731 of 769 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2000
Probably the most unfortunate thing that ever happened to `Citizen Kane' was that it found itself atop the AFI top film list. Now, no one can simply enjoy the film. Everyone feels compelled to scrutinize it and make a decision about its greatness. Asking whether `Citizen Kane' is the best film of the century is like asking if Marilyn Monroe was the most beautiful woman. It depends on whom you ask.
`Citizen Kane' is not the most entertaining film I've ever seen, but it is certainly one of the most important. It is a vanguard motion picture and a gargantuan achievement for Orson Welles. If you consider the fact that Welles was a 24 year old Hollywood outsider who had only done radio and theater when he landed the contract for this film, you begin to appreciate what a big deal it was. This was during a time when a few studios controlled every film that was made. How many 24 year old actor/directors can you name today, even in a world where independents abound?
The story is based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. Writer Herman Mankiewicz had an up-close look at Hearst as he had been an occasional house guest at the Hearst mansion. The similarities were striking, right down to the paramour whose career Hearst promoted, who loved to do jigsaw puzzles. The fact that this film was released at all is a marvel in itself. Hearst went on a personal campaign to crush the film and enlisted every powerful friend he had to stop it. Louis B. Mayer offered RKO $800,000 to destroy the print. John D. Rockefeller ordered the Radio City premier cancelled. All of Hearst's newspapers were forbidden to mention the film.
Hollywood was uniformly against it and Welles was branded an insolent maverick. The film was snubbed by the Academy. It was nominated for 9 Oscars and won only best screenplay. The film turned out to be a commercial failure, losing $150,000. With all the forces stacked against it, we are lucky to be having this best film debate at all.
The story has a simple moral; that money and power can't buy happiness. We see Kane's progress from a happy child, to an idealistic young journalist intent on helping the common man, and finally to a bitter and angry old man whose innocence has slipped from him. One of the most effective scenes that illustrated this was the two minute overlay of breakfast conversations with his wife. It starts with cooing lovers and progresses through increasing levels of discord. It ends in silence with the two reading separate newspapers, her disdain for him subtly indicated by her choice of the hated Chronicle as her newspaper.
What is so remarkable about this film is the filmmaking. Director after director has pointed to some aspect of this film as having influenced them. The use of shadows and various perspective shots was not unprecedented in 1941, but never before had they been used with so much dramatic impact. What was unprecedented was that `Citizen Kane' was the first film ever to depart from the strict narrative format, which moves forward chronologically. The film starts at the end and jumps around in time based upon the perspective of the person who is telling his or her story about Kane. So the next time you see a flashback, remember it started here.
The makeup was revolutionary. Welles often went through four hours or more of makeup to be properly aged for each scene. The film also launched a number of brilliant careers. Besides Welles, Joseph Cotton and Agnes Moorehead went on to long and prominent film careers.
If `Citizen Kane' is not the best film of the century it is certainly one of them. Its influence on a generation of filmmakers cannot be ignored in the equation. People who watch this film and ask, "What's the big deal?" are comparing it with modern films that have borrowed from this film's techniques and undergone 60 years of evolution. It's like going back to Kitty Hawk and saying, "What's the big deal, the flight only lasted a few seconds."
There is only one rating to give to a film of such monumental importance. It is the consummate 10.
936 of 1,025 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 1999
I had no intention of writng a review, but after reading several I couldn't stop myself.
It seems like most of the people here are falling into two camps, the "Film Snobs" and the " Folks whose brains have been rotted by MTV, etc..."
The comments of the"MTV people" seem to be typified by this quote I picked from out of many bad reviews: "Maybe you intellectual, artsy types go for this, but give me Star Wars any day!"
Where the "Snobs" counter back with:
"I cannot think of another film which so challenges the viewer time and time again. I still pick up little nuances, incredible effects and camara angles, and overlapping dialog on subsesquent showings. Gregg Toland's camerawork is justifiably among the most memorable in film."
I, of course believe Citizen Kane is a great film, but I believe both sides in this argument are missing the point.
I really wish those who defended this movie spoke about it in human terms, rather then talk about the camera work, or Welles' age or it's "impact" on film history.
It is great because (if you let it)it will tell you a deeply emotional story.
It is no accident that the very first and very last image of the film are the same. A locked gate with a sign that says,"No Trespassing." For in this movie, Kane is a guy with a virtual "no trespassing" sign around his neck. He is a man who wants so deeply to control those around him, to FORCE them to love him, that he allows nobody close. He essentially locks out all hope of love!
Give it a chance...don't expect Star Wars. Pay no attention to the camera work and special effects, they are beside the point. Welles is talking about the very saddest, deepest, loneliest part of us all...you might find something to relate to....if you are patient.
