“Citizen Kane” was released in 1941; even my country hasn’t got its independence yet. “Citizen Kane” is highly-appreciated (or overrated) by many movie reviewers and media. It’s always enlisted in every “Great Movies of All Time” list ever made in the world. It topped “Sight & Sound” poll on the greatest movies ever made (“Sight & Sound” is the most popular movie magazine based on UK) and American Film Institute’s “100 Years... 100 Movies” list. It became more popular when the Academy snubbed it by giving it only 1 win out of 9 nominations, as more appreciation went to its competitor, “How Green Was My Valley”, which was considered a little bit worse than it. How could “Citizen Kane” be this highly-acclaimed?
“Citizen Kane” was opened with an outlook of Xanadu, a palace a newspaper tycoon named Charles Foster Kane (played by Orson Welles) made out of his wealth, in an eerie and scary atmosphere. It is known then that Kane was dying, and before he passed away, he whispered a short, single word: “Rosebud”. Kane’s death shocked the whole country. Then, we were displayed a 10-minute newsreel containing a mini biography of him, from his childhood until he built his empire. Jerry Thompson (played by William Alland), a reporter, was assigned by the newsreel editor to find out a more interesting story of Kane beside his own life: the secret of his dying word. Then Thompson approached living friends, relatives, and wives of Charles Kane to find out the meaning of “Rosebud” he whispered just before he died.
Maybe you’ll predict that you’ll be taken to unravel the mystery of the word “Rosebud” throughout the duration. Instead, you’ll be more introduced to who Charles Foster Kane was, as Thompson interviewed those who were related to Kane when he’s still alive, like Susan Alexander (played by Dorothy Comingore), Kane’s ex-wife; Bernstein (played by Everett Sloane), the newspaper—the New York Daily Inquirer—general manager; and Jedediah Leland (played by Joseph Cotten), Kane’s best friend. The backbone of the story of “Citizen Kane” was on its leading character, not the word. There were many flashbacks as every interviewee described how he or she knew Charles Kane. The “Rosebud” mystery itself became less interesting than the biography of Kane, as we will be shown a strong characterization of Charles Foster Kane by Orson Welles. At the first place, Kane was someone so idealist with all his young, dynamic, and straight-forward mind. Then, as he gained popularity and wealth from the New York Daily Inquirer he established, he became intertwined in a condition of power of the country. He started a campaign for him being a governor while he was twisted in a romantic conflict between his current wife, Emily Norton (played by Ruth Warrick), and Susan Alexander, a girl with a singing talent. We will see an up-and-down, larger-than-life story of Charles from which we could absorb so many lessons about life. That’s why, “Citizen Kane” finally became more dramatic instead of mysterious (the word “Rosebud” I expected would enroll many thrills), but it was still entertaining—and inspiring, honestly.
And about how could “Citizen Kane” became so legendary, I guess we have to look back to the time before “Citizen Kane” was released. Well, of course I can’t experience it by myself: all the informations are gained from third-party resources. They said, there was something notable from its cinematography. See the scene when Kane’s parent was signing a letter and the little Kane was playing outside the window? It is something they called as deep-focus technique. With this technique, every single character photographed on the scene will be equally focused (although the perspective was quite narrow). Or, see how the camera was set in a low-angle when it shot Kane’s walking all around, like figuring out the powerful, unbeatable character of Kane. Those were something they called as a breakthrough at that time. The main trope of “Citizen Kane”, of course, was its flashback storytelling, which was considered new at that time. Some other sources also mentioned that the story itself made “Citizen Kane” legendary and powerful, but—truly—I doubt it. The thing I enjoyed from “Citizen Kane”, besides its story, was its dialogue. Media mentioned David Fincher’s “The Social Network” as this century’s “Citizen Kane”, and I understand that: the dialogue. The dialogue of “Citizen Kane” was fast-paced, mixed in a non-linear timing, and strongly delivered. Interesting.
I’m sorry if I’m too amateur to understand the reason of “the legendary effect” “Citizen Kane” has made, but I guess I just don’t want to be “fake”: appreciating it just because many people out there appreciated it. It’s not bad, ‘though. It’s moving, strongly-characterized, and a moral lesson. “Citizen Kane” was a good example of how our cinematic history has nailed its power until now. It’s been more than 70 years since it’s released, but the power was still there: in the heart of the viewers who love it, although they didn’t even watch it on big screen. I would rather say it's a good movie, regardless of any histories and breakthroughs it has ever made.
▲ Its "legendary effect", good characterization and cinematography
▼ Classic touch won't work nearly to everybody
CITIZEN KANE | COUNTRY USA YEAR 1941 RATING PG RUNTIME 119 min GENRE Drama, Mystery CAST Orson Welles, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, William Alland, Joseph Cotten WRITER Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles DIRECTOR Orson Welles IMDB RATING 8.5/10 (Top 250 #44) METACRITIC n.a. ROTTEN TOMATOES 100% (Certified Fresh) MORE INFO