"Citizen Kane" has often been considered the best film
ever made. While I don't believe this is true ("Casablanca",
among others, is better) it comes close enough to validate
such a strong judgment.
"Citizen Kane" is loosely based on the life of "yellow journalism"
newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Kane (Orson Welles,
who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay) is separated
from his parents as a child and made heir to an enormous fortune.
Coming of age, he decides to run a newspaper, sensationalizing
the news and considering himself to be the voice of the people.
He develops loyal colleagues in Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten)
and Bernstein (Everett Sloane). With ambitions beyond publishing,
he runs for New York Governor, and later promotes the singing
career of second wife Susan (Dorothy Comingore). He also
builds Xanadu, an extravagant palace that is never finished.
These various ambitions fail, and Kane dies a wealthy but
spiritually broken man.
"Citizen Kane" is a character study, about a man who
superficially has everything, but still isn't satisfied.
Charles Foster Kane has to prove something, but that
something always changes, and simply cannot be achieved.
This is demonstrated at length by Kane building a lavish
opera house for Susan to perform in, then sending her on
a cross-country tour, in the face of widespread ridicule of
her hopeless lack of talent.
The film is at its best when Kane is a young man, dynamic and
with the straightforward goal of "defending the working man".
A scene where he sings and dances with chorus girls is
marvelous chaos. Also outstanding is a series of breakfast
encounters between Kane and first wife Emily (Ruth Warrick)
that cover several years and show the fading of the marriage.
In comparison, later scenes drag ever so slightly, as Kane
is reduced to playing lord of Xanadu.
"Citizen Kane" plays little tricks with the audience.
Early in the film, there is a perfect send-up of the
newsreels. In the scene that Kane's parents discuss his
future, he can be seen through a window playing in the snow.
The chronology mixes past and present events, with dialogue
in the present giving away subsequent events that take place
in the past.
Welles was the leader of the Mercury players, and "Citizen
Kane" marked their transition from radio to cinema. Welles,
Cotten, and Moorehead would also appear together in
"Journey Into Fear" and "The Magnificent Ambersons" before
nervous studio executives put a halt to Welles' projects.
Copyright © 1997 Brian Koller