Citizen Kane: A Classic

With the holiday movie season now long gone and goodmer releases nowhere in sight, maybe it’s time for a return to the silver screen. Why waste money on “Son of the Mask” or another regurgitated horror flick like “The Boogeyman” or “Hide and Seek” when the library rents out classics for free?

My recommendation: “Citizen Kane”, starring Orson Welles, who also directed, produced and co-wrote this masterpiece. Some critics hail this movie as the greatest film of all time. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would say that this is indeed the best black and white film ever made.

Much like Alfred Hitchock’s film “Rebecca” which came out in 1940, a year before “Citizen Kane”, the film opens with an eerie passage through a gate and into a desolate, crumbling kingdom. Within this kingdom called “Xanadu” lies the dying and reclusive Charles Foster Kane, a man who at one time was the world most powerful newspaper tycoon. As Kane dies, he utters one last word: “Rosebud”.

The plot of the movie is based on a search to find out the meaning of “Rosebud”, and leads us on a journey through Kane’s life. Through interviews with his close friends, Kane’s life is revealed from his boyhood all the way to his lonely end.

On this journey, we learn that as a young boy, Kane’s family inherited a fortune, and so he was sent away to learn the ways of the world. In his early twenties, after dropping out of numerous colleges, Kane decides to run one of the papers he owns, the New York Inquirer. Here, Kane increases his fortune and reputation by writing outlandish (and not so truthful) headlines. A failed marriage to the president’s niece ensues, followed by a failed attempt to run for governor, and a failed life with his mistress. Without giving away too much of the film, the end leaves you wondering whether Kane would have preferred to live a simpler life.

As a whole, this film offers something for everyone. The images in this movie and the cinematography were ahead of its’ time, using angles and lighting techniques never seen before in film. Welles himself is a powerful force, a dynamic actor with a voice like velvet and looks that would give Brad Pitt a run for his money if he were a young actor today. Most compelling about this film is its blatant portrayal of the life of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst.

This film almost didn’t see the light of day when it was first cut because Hearst was insulted at the way his mistress was portrayed. Even though the character of Kane was blatantly based on Hearst (Hearst even had his own kingdom called “San Simeon”), the character was also based roughly on Welles himself. Like Kane, Welles had a great hunger for life as a younger man, but ended up a lonely shadow of his former self.

If anything, I would recommend watching this movie for informational purposes. The classic “Rosebud” scene in the beginning has been parodied more times than I can recall. For all of you White Stripes fans, track seven “The Union Forever” on their “White Blood Cells” album will have a little more meaning to you after you see the film. Also, for those who plan on being a journalist or a politician, this movie is a must see and a cautionary tale.

In short, this movie is a dramatic account of one mans greed and his persistence to stop at nothing to see his vision complete. This movie is a reminder that you cannot buy love, no matter how much passion or drive one has. “Citizen Kane” is a great American classic, and you can’t call yourself a movie fanatic until you have seen this one.

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