107 of 113 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2012
This 70th Anniversary Blu-ray release of arguably the best film of all time is a bit of a mixed bag especially for those who already have the standard disc version Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition). My copy of the standard disc upscales very well in 1080p on my blu-ray player and while the picture quality is very good and bright, there are still very faint white spots in some frames for example in the scene where the reporter is reviewing the manuscript in the vault. The sound quality is also good there but this blu ray version has a vastly superior sound quality coming in DTS mono. The strange thing is that when it comes to the picture quality, the blu-ray shows a lot more grain when compared with the vault scene in the standard version and while the white spots are virtually a thing of the past, the lighting is pretty dark and at the end when the reporters leave Xanadu, you can hardly see a thing on the blu-ray while you can still make out the faces on the upscaled standard disc. As the second disc on the "Battle for Citizen Kane" is virtually identical to the one on the standard release there is nothing to compare among the two here. The booklet packaging with the colour photos and pages is nice but other than that, there is nothing really to distinguish between the blu-ray and the standard dvd release.
Better sound quality but arguably slightly better picture quality when compared to the upscaled standard disc and equal special features except for the better blu-ray book packaging makes it a tough call on whether or not to double dip. For me, I kinda regret doing it as the improvements do not "wow" me enough.
You will have to decide about "upgrading" but if you don't already have this film in any form, you might as well get this blu-ray. As for me, I wish I didn't as my Special Edition 2-disc Standard DVD release upscales well enough so much so that I don't feel ready to part with it the way I do with other blu-ray upgrades that I have done.
50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2001
I have just been going through the poor reviews of this film, and I would like to respond.
(1) If you approach this film as the greatest movie of all time, you are bound to be disappointed. With expectations that high, what film could possibly match up? Expectations are everything. I try very hard to be noncommittal when recommending a movie I love to my friends so that they can approach it with limited expectations.
(2) The film is 60 years old. If you dislike black-and-white, or are unwilling to make some adjustments for older styles of acting, etc., it's not for you.
(3) I don't think it's a very lovable film. It is simply not the kind of old movie that sweeps us away emotionally like, say, Casablanca. We watch these characters from outside; we're not really invited to empathize with them much.
It's not surprising that those reviewers who cite Gone With the Wind as the greatest American movie, with all its romance and emotion, are outraged that the AFI selected Kane over it.
(4) We all have our favorite movies. Saying one movie is the "best" is a silly sort of game anyway. I'd bet that most of the 5-star reviewers could name movies that are as much or more a personal favorite than Kane.... I can not think of a movie that I think is superior to Kane in craftsmanship.
(5) Yes, Kane does take concentration and alertness to follow. One of the key motifs is a jigsaw puzzle, and the film is definitely constructed that way. To those who love it, the intricate structure is a source of endless enjoyment. But if you just want to kick back and let the movie do all your work for you, this is not the film.
To sum up, I first saw this movie several years ago, with extremely high expectations, and felt let down. I received the excellent DVD for a Christmas present. I approached the movie with lukewarm expectations based on my previous experience and was totally knocked out! It truly is a brilliant film, but try to approach it as just another movie. Forget all the "best American movie"... If you are the sort of person who is able to appreciate a 60-year-old, black-and-white movie that is emotionally cool but artistically stimulating, you're in for a treat!
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2001
I was pretty shocked, listening to Roger Ebert's commentary, on how much special effects played a role in creating Citizen Kane. Citizen Kane is as contrived as anything in Star Wars, states Ebert in a great feature length commentary that touches on just about everything from the revolutionary deep focus film techniques to amusing on-screen gaffs by some of the actors. There is also a commentary by Welles biographer and director Peter Bogdanovich, which is similar to Ebert's although not quite as engaging and enthusiastic as the plump critics'. Listening to Ebert is like sitting down in your favorite class with your favorite professor...I love the guy and his commentary is one of the reasons I bought the disc.
The actual movie looks beautiful. The engineers did a great job in transferring the film to digital form and the picture is bright and brimming with detail. And if you consider the fact that I use RCA cables rather than S-video let alone component video with progressive scan, it emphasizes how beautifully the film has been remastered.
The package also contains an extra disc with the 2-hour long documentary "The Battle over Citizen Kane." The program gives an in depth look at both Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst and how the controversy surrounding Citizen Kane was as epic, influential and far reaching as the film itself. The discs also boast some interesting special features. One section reveals some letters written to Welles documenting initial reaction to the film from fans and studio heads as well as some nice still shots of the Citizen Kane premier and the deleted brothel scene.
