"I don't think there's one word that can describe a man's life."
So, I've watched my second movie. It's another older movie, and it's another classic. Apparently, this film is constantly ranked as the best film ever made. So naturally, I had high expectations.
Citizen Kane is loosely based off of the life of William Randolph Hearst, who was an influential owner of an American publishing company. He bought acres of land and created his own little retreat. The name of that estate is Hearst Castle, and it's in San Simeon here in California. I've been before, and I just personally found that info interesting.
Citizen Kane was directed by Orson Welles, who also happens to star in it as the film's protagonist, Charles Foster Kane. I tried researching about directors who also starred in their movies, because I wanted to know how that worked. I saw some articles about Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen, Ben Affleck, and more. It was nice to learn about.
Click HERE for Citizen Kane Summary
Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film. It's cinematography, music, and narrative structure were game changers at the time of it's release. Whenever I watch older movies, I take into account the time that it was released. But even with this movie, considering how long ago it was put out, I still liked the film. It's essentially a character analysis of wealthy newspaper publisher Charles Kane (Orson Welles). The forward momentum of the movie is facilitated by the fact that Charles Kane just died, and his last word while on his deathbed was "Rosebud". Now, Jerry Thompson (William Alland), a reporter for News on the March, is trying to find out the significance of that word. An interesting thing is that throughout the whole movie and all of Thompson's interviews with Kane's associates, his face is never fully featured. In fact, most of the shots of Thompson are from the back of the head, providing a perfect blank slate storyteller, who doesn't distract from the main plot of the film, which is Kane's life. I (no surprise) really liked Charles Kane. He embodied a lot of different traits that aren't really new to me, but it was still cool to see his character develop. Charles Kane was given to a rich banker named Walter Parks Thatcher (George Coulouris) at a young age. He didn't see his parents, and instead Kane grew up in a rich and business oriented world. Kane decides to create his own publishing business at age 25, and breaks off from Thatcher. He engages in yellow journalism, trying to expose corruption and give the people news in a concise and trustworthy manner. He is joined by Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane) and Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten) in his quest to make the Inquirer the most trusted news source in America. Kane then goes on a few ventures, marrying the President's niece Emily Monroe Norton (Ruth Warrick) and having a child with her. He then attempts to run for governor of New York, against incumbent governor Jim Gettys (Ray Collins). Kane seems to be in the lead, but his campaign is ruined by his extramarital affair with a woman named Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore). Gettys reveals the affair to the public and to Kane's wife Emily, who subsequently separates from him. Kane decides to marry Susan, and builds an opera house for her to sing at. She takes lessons, but actually despises singing and having people hate her performing. Charles Kane doesn't realize this, and forces her to keep on taking lessons, even manipulating headlines to make it seem like she's an amazing performer. But when Susan attempts suicide, Kane lets Susan do whatever she wants, and she stops her singing career. Years later, Kane builds Xanadu, his own private oasis. Susan grows bored in the huge estate, and tells Kane this. Kane seems indifferent, and Susan feels more and more trapped. Eventually, Susan leaves Kane, saying that he never loved her, he only wanted her to love him. Kane destroys her room in a rage, only to stop after finding a snow globe, and calmly saying the word, "Rosebud". The audience later discovers that "Rosebud" was the name of the sled that Kane was playing with when he was taken away from his parents. We only find out because the sled is burnt along with other of Kane's possessions, being mistaken for trash.
Kane's character is very fascinating. Yes, he's a bit "predictable", but it was nonetheless interesting to see his character unravel. Charles Kane is a wealthy man who has just about everything except what he truly wants: love. Charles Kane is constantly looking for love and acceptance throughout the film. When he's given away by his parents, that obviously left a hole in his heart that was never really filled. When he took over the publishing company, he hoped to find fulfillment in devoting his life to his job and true journalism. But his motives eventually became compromised. When Kane ran for governor, he enjoyed getting the support of the people, and having a supportive family by his side. But that falls out too. When he builds Xanadu, he's trying to create a home for himself where he can be content. But his huge estate is not a home to him. When he marries Susan, he tries to make her as happy and content as possible. But Susan can see through his attempts, and separates from him as well. The whole movie is Charles Kane trying to fill this emptiness, and failing. And even through all his internal suffering, he manages to stay smart and cool. It's only when we reach the bedroom destruction scene near the end of the movie where we see Charles's breaking point.
"As a film, Citizen Kane is a powerful dramatic tale about the uses and abuses of wealth and power. It's a classic American tragedy about a man of great passion, vision, and greed, who pushes himself until he brings ruins to himself and all around him. Of course, the production aspect that makes Citizen Kane so memorable is Greg Toland's landmark cinematography. In fact, it's impossible to have a serious discussion about this film without mentioning this element." - James Berardinelli
In the very beginning of the film, we see the Xanadu estate, and a creepy sequence of Kane's death, where he drops a snow globe and whispers the word Rosebud. This is where the mystery starts.
Orson Welles does a great job as Charles Kane, who is charming, smart, and damaged all at once.
Kane's attempt to run for governor.
Although this clapping scene has been memed all over the internet, it's still an important scene. After seeing his second wife Susan's opera performance live, Kane claps violently, showing his harmful persistence at trying to make Susan "happy".
Kane's wives. Left: Emily, Right: Susan
Kane destroys a room after Susan leaves him.
The finale scene, where the origin of Rosebud is revealed. The ending is bittersweet.
"You're Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big."
This should go without saying.
Kelby Custodio, Junior at Pacifica High School.