is boring and noisy and the makeup is horrible. I will never understand why this movie was voted #1. I wouldn't even put it in the top 100.

It has failed in every way a film can fail. I don't care about the protagonist. I find it cliché, obnoxious and dull. Perhaps in its day it was fresh, but it doesn't stand the test of time the way Casablanca does.

I don't care what anyone else says about this movie; in my opinion, it is the worst thing a movie can be: boring. I will never force myself to watch it again.
Citizen Welles
Citizen Kane is probably the best that American Cinema has ever offered, nigh perfect from the start till the end. Often competing with The Godfather, to be numero uno, Citizen Kane is in a league of its own and nonpareil on countless number of fronts. The creative innovation and the technical advancements implemented, can be least regarded as incredible and astonishing, for a 1941 movie. The movie pioneered the phenomena of time switching and special effects in the world of cinema.

Citizen Kane has stood the test of time for well over six decades, serving as a benchmark and source of inspiration to the film-makers of different era. Citizen Kane is an obituary about a fictitious Charles Foster Kane, a business magnate and a newspaper tycoon. Through this movie, Orson Welles, not only immortalized Charles Foster Kane but also proved his mettle, as a writer, director, actor and most importantly as an auteur. The scenes presented as flashbacks, not only display his versatility as an actor (taking care of the nuances and the subtleties needed to portray the different stages and aspects of Kane's life), but also his story-telling brilliance. Kane's murmuring of the word 'rosebud' at the time of his death and him publicly annihilating his election opponent, Jim Getys, represent the two extremes of human life, the very low and the very high, respectively.

The scenes between Welles and Joseph Cotton are an absolute treat to watch, the latter being at his sarcastic best, depicting contrasting emotions of sympathy and disgust towards his childhood friend, owing to the dichotomy that he suffered, simultaneously taking care of his duties as a journalist, and his friendship with Kane. The movie is studded with numerous mesmerizing and unforgettable scenes and moments, which immensely contribute to the apotheosis that it so deservedly enjoys. A true cinematic magnum opus, without an iota of a doubt and a must for every cinema lover.
One of the Greats!
Citizen Kane (1941): Dir: Orson Welles / Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Everett Sloane, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead: Portrait of a wasted life full of luxury opening with Charles Foster Kane who whispers the word "Rosebud." With that he dies releasing an ornament that crashes to the floor such as his life. During his life he had alienated himself from everyone, focusing on a political career. Those who knew him are interviewed examining the meaning of his final words. Speculations evaporate into flashbacks to show his brief childhood to his introduction into the world of politics. Directed by Orson Welles who was only twenty-five when he directed this film, and its impact would render it his masterpiece. He also takes to acting and flawlessly portrays Kane through his adult life and mirrors his frustration and longing for the one thing he missed. Outstanding supporting work by Joseph Cotton and Everett Sloane who portray friends of Kane's who also worked with him, and both with different results career wise. Dorothy Comingore plays his mistress who grows tired and depressed until her only option is to leave. Agnes Moorehead plays Kane's mother who reluctantly makes the decision along with his father that ultimately affects his entire life. Brilliantly constructed with astonishing imagery and Welles revealing the big payoff in the final shot. Score: 10 / 10
A case study in projection
I rented this movie almost accidentally on the route back from shooting pool, without any preconceptions of what it was about, although I was very aware it had been dubbed "the greatest film ever" by many.

Basically, the film asks a highly abstract question of whether we can reconstruct a puzzle from a set of available pieces: are the pieces independent or can there be a piece which fundamentally affects the reconstruction? It also presents a very specific example of how this kind of projection applies to human psychology: can there be a single event or item, a "rosebud", such that a man's life cannot be wholly understood without it? We all project our persona every day to our fellow human beings, but no one else really knows what's running in our minds as we lay in bed in the evening: the portions of our minds with no trespassing.

