Monday, October 24, 2016

Citizen Kane

Last week I listed some of my favorite political movies. This week I thought I'd focus on one in particular, Citizen Kane, considered  to be one of the greatest, if not THE greatest movie ever made! I love the story, the acting and the cinematography.

William Bayer, in his book The Great Movies, says, "Citizen Kane is a version of Faust, the story of a man who gains the world and loses his soul... Orson Welles has said that Citizen Kane is a 'portrait of a public man's private life,' and that may be the best summary of all."

Bayer explains that Citizen Kane is about William Randolph Hearst, not literally, of course, but in the form of a fictionalized fantasy produced with the intention of exploiting public interest in a controversial man... One of the most delightful things about Citizen Kane is the way it uses Hearst against himself. Citizen Kane exploits him the way his papers exploited everyone else. Citizen Kane is yellow journalism. It sacrifices the truth about Hearst for the sensational aspects of his story."  

Never seen the movie? Here's some information from Wikipedia:

Citizen Kane is a 1941 American mystery drama film by Orson Welles, its producer, co-author, director and star. The picture was Welles's first feature film. Nominated for Academy Awards in nine categories, it won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Welles. Considered by many critics, filmmakers, and fans to be the greatest film of all time... It topped the American Film Institute's 100 Years ... 100 Movies list in 1998, as well as its 2007 updateCitizen Kane is particularly praised for its cinematography, music, and narrative structure, which were innovative for its time.

The quasi-biographical film examines the life and legacy of Charles Foster Kane, played by Welles, a character based in part upon the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Chicago tycoons Samuel Insull and Harold McCormick, and aspects of Welles's own life. Upon its release, Hearst prohibited mention of the film in any of his newspapers. Kane's career in the publishing world is born of idealistic social service, but gradually evolves into a ruthless pursuit of power. Narrated principally through flashbacks, the story is told through the research of a newsreel reporter seeking to solve the mystery of the newspaper magnate's dying word: "Rosebud."

Here's the synopsis, courtesy of Wikipedia:

In a mansion in Xanadu, a vast palatial estate in Florida, the elderly Charles Foster Kane is on his deathbed. Holding a snow globe, he utters a word, "Rosebud", and dies; the globe slips from his hand and smashes on the floor. A newsreel obituary tells the life story of Kane, an enormously wealthy newspaper publisher. Kane's death becomes sensational news around the world, and the newsreel's producer tasks reporter Jerry Thompson with discovering the meaning of "Rosebud".
Thompson sets out to interview Kane's friends and associates. He approaches Kane's second wife, Susan Alexander Kane, now an alcoholic who runs her own nightclub, but she refuses to talk to him. Thompson goes to the private archive of the late banker Walter Parks Thatcher. Through Thatcher's written memoirs, Thompson learns that Kane's childhood began in poverty in Colorado.
In 1871, after a gold mine was discovered on her property, Kane's mother Mary Kane sends Charles away to live with Thatcher so that he would be properly educated. While Thatcher and Charles' parents discuss arrangements inside, the young Kane plays happily with a sled in the snow outside his parents' boarding-house and protests being sent to live with Thatcher.
Years later, after gaining full control over his trust fund at the age of 25, Kane enters the newspaper business and embarks on a career of yellow journalism. He takes control of the New York Inquirer and starts publishing scandalous articles that attack Thatcher's business interests. After the stock market crash in 1929, Kane is forced to sell controlling interest of his newspaper empire to Thatcher.
Back in the present, Thompson interviews Kane's personal business manager, Mr. Bernstein. Bernstein recalls how Kane hired the best journalists available to build the Inquirer's circulation. Kane rose to power by successfully manipulating public opinion regarding the Spanish–American War and marrying Emily Norton, the niece of a President of the United States.
Thompson interviews Kane's estranged best friend, Jedediah Leland, in a retirement home. Leland recalls how Kane's marriage to Emily disintegrates more and more over the years, and he begins an affair with amateur singer Susan Alexander while he is running for Governor of New York. Both his wife and his political opponent discover the affair and the public scandal ends his political career. Kane marries Susan and forces her into a humiliating operatic career for which she has neither the talent nor the ambition.
Back in the present, Susan now consents to an interview with Thompson, and recalls her failed opera career. Kane finally allows her to abandon her singing career after she attempts suicide. After years spent dominated by Kane and living in isolation at Xanadu, Susan leaves Kane. Kane's butler Raymond recounts that, after Susan leaves him, Kane begins violently destroying the contents of her bedroom. He suddenly calms down when he sees a snow globe and says, "Rosebud."
Back at Xanadu, Kane's belongings are being cataloged or discarded. Thompson concludes that he is unable to solve the mystery and that the meaning of Kane's last word will forever remain an enigma. As the film ends, the camera reveals that "Rosebud" is the trade name of the sled on which the eight-year-old Kane was playing on the day that he was taken from his home in Colorado. Thought to be junk by Xanadu's staff, the sled is burned in a furnace.
Citizen Kane is a masterpiece and a great movie to watch any time, but especially during the political season! However, don't multi-task while watching! Pay close attention so you don't miss any of the details significant to the story, as well as the brilliant cinematography.
Have you ever seen Citizen Kane? If so, what are your thoughts?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 


shelly said...

Good movie, indeed.

Maria McKenzie said...

So true!

William Kendall said...

It is a great movie!

Norma said...

I haven't seen this movie in years!

Maria McKenzie said...

@William: One of the best!

@Norma: I haven't seen it in a long time either, but I'd like to watch it before the election;).