Friday, July 13, 2012

Citizen Kane (1941)

Feeling lazy after work, I decided to get back into watching film, and creating a blog about it... so here it goes.

It seems fitting to start this thing off with the classic epic of films, "Citizen Kane."

I was first introduced to this Orson Welles' classic in theatre school. We watched it in a visual communications class. The professor told us that this was probably one of the most innovative films ever made, and really encouraged us to focus on the lighting and the camera work. I remember really liking it from a technical standpoint, but not really finding myself really all that moved by the plot.

But since then,  I've been told, time and time again, that this is the greatest film ever made and I've found myself going back to it, and studying it. I went out and bought myself a copy of it on DVD. and each time I watched it,  I found myself impressed with it's technical brilliance, but really? The greatest film ever made?

So yesterday, I decided to go back and watch it again. I went into my video cabinet and pulled it out from the bottom of a large stack of DVD's and put it in the player. This would be the first time watching it with my new 32 inch T.V. and sound system. Over the last few months my sound system, for whatever reason, hadn't seemed to be working, but for some mysterious reason, it kicked in for the Bernard Hermann soundtrack of Citizen Kane.

"Here we go again old friend." I thought,  as I saw the large white on black title, "Citizen Kane" appear on the screen, and as usual, I was pulled in by it's technical brilliance... the beautiful black and white images, the angles, the pans, the sets, the edits, the writing... with it's different points of view, and the stories told from those perspectives, and just the amazing overall style of the film. I couldn't help but think about the time this film came out, and the films that were being made, and how people probably had never seen anything like it before. Orson Welles was not afraid to make a film that was different than anything that was being made at the time.

Then there's the character, Charles Foster Kane, with his wealth, and power, and contradictions... one can't help but believe that this was a real man (maybe partly because he was actually based on a real man) but the film goes deeper into his character... all his eccentricities, and complexities.

then there's the social context as well... with the political implications behind the power of the media, and it's ability to shape public opinion, which seems to have existed at least as far back as William Randolph Hearst's "yellow journalism" of the late 19th century, as well as in 1941, when this film was made, as well as today, with media mogul's like Rupert Murdoch.

And although the film brilliantly plays off light comedic moments in which Kane purposely alters newspaper headlines to push his various agendas, one cannot ignore the darker implications of a public so easily manipulated by power. It definitely leaves you with something to chew on.

Overall, Citizen Kane is Orson Welles' intricate portrait of a complex man who seemed to have everything he needed, but lost everything he wanted. It's a puzzle with which we search for a simple word, "Rosebud," which is never found within' the world of the film, but is brilliantly placed in the audiences hands at the end, and then dissolved with the warning, "No Tresspassing."

A brilliant film, indeed, but the best film ever made? I think there's better.

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