Citizen Kane (1941).

 The Great Cinema Swindle

Orson Welles1941 film Citizen Kane 

1/10
Author: AphroditeVenus from Sydney, Australia
9 July 2007

I know why you’re reading this. You’re smart, you have great taste, a passion for cinema, and you see CK near the top of every ‘Great Movie’ list ever compiled. So with great anticipation you borrow a DVD copy and sit down for a real treat, and… you can’t get through the first half hour. You fall asleep.

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Surprised, you think, ‘It must be me, maybe I’m tired,’ so a month later, you try again. But you don’t even get as far as before, and wake up drooling out the corner of your mouth as a bloated Orson Welles, with really bad age make-up, groans ‘Rosebud, Rosebud’.

It doesn’t make sense. You’re perplexed. You’ve watched other films on the lists… Casablanca made you stand up and cheer, cry, laugh, feel connected to all humanity. You even adore films on the list that some might consider oblique, like 8 1/2, which you reckon reinvented cinema language, weaving in and out of memory, dreams, psyche, reality, putting the human spirit up on the screen, making you cheer, laugh, and feel connected to all humanity.

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So why does CK leave you so cold? You wonder, ‘What’s wrong with me? Am I stupid or something?’

Your borrowed DVD copy gathers dust (notice how the lender never asks for it back?), taunting your unquiet mind: “You must watch me: I’m the greatest film of all time!” But you shudder at the thought. Life’s too short and, after all, there’s more engaging things to do – like scraping plaque off the dog’s teeth.

Years pass. Finally, you can take it no longer. You think, ‘To be a serious film lover I MUST watch Citizen Kane! Maybe I was too immature before – yes, that must be it!’ So you gird your loins and sit – awake! – through the whole thing. The whole turgid, ponderous, dull, vacuous, plodding, dank catastrophe. It’s even worse than you feared. An emotionally and intellectually empty story. Your average six year old can invent a more complex, engaging tale.

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Genuinely puzzled, you ask people who name it as one of the greatest films of all time why they like it, and with barely concealed superiority that phoneys are wont to adopt, they wax lyrical talk about the haunting mystery of the final words, “Rosebud, rosebud”. You notice there’s no feeling behind what they say. They also talk a great deal about Gregg Toland’s cinematography, with liberal references to “deep focus”, and you appreciate this, you really do, the cinematography was damned fine, best thing about the movie. That shot which started outside the window then tracked back into the room was really cool. But you just don’t believe a movie is made great by cinematography alone.

In all your inquiries, you never once hear the following phrase, spoken from the heart: “God, I love that film”.

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So here you find yourself, reading IMDb comments.

Well, let me tell you this: There’s Nothing Wrong With You! You Are Right! It’s Overrated Flashy Unintelligent Rubbish!

One day, perhaps (one can but dream), the coolest, greatest, most admired film being in the world will point out the bleeding obvious nakedness of this bloated Emperor, and the assorted film critics, film studies teachers, and others who need to be told what to think by an authority figure, shall squirm, and CK shall drop off the lists once and for all.

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Tried it, just can’t take it!

1/10
Author: guy_r from Erie
5 May 2004

I have tried to watch this movie 3 times. Each time I promise myself that I will watch it through to see all the facinating camera angles and light shading. I want to see the last ten minutes of the film and be awed and amazed as I realize that Rosebud is something extraordinary. I want to recognize Mr. Wells’ genius, daring, and inventivness. I want to feel the passion, emptiness, and all the other powerful emotions that the actors and “unique” cinematography portray in this movie.

I have not been able to make it yet. This is the single most boring hard to watch movie that I have ever tried to watch. I can usually watch about any movie at least once, but not this one.

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I don’t need exciting special effects, car chases, shoot outs, or sex scenes to keep me interested. I just need the movie to be interesting. This film is not interesting to me. I love history and I watch many older movies and I appreciate most of them for what they are, and in the time frame that they were made. But this one is just very hard to watch. If you have to have a college professor,(who himself has had to read a book about it to understand it) explain a movie to you so that you can appreciate it, then I’m sorry folks but then it just “ain’t good”.

I have enjoyed thousands of movies, and I have disliked many also, but very few have I never been able to finish watching and this is one of them.

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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.

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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.

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Back in the present, Thompson interviews Kane’s personal business manager, Mr. Bernstein. Bernstein recalls how Kane hired the best journalists available to build theInquirers 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.

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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, by overdosing on a sedative. 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.

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