“That’s all he really wanted out of life, was love.”
After the death of an infamously self-absorbed newspaper tycoon named Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), a magazine editor (Philip Van Zandt) sends a reporter (William Alland) to investigate the meaning of Kane’s final word (“Rosebud”) by viewing newsreels and interviewing various key players in his life — including Kane’s business manager (Erskine Sanford), his estranged friend (Joseph Cotten), his second wife (Dorothy Comingore), and his butler (Paul Stewart).
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that “Orson Welles’s debut film can justifiably be called the greateset picture of all time because it not only taught other directors how to tell a story through film but also taught moviegoers how to watch a film”. He writes that the “film is about a search for the essential missing part (‘Rosebud’) needed to document a man’s life”, and notes that Welles “creates ‘realism’ (the ‘true’ picture of Kane) through illusion and expressionism, and so his picture becomes a tribute to the camera”. He adds:
“The visuals show past events not as the six storytellers remember them but as the filmmakers (primarily director Welles and cameraman Gregg Toland) interpret the storytellers’ words… We learn about Kane and the other characters not only through dialogue and action but through Welles’ creative, flamboyant use of props, screen space, set design, music, editing, sound (including voice inflections), costumes, freeze frames, deep-focus photography, and lighting.”
Peary further points out that the “picture has great acting, music (by Bernard Herrmann), photography, editing (by Robert Wise), [and] countless classic moments”.
Peary discusses Citizen Kane not only in his GFTFF but in his first Cult Movies book — where he offers an in-depth overview of the film’s notorious production and release — and Alternate Oscars, where he names it Best Picture of the Year, and refers to it as “stunningly directed, magnificently acted, and brilliantly written”. He argues that while not all would consider it “the greatest film ever made”, it’s “at [the] very least… the most influential film of the sound era, the picture that best illustrates the potential of film as a storytelling medium and as an outlet for personal and artistic expression”. All of Peary’s praise rings true: the film does indeed “astonish” those seeing it for the first time, and “repeated viewings only increase the impact”. Whether one merely admires Citizen Kane or actively enjoys it, there is never a visually dull moment; it’s well worth a look or two (or three, or more).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Gregg Toland’s legendary cinematography
- Excellent use of unusual and diverse sets
- Many memorable images
- Fine supporting performances
- Herman J. Mankiewicz and Welles’ Oscar-winning script
- Bernard Herrmann’s score
Yes, of course, as a justifiable cult classic.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)