Citizen Kane VHS
Special Edition, New digital transfer
Arguably the greatest of American films, Orson Welles's 1941 masterpiece, made when he was only 26, still unfurls like a dream and carries the viewer along the mysterious currents of time and memory to reach a mature (if ambiguous) conclusion: people are the sum of their contradictions, and can't be known easily. Welles plays newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, taken from his mother as a boy and made the ward of a rich industrialist. The result is that every well-meaning or tyrannical or self-destructive move he makes for the rest of his life appears in some way to be a reaction to that deeply wounding event. Written by Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz, and photographed by Gregg Toland, the film is the sum of Welles's awesome ambitions as an artist in Hollywood. He pushes the limits of then-available technology to create a true magic show, a visual and aural feast that almost seems to be rising up from a viewer's subconsciousness. As Kane, Welles even ushers in the influence of Bertolt Brecht on film acting. This is truly a one-of-a-kind work, and in many ways is still the most modern of modern films from the 20th century. --Tom Keogh
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1. The film itself, which has rarely looked better. It's a very crisp print, in which details obscured in earlier versions are now wonderfully clear. The soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann has never sounded better. Maybe the most overlooked great film soundtrack ever. All the technical wizardry at play in this film, from the lighting to the camera angles to the special effects (which, when pointed out, are absolutely astounding) seem to be just so much more breathtaking in this version. It's certainly as good as the movie can possibly look.
2. The audio commentary by the late, great Roger Ebert. (I'm guessing it was recorded in the late 90's/early 00's, before he lost the ability to speak.) Mr. Ebert stated on more than a few occasions that this was his favorite movie of all time. The commentary shows that at absolutely every turn. He's the perfect person to take you on a guided tour of the dark alleys, brightly-lit paths, strange regions and brilliant hidden corners that make this film so magnificent. I could never get tired of hearing him talk about how the deep focus camera work in Kane is so carefully and subtly handled. Or how the special effects are just as revolutionary as, say, Star Wars, without being noticed much, if at all. Or fascinating tidbits, such as how the actor who portrays the reporter, Thompson, is also the stentorian voice of the announcer in the opening News on the March segment. Most important of all, Mr. Ebert shows you how to appreciate this film, for all it's worth, like no one else can. Whether you end up loving the film and making it your cinematic lifeblood, or decide that it's too inflated, dark, slow paced, and maybe even overrated, is up to you. But you will understand why this film is considered perhaps the greatest film of all time.
3. The bonus documentary on the 2nd dvd, The Battle Over Citizen Kane, which was originally aired on PBS back in 1996 as part of the series American Experience. This nearly two hour doc is about how Welles clashed with newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, the purported inspiration for Charles Foster Kane. How the film took Hearst's life, loves, and powerful ego and transformed them into the ultimate parable of business: you were happiest when you had nothing except what you loved most. How Hearst tried to suppress, and even destroy the film. How the career of Welles took off like Comet, and then burned out into wine commercials. How the film vanished from the public view for many years, only to reappear with the position in history it still holds today. This is one of the best documentaries ever made on movies, business, power, politics, Hollywood and celebrity. I'd say it's worth the price of admission, but when you get the greatest film ever to boot, well you can't go wrong.
Also there are some other features of note, such as a second commentary by director Peter Bogdonovich. This one is interesting, but not as good as Mr. Ebert's. Since PB knew Welles and hung out with him a lot in later years, it's more of a bit chummy and anecdotal in nature. Plus there are also other extras such as the original trailer for the film, (don't pass it up, it's priceless) a photo gallery and a tiny bit of film of the world premiere. In all, it's the Kane 101 you will need in your film theory class (If you're into that sort of thing.) But with a movie as classic, timeless, groundbreaking, endlessly watchable and almost symphonic as this, you may never have to go to film school. -----------------PEACE
BTW- Just for the record, my favorite bit of dialogue in Kane is:
"You know Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I'll have to close this place in..............sixty years!"
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