Time: 119 Minutes
Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane
Joseph Cotten as Jedediah Leland
Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane
Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane
Ruth Warrick as Emily Monroe Norton Kane
Ray Collins as Jim W. Gettys
Erskine Sanford as Herbert Carter
Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein
William Alland as Jerry Thompson
Paul Stewart as Raymond
George Coulouris as Walter Parks Thatcher
Director: Orson Welles
The investigation of a publishing tycoon’s (Orson Welles) dying words reveals conflicting stories about his scandalous life.
Citizen Kane has been widely called ‘the greatest movie of all time’, even if a lot of people haven’t seen it, they certainly heard of it somewhat. Its at the point where a phrase became associated with it: “____ is the Citizen Kane of ____”. I remember when I watched it for the first time earlier this year, and being quite surprised how much I liked it. I decided to revisit it in the lead up to Mank, the David Fincher directed film about the man who wrote Citizen Kane. I wouldn’t place Citizen Kane as one of my favourite movies of all time or anything, but I still think that the movie is still quite great.
Citizen Kane is a 2 hour long character study, and a great one at that. It has modern day parallels, with themes that are still relevant to this day. Much of the film’s success has to do with the script from Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles, which was very well put together. One of its elements that ended up being quite influential was its inventive narrative structure and style which makes it much more modern and energetic that you’d expect it to be considering that it was released back in 1941. It is a rise and fall fictional biopic but is done in an unconventional style. It certainly must’ve been quite the experience for people who watched it back in the 40s. The film begins with the death of Charles Foster Kane and a reel of an overview of his life. Then we follow journalists investigating who Charles Foster Kane was from multiple different perspectives of people who knew him, and particularly try to find out what his dying word meant. It’s quite engaging and I was generally interested throughout, even with some moments that I wasn’t as invested in.
The acting was great from everyone, especially as most of the actors hadn’t worked on movies before. Of course the standout is Orson Welles, who plays central character Charles Foster Kane excellently. It really was an eye-catching and iconic performance, that personifies the complex and ambiguous protagonist, greatly.
Orson Welles directs Citizen Kane excellently, it is brilliant on a technical level, and this is for sure one of the best directorial debuts of all time. I won’t dwell too long on the directional aspects because much of them have been talked about plenty of times already. Many of the filmmaking techniques were quite ahead of its time and really inspired and influenced the way cinema would be created. The cinematography is fantastic, the lighting and use of shadows were stunning, and the angles and shot types were quite unique. Welles’s direction is also surprisingly snappy and straight to the point, very effective. The editing is innovative for sure, and some of the production designs were well done. The direction still holds up quite well to this day.
Citizen Kane is a classic for a reason, with its excellent direction, acting and script, and its widespread influence across media and cinema. Sure, I would not consider it one of the greatest movies of all time by any means and wouldn’t watch it a lot, but I do somewhat understand its acclaim. I certainly understand if you watch it and you’re let down from what you’ve seen, and find it to be boring, underwhelming or something else similar. Nonetheless, I think it is worth watching at some point at least, even just to see what all the fuss is all about. Though I do highly recommend going into the movie not with the expectation that you’ll be seeing the greatest movie of all time, just go in expecting a really good movie instead.