Citizen Kane is directed by Orson Welles who also stars in the lead role. The film tells the tale of a reporter trying to get to the bottom of the meaning of a media tycoon’s dying word – Rosebud. The reporter interviews his past wives and former friends providing an insight into the man behind the myth.
Citizen Kane is often labelled as the ‘greatest movie ever made’ which is a hell of a weight to carry around. As a modern film goer it is difficult to understand the hype behind the film because I would list many, many titles that I would watch before putting this film in the DVD machine. Having done a little bit of research I now understand that it’s a question of cinematic history. In terms of structure, story telling and the central performance, Citizen Kane holds up really well against any film you will watch this year. For a movie that is 70+ years old that is an achievement.
The film teases us with the end of the story and then moves back and forth in time as we see different stages of Charles Kane’s life. It is very much a character study and we get a rich picture of how and why he developed in the way he did. He is taken away from his parents at a young age and showered with wealth he was never prepared for while spending his entire life trying to win approval. Kane is a man of contradiction who fights for the truth and against vested interests yet prints made up stories in his newspapers.
I liked Orson Welles central performance for its subtlety as I have seen many an over the top performance in classic films such as this. I liked the fact that it was a character study and the different shades of grey that were portrayed. Some of the supporting performances are a little old skool and over the top but this shouldn’t put you off. Keep an eye out for the interesting use of light and shadow in a number of the scenes in the film. It’s also a film (spoiler alert!) that will leave you having to make your own interpretation of what the now infamous Rosebud was all about. If you want to cheat you need to look up a statement from 1941 that was released by Welles that gives the game away.
Citizen Kane is a solid film by any measure and is a must for any cinephile so you can be part of the conversation when Rosebud comes up. My rating 3/5.