Classic Movie Blog - Citizen Kane

Dazzling and vivid Kane is 80 years old
"Rosebud"(Fathom Events)
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 9:07 AM EDT
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Often on the list, and often on top of the list, of the greatest films of all time; Citizen Kane is celebrating its 80th Birthday. As a cinephile who hasn’t seen the film on the big screen in over twenty years, I decided to attend the TCM classic big screen event. Wow, Citizen Kane holds up.  It’s dazzling and vividly cinematic. Orson Welles was obviously a boy genius; he made this masterpiece at only 25 years old, demonstrating a knowledge of visual storytelling way beyond his years and experience.  Utilizing just about every cinematic trick and device known in 1941, and many never seen before, Citizen Kane still looks innovative. All of Welles’ collaborators are fantastic and elevate the excellence of the film, but none are more important than cinematographer, Gregg Toland: Deep focus, lap dissolves, swish pans, low angle, mise-en-scenes and chiaroscuro lighting.

Re-watching Citizen Kane was like being back in film school; I am a madly enthusiastic nineteen-year-old at NYU. Watching it was especially rewarding because of the lackluster love for going to the movies, post-pandemic today. The energy of the storytelling, in Citizen Kane is more important than the story itself. In a film noted for its cinematic transitions, compression of time and use of flashback, acting and staging often take a backseat. That’s why it is so surprising that one of my favorite scenes is Kane’s freak-out scene, where he tears apart his wife’s room, smashing things, and literally ripping shelves off the wall. Seen mostly in one long shot without music and vigorously acted by a young Welles, playing an old man, it is riveting. The whole scene seems spontaneous, what you see on screen feels like the only take, it probably was.

There is much to learn about story telling in this virtuoso film, including the obligation to entertain and even spellbind an audience. Welles may have gotten a bad rap later in life, and he never lived up to the genius of his debut film, then again no one could –but when his light shone, it shined very bright. It blazed.

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