How do you begin to review a film that many regard as the greatest work of art ever projected onto a screen? Let me start by saying this, I watched it for the first time for this review so I’m coming at it with pretty clear eyes. Citizen Kane was released in 1941 and was directed, produced, starred in, and partly written by Orson Welles (Herman J. Mankiewicz also receives credit for the script). The film was not a box office success and only in the decades following did Citizen Kane begin to develop the reputation which would find the film at or near the top of most “Greatest Film” lists. So does Citizen Kane deserve all the hype?
Should this film be considered a classic? I don’t think there is any option but to answer this question with a resounding, “Yes!” This is a film that gets everything right and does it so much better than almost everything else out there. The story is compelling as it lays out the humble beginnings, meteoric rise, and lonely fall of Charles Foster Kane. It’s a story of man with everything who ended up dying alone. The camerawork in the film is truly outstanding. The pervasive use of low angles make Kane seem both larger than life and also strangely distant and cold throughout the film. The lighting also varies dramatically based upon to mood of Kane. With bright lighting during the high points of his life and darker lighting dominated by shadows during the low. The film also makes great use of physical distance between Kane and the other actors. Early in the film Kane is always around and close to people. By the time the film ends he and his wife yell at each other from across rooms in Kane’s cavernous Xanadu and ultimately he dies completely alone.
Yes, Citizen Kane is a classic. It definitely deserves the praises that have been heaped on it over the years.
Would I own this film? Yes, as soon as a Blu-Ray version comes out. This is a film, that while it might leave some feeling cold, is so compelling that has to be watched multiple times. If you want to catch all the nuances of what is happening on screen you need to watch this film more than once. So if you haven’t seen this one, do yourself a favor and find a copy to watch.
On a side note, it was so nice to watch this after enduring the first 30 minutes of Animal House.