Classic Film Review: Citizen Kane (1941)

Today, I righted a wrong, and repented for one of my greatest sins as a movie goer and as an aspiring film critic. Today, for the first time, I watched Citizen Kane…

Citizen Kane tells the story of a newspaper reporter piecing together the meaning of the last words of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane. Visiting various people who were close to Kane, such as his ex wife, his best friend, and his butler, we learn the life story of Kane, how he came into his wealth, and his eventual downfall. Finally, after all has been revealed to the reporter except for the meaning of his last words, he leaves Kane’s home. But the audience eventually learns the meaning of the term which Kane uttered with his dying breath: “Rosebud”

It’s considered the best of all time for a reason. An absolutely groundbreaking and masterful debut by a young Orson Welles.

Brilliant script, fantastic characters and performances (Orson Welles was astounding as Charles Foster Kane), brilliant cinematography and editing, amazing score, etc.

Its brilliance is both subtle and obvious at the same time. To any average, untrained movie goer; to a normie who doesn’t watch many movies or quite grasp film language, they’ll obviously see a great story about how wealth and power can corrupt people and destroy lives. That is the obvious part.

But to someone with a keen eye for film craft, and to someone who loves movies like I do, it’s brilliance is amplified ten fold. This film was ahead of its time. From the brilliant lighting and shot composition, where Welles’ penchant for shadows and very wide framing is used to convey scope and character intent, to the way the story is structured through flashbacks and ends with a fantastic plot twist, it is an astounding feat that something this different and unique was made in the 40s.

Welles, a man in his twenties coming from radio and theatre, entering into an unprecedented contract with RKO pictures that gave him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted, and he manages to make what is widely considered the finest film ever made and a movie that has laid the foundation for auteur cinema and modern movies, and he did this in his directorial debut. Mind blowing stuff.

Overall, while it may be way too hard to determine what is the greatest movie of all time from an objective standpoint, Citizen Kane will always be in the discussion. Mandatory viewing. Watch it.

10 out of 10

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