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Blind Spot: Citizen Kane

I accidentally missed watching my blind spot last month. I was experiencing movie-watching fatigue and I didn't want to half-ass the movie, considering that it's proclaimed as the greatest movie ever made. I think that's partly what makes Citizen Kane daunting. It's Orson Welles' first directorial film, and he also co-wrote the script. Being plastered with 'greatest movie ever' makes this intimidating for someone not versed with Orson Welles, and there's an expectation that I have to love it because of its slogan.

Citizen Kane is the story of Charles Foster Kane, a highly publicized man who died alone in his paradise. Reporters were tasked to learn more about this famed man, particularly the mystery surrounding his last words.; hence they went and began interviewing people who have known the legend. However, seeing the film play in a flash back, did any of the people interviewed really know who Charles Foster Kane is? They all seem to know the man at one point of his life, and they have talked about his riches, his need for control, his determination to prove something. However, none of them really summed up who Charles Kane is - who was he like as a person, how he was behind closed doors, when business isn't the topic. Even his ex-wife, Susan Alexander, painted a different portrait of Kane. 

While the film is not on the extraordinary side, what makes it stand out is the usage of narrative, carefully weaving the tale of a man who no one really knew anything about. It presented his life in a way that his portrait is something that everyone can mostly agree with, but in the telling, are the characters narrating the story of the man he was known to be, or the man that he really is. Citizen Kane presents a great character study to what we perceive people to be. They can be rich and powerful and charismatic, but no one really talked about what he liked or didn't. They presented the man as a god-like person who started to crumble as time goes by. However, isn't Kane a man who was already broken? From the events we can already infer that there's something else about Charles Kane, but we can only go as far as that. The film shows a general picture of his character, and through the telling we can make presumptions about the real Charles Kane.

Orson Welles portrayed his character really well, still leaving an air of mystery to have his audience try and figure him out. The film is interesting to watch because of the ease of the story, and it doesn't deter away from the character. Is it the greatest film ever made? I wouldn't call it that, but it doesn't mean that I didn't think highly of it.




Final Word: Worth watching, though I don't think of it of its accolade for now. Maybe if I watch it a couple more times.

Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore
Director: Orson Welles
Year: 1941

Comments

  1. Glad you finally got to watch it. Starting that first watch is daunting if you're cognizant of its legacy, as you clearly are. I don't think it's THE greatest film ever made, but I do think it's among the first few dozen or so. A lot of it has to do with its influence. That style really hadn't really been done the way Welles did with all the bouncing around until Citizen Kane. This movie also pioneered lots of technical and aesthetic things about film making.

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  2. There is a lot of pressure when watching this movie, because we're made to feel we have to turn in our film buff cards if we don't love it. :-) My opinion is pretty much in line with yours. I really like the narrative structure, and I appreciate its significance and influence on cinema, but I don't love it.

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  3. I can understand what you mean about this film being intimidating to anyone not already familiar with Orson Welles. I was really nervous the first time I saw it (and curiously enough, every time I've seen it, it's been for a class; I've yet to watch Citizen Kane for pleasure) but it is a very well-done film. Like you, I wouldn't go as far as to call it the greatest movie ever made but I will say that Citizen Kane is a compelling well-crafted and well-acted movie that still holds up really well today.

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  4. I agree about the influence, Wendell. It definitely opened a lot of doors in people's minds about what could be done with film and how stories could be told. I do like this a lot though, but I do feel it's hard to watch it present day because it's already been spoiled for us. It's such a touchstone of culture that we know the famous lines, the twist ending, whatever. So it's hard to watch with teh same adoring eyes of previous generations.

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  5. Lovely review. I really need to get back into the blindspot game. I stopped last year and didn't finish my blindspot list :(. I've always wanted to see Citizen Kane, since it's pretty much mandatory viewing. However, sometimes I'm amazed that older movies aren't as good as I thought they would be.

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  6. I think one of the most damning things a movie can be labeled is "The Greatest" or "The Best" it sets the film up for failure since people enter into watching with preconceived notions. When I watched this the first time like you I had that term in front of me and it effected my perception of the film. How could it possibly live up to that hype? It couldn't. Being disappointed in it I watched again and still didn't love it but respect its artistry. At this point I'd say I admire it but don't love it. It is full of fine performances, especially Dorothy Comingore as the sad Susan Alexander, and inventive camera work.

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