I especially like how this theme is shown on so many levels at once. At the bottom, the reporter is trying to reconstruct Kane's life by anecdotal evidence; Kane's readers are trying to reconstruct the world state by Kane's newspaper; and finally, we the viewers are trying to reconstruct the meaning of the film by watching it. The film was based on the media mogul William Randolph Hearst, whose persona the writers first shattered to pieces and then reconstructed to form Charles Foster Kane.

An interesting add to the interpretation (forgot the name of the critic behind it) is that the whole movie is imagination, or self-inspection, by Kane himself in seek of his rosebud. In this case, the unseen Thompson could be seen as Kane himself, trying to find his lost childhood innocence from the inner depths of his mind.
The Role of Sheer Chance in Life
One commentator made the original point that Kane may have uttered "Rosebud" as his dying word not because he was nostalgic about his childhood but rather as a symbol of sheer chance in affecting and changing his life. As the commentator pointed out, Kane would never have met Susan Alexander, his mistress and later his second wife, if he hadn't been at a warehouse looking over things from his childhood home. If Kane hadn't met Susan, his life would have turned out quite differently. Indeed, if one looks carefully at the childhood scenes of Kane's life, one would see little that Kane, as an adult, would be nostalgic about. There are strong suggestions his father beat him and that, however caring about Kane's welfare his mother was, she seemed emotionally cold and distant. Indeed, Kane's association of his sled Rosebed with the role of chance in his life would be reinforced by the fact that he was interrupted playing on Rosebud and told by his mother and Mr. Thatcher about the radically different turn his life was taking from that of a poor boy to a quite wealthy one really overnight. Indeed, by subtly showing the decisive role of chance in Kane's life, the filmmakers were undermining the powerful American myth of the self-made man. Hard work didn't make Kane's fortune, it was the result of his mother inheriting the title to a mine thought to be worthless but wasn't.
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.
Don't see it before you mature
I was wrong in seeing the film for the first time as a teenager (14-15). I wasn't mature enough to grasp the meaning of the movie and the entire plot. Because of that first view, I've been under the impression that the film is strange and alienated.

Yesterday I decided that it deserves a second view, now that I'm a little bit older (22) and have seen more than enough films, compared to when I was younger.

I just finished watching it and it left me with teary eyes and a lump in my throat. I was moved - and didn't even see it coming.

When I first saw the film I couldn't relate to Charles Foster Kane, and it wrecked the film for me - until I decided to watch it again.

In my opinion, the early and final years of Charles are those that make the film get under your skin and into your heart.
Give Welles due credit as actor
Enough has been said in the comments about the use of lighting, directorial and editing techniques, etc. I love this movie and each time watch it enthralled. The plot moves along brilliantly, and while many of the techniques have been applied by countless filmmakers since, there's still something about seeing the trailblazer in all its glory - especially as it still holds up. But I just want to give Welles due credit for his acting. I think part of the absolute magic and impact of this film is Welles' ability to transmit a sense of someone larger than life in every way. When he's caught up in the chase of a great story - or the creation of it - his intelligence and vision and sheer conniving brilliance emanate from his every gesture and word. He is expansive and dynamic, he was incredibly handsome, and he seemed to burst from the screen when playing the young Kane. The figure of Welles himself creates a powerful internal tension within the film because he lights up an otherwise dark, morose palette. In many ways, his character has nothing to do with Hearst - Welles himself was a force of nature, and in some ways Citizen Kane is a prophetic vision of his own fate in Hollywood. Welles was a great actor, as was his co-star, Joseph Cotton, one of the great understated actors of the screen. Cotton is a perfect foil for Welles - as he is in that other absolute masterpiece (not directed by Orson), "The Third Man" - because he hints at his own uneasy depths which are always being stirred up by Welles, whether as Kane or Harry Lime. I also see the end of Apocalypse Now, with Brando's dark, isolated, ruminating semi-madman as an homage of sorts to Welles alone in Kane's castle at the end of Citizen Kane. The two greatest burn-out male geniuses of the American silver screen, both gorgeous in their time and both expanding into bloated ruins, their "potential" often seen as unrealized - but both perhaps having transcended even those expectations of themselves.
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.
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