Besides the fact that the beautifully transferred movie is superior entertainment, the commentaries and documentary disc make it a superior educational experience as well. I have a pretty large DVD collection of around 100 titles or so and I know quality when I see it. Citizen Kane Special Edition delivers and no DVD collection should be without it!
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Movie-wise, Citizen Kane is quite the classic. Brilliantly acted, directed, and written on a level that is only comparable to Shakespeare. Like all timeless classics, age has not withered its potency, and 70 years later it is as relevant as ever and absolutely just as moving as it no doubt was back in 1941.
Blu Ray-wise, it's even better. Movies this old should not look this good. It just doesn't seem right, and yet, here it is - presented absolutely perfectly without the tiniest flicker or grain, in stunning STUNNING 1080p that gives incredible details to old coats, snow flurries, mansions, facial expressions.. and, well, every single shot. It's glossy all the way throughout. This is NOT a low budget restoration, it's a transformation like no generation has yet to experience. If you think Blu Ray can only enhance modern, color spectacles, watch this movie. You will be proven wrong. In fact, some of my all-time favorite blu rays to show off my 1080p television are Black and White. Casablanca [BLU-RAY] and The Twilight Zone [Blu-ray] are just some examples that dazzle a high definition screen. Citizen Kane is among the best, if not THE best, however, and has set the bar even higher. I'm so happy that this release was taken seriously.
OVERALL: If you're a fan of this classic or have never seen it before, buy or rent this movie on blu ray. Relive it again as you've never experienced it before, or watch it for the first time and be prepared to be amazed. Either way, I urge you to take advantage of this new HD technology. Movies, especially old movies, will never be the same.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2005
There has probably been more pearls of wisdom cast at CITIZEN KANE than any other movie. I just did a book search on the title here on Amazon and came up with 43 results. There are `Perspectives on,' `Focus on,' `Casebook on' and a `Making of' or two, as well as a waggish `Raising Kane.' Tossing out the strays - Jeffrey Archer's `Kane and Abel,' for instance -- that haven't a thing to do with Orson Welles' masterpiece, you're still left with a shelf full of books on the movie. And that doesn't even begin to count the magazine and journal articles.
So what's a rube to do? Any `insight' I might offer on CITIZEN KANE has undoubtedly been gurgitated and regurgitated a dozen time. The best I can come up with is this: The last time I saw this it was a cheap vhs tape and I remember disliking it quite a bit. The Warners' Home Video disk is extremely clean and the movie benefits tremendously. You've really got to watch a clean print of this one to appreciate it. This will never be my favorite movie - or even my favorite Orson Welles movie - but I've watched it three times (the disk has a separate commentary track with Peter Bogdanovich and Roger Ebert) and I've seen something new in it each time. Not just because the commentators point it out, either, although the commentaries help in appreciating the nuances of Welles' direction and Gregg Toland's camera-work.
The two-hour long `The Battle Over Citizen Kane' documentary on disk two, an episode of PBS's `American Experience,' gives a welcome and complete overview of the controversy surrounding the production and distribution of the movie. The clutch of specials on disk one - ad campaigns, call sheets, etc. - are interesting but, unlike the `Battle' on disk two, unessential. CITIZEN KANE, however, is essential viewing for anyone with an involved interest in movies beyond the current hits. I didn't love it, but after watching it three times in a short span I can now appreciate why it's considered by many the greatest movie ever made.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2001
There are some who do not believe that Citizen Kane is the greatest film ever made. Some people understand that the film has some remarkable technical innovations, yet still find the film less than compelling. I can't really explain this reaction to the film, but it exists. Perhaps if we understood why someone doesn't like Citizen Kane we would also unravel other great film mysteries such as who would pay full price to see Tom Greene in something like Freddy Got Fingered and who can't wait to see Bio Dome 2.
Not everyone is going to agree it is the greatest film ever made or the most entertaining and once you start calling anything The Greatest of them all a bit of skeptism is likely to rear its head. One thing is certain, most will appreciate Greg Toland's beautiful use of light and shadow and photographic genius. And the more you know about how innovative some of the shots were and what lengths it took to accomplish them, you'll appreciate the effort even more.
The life of the fictional Charles Foster Kane is examined in detail. It all starts with a quest to find out the significance of the last word kane uttered as he died -- Rosebud. And all of the film techniques used in the film still seem fresh, the symbolism all works perfectly. In fact the film is constructed not unlike some massive reality television specials that might be called... The Unauthorized Biography of Charles Foster Kane. Of course it would be those reality television specials that are poorly mimicking some of the ideas and structures of Citizen Kane and not the other way around. In other words we're talking about a film that can enjoyed as entertainment, not something that one only appreciates without feeling an affection or warmth toward it. You can praise the film until you are sick of praising it and still find something in the film, a shot, a camera angle, a dissolve, an actor's look, a line of dialogue, that will take your breath away.
