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656 of 691 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vanguard motion picture, June 5, 2000
This review is from: Citizen Kane [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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.
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Comments

Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 11, 2007 8:41:21 AM PST
"Ophelia" says:
I thought the point of "Rosebud" was the flashback to an unhappy childhood being dragged away from his home and the his sled Rosebud being left behind. I am buying this to resee it and see what I may have missed (if he was a happy child?) but more to see again and own what is one of the greatest films ever.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 4, 2008 9:30:43 AM PDT
Susan Nunes says:
I think Pauline Kael ruined the film for many people. She overhyped it, and it didn't need to be overhyped. Other critics started blathering about it, and this tends to do a film's reputation more harm than good. It is a great film, not the greatest perhaps, but it is still great. I give kudos to Gregg Toland for his great cinematography.

Posted on Dec 1, 2008 8:10:43 PM PST
Excellent review. Superb.

Posted on Mar 17, 2009 5:34:26 AM PDT
R. G. May says:
Thank you for a wonderful review of the film. Just the right tone.

Posted on Jul 12, 2010 10:50:57 PM PDT
M. Warren says:
Marvelous review. Bravo!

Posted on Jul 23, 2010 1:48:06 PM PDT
Lindsay Mays says:
great review. ive never seen citizen kane, but seeing it at the very top(generally number 1) of every greatest movie list has piqued my interest. of course you cant please everybody, but most people agree that this film deserves that spot. im definently ordering it and cant wait to see it!

Posted on Jul 23, 2010 1:56:05 PM PDT
Lindsay Mays says:
great review. ive never seen citizen kane, but seeing it at the very top(generally number 1) of every greatest movie list has piqued my interest. of course you cant please everybody, but most people agree that this film deserves that spot. im definently ordering it and cant wait to see it!

Posted on Sep 12, 2010 9:56:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 12, 2010 9:58:20 AM PDT
Top notch review here... you managed to put the whole thing into the proper perspective. I first saw Citizen Kane as a child of about 11 or 12 and despite the fact that I hated old B&W films at the time, Kane's character completely captured my interest and I immediately understood that the film was about how a man can achieve everything and still die sad and alone. I was floored. Any film that can strike a chord with an impatient pre-teen over 50 years after its creation has to have something special to it. Of course the hype is ridiculous... there cannot be a "Greatest" film because nothing is objectively perfect. How does one quantify that? Is Kane 3.7 Greatness Points above Casablanca, or Gone with the Wind? What if I said Blade Runner is the Greatest? How is that demonstrably wrong? Not everybody enjoys historic films that are, to date, nearly seventy years old. So no, Citizen Kane is definitely not "The Greatest Movie" but certainly it is a great one. :)

Posted on Jan 30, 2011 7:16:02 PM PST
Bob Chorba says:
GREAT Review, BUT everything that I have read says that Marion Davies was quite unlike Welles paramour in the film.

Posted on May 19, 2011 6:42:59 AM PDT
Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition)
I think "flickjunkie's" review deserves a 10 !
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