Except for the barest hint of edge enhancement this is the cleanest, crispest and most beautiful black and white film you've ever seen on DVD. And it doesn't look overly processed or mechanical. In fact there are some dark scenes where for the first time I was able to see some details I've never seen before.
The audio is Dolby Digital 1.0. Rather than artificially enhance and try to remix the soundtrack it was merely cleaned up and presented as clean and crisp as possible. It might have been nice to have heard a stereo version of Bernard Herrman's magnificent score, but it would seem utterly un-natural to long time fans of the film to have an artificially enhanced stereo surround soundtrack (and the elements probably don't exist to do it anyway).
There's a lot of extras on the DVD's from newsreel clips to secret Easter Eggs to find and enjoy.
There is a generous selection of stills which are automated but can be paused if desired. One of the still galleries contains additional commentary from Roger Ebert.
THE POST PRODUCTION section has four subsections including Deleted Scenes which offers photos, sketches and storyboards that show scenes which did not make the final cut of the film or were abandoned even before they were shot.
If you highlight the sled on the features menu you will see the 5 minute interview with Ruth Warrick who played Emily Norton Kane. She talks about working with Welles and how the film was shot under strict security so no one would know exactly what was being shot or how it was all going to be put together when it was finished.
Click on the sled on the last page of the second section of the production notes for a brief 3 minute interview with director Robert Wise. Wise was the editor on Citizen Kane and he tells the story about meeting Welles for the first and one of the first screenings of the film for very nervous executives and lawyers.
On Disc 2 you will find the full length documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane which was originally aired on P.B.S.'s American Experience Program.
It tells the backgrounds of both William Randolph Hearst and Orson Welles. How their paths crossed, how the two men clashed and how Hearst became obsessed with stopping Kane and destroying Welles' career. Kane bombed at the box-office but was then nominated for 9 Oscars, however it won only one and afterwards RKO withdrew the film from the market and put it in it's vault for several years. Hearst's campaign to ruin the film and Welles was pretty effective but he also hurt his own career and reputation in the process.
The first of two feature length commentary tracks is from director Peter Bogdanovich. Bogdanovich's comments range from discussing the film's technical achievements and analyzing the storyline to recounting conversations he had with Welles about the film. We learn Kane is not his favorite Welles film.
Roger Ebert's feature length commentary is even more interesting, informative.If you are not quite sure why the film is so highly regarded this commentary will clear it up for you. Ebert spends a lot of time talking about the innovative cinematography (deep focus photography), editing, the special optical effects used to create the imagery in the film and the lighting. He goes into some detail about the symbolism used throughout the film and how the film was actually very low budget.
Citizen Kane is a masterpiece and this DVD celebrates that by showing off the film at it's very best. The extra's allow those who have not read several books, or seen documentaries about the film or Hearst and Welles to 'catch-up' with critics and film-buffs.
Christopher Jarmick,is the author of The Glass Cocoon with Serena F. Holder a critically acclaimed, steamy suspense thriller.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2002
For years I regarded Citizen Kane as a good but not great film, and I never really understood why critics and serious film buffs kept putting it top of the list. Now I understand, thanks mostly to the Roger Ebert commentary on this DVD, which focuses on the technical, production and compositional aspects of the film. Ebert's commentary on this disc is simply the best I have ever seen on a DVD--time and again Ebert points out and explains brilliant touches and conceptions most of us wouldn't have noticed on our own, and he does it in an earnest, non-condescending, explanatory way. Illuminating and insightful. The Bogdanovich commentary is from a different perspective. It's a little too in-groupy, "me and Orson," for my tastes, but it doesn't merely duplicate Ebert, and adds to my understanding and enjoyment of the movie, even if it's not the eye-opener that Ebert's commentary is.
The companion DVD-Documentary is also illuminating. Now for the first time I understand Welles's strange lack of success in Hollywood, despite his reputed (and undoubted) genius.
This is the kind of DVD that could turn an ordinary person who just likes old movies into a raving, drooling, film buff.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2003
I've seen "Citizen Kane" dozens of times over the years, and had a general idea of who the film was really about (Hearst) and the controversy it created. After watching "The Battle Over Citizen Kane," however, I now feel that I have a much better understanding not only of the movie itself, but the full story of the two men locked in battle over it---Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst.
This documentary provides a generous amount of personal information about both men, and comments from experts in relevant fields (Hearst biographers, etc.) as well as people who knew Welles personally. If you're a fan of "Citizen Kane," this companion piece is not to be missed.