Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

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Mr Sausage
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Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#1 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Nov 25, 2019 5:57 pm

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domino harvey
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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#2 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 25, 2019 6:02 pm

I’m curious to hear from those who are really wild about this movie. I know it’s such a long standing “best” film that it may getting voted for by reflex at this point, but I’ve rarely encountered anyone who seemed all that passionate about it (and yet at least six of you placed it at number one, so obviously many of you are) even in comparison to the other Welles films of this decade (and for the record, I think it’s a great film, but not to the extent that I feel super compelled to ever vote for it over fifty-plus other great films from the 40s)

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#3 Post by FrauBlucher » Mon Nov 25, 2019 6:23 pm

I love this film and it is a great film but I just wonder if the myth of Citizen Kane is greater than the film itself

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#4 Post by Big Ben » Mon Nov 25, 2019 6:37 pm

Welles certainly didn't seem to think it was his best work and as I recall he publicly lamented that he was perceived as starting at the very top and working his way down with each subsequent project.
domino harvey wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 6:02 pm
I’m curious to hear from those who are really wild about this movie. I know it’s such a long standing “best” film that it may getting voted for by reflex at this point, but I’ve rarely encountered anyone who seemed all that passionate about it (and yet at least six of you placed it at number one, so obviously many of you are) even in comparison to the other Welles films of this decade (and for the record, I think it’s a great film, but not to the extent that I feel super compelled to ever vote for it over fifty-plus other great films from the 40s)
My Video Production teacher in High School was crazy about Citizen Kane and we did an entire blow by blow of it in class for some time. Speaking personally I think it's a great indication of what Welles would give us later in films that I personally consider superior like Chimes at Midnight or Touch of Evil. I think Citizen Kane is one of those things that's easily identifiable as "good" because it has so much going for it rather than one particular aspect that anyone remembers and can single out.
FrauBlucher wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 6:23 pm
I love this film and it is a great film but I just wonder if the myth of Citizen Kane is greater than the film itself
Part of me wonders if it's treated this way because it was simply elevated at the time by scandal alongside being a great film. Hearst trying to destroy Welles probably helped it, at least in the long run as it added to it's mystique. Nothing adds to a film's stature than a long standing mythos and well Welles had that up the wazoo.


Ray Carney doesn't like it though!

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#5 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 25, 2019 7:07 pm

It's funny, I'm not sure I'd trust the tastes of anyone who didn't like Citizen Kane, but I'd also prob say the same for those who consider it their favorite film!

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#6 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:26 pm

I used to adore the film, and still enjoy it, but in recent years as other films have come along to really flesh out fuller characters over the course of a life, I’ve become more disengaged from Kane’s characterization. I realize that this is kind of the point, but I used to have more respect and sympathy for him throughout the film, and so while the whole film together is brilliant there are some parts that don’t move me as much as they once did. Where the film continues to succeed is in its summative power of innocence lost, and reducing the moral decay that comes with becoming broken by life down to its skin and bones, like peeling back an onion until there’s only a universal layer of harmless humanity ripe with possibilities for experience, moral growth, and identity shaping. To see fate take Kane down one forced path without his agency doesn’t stir resentment but does place him on a trajectory where he must contend with unique variables that muscle his ego and put him in a position to focus on excellence, selfish forms of achievement, rather than social or selflessly romantic areas that a position with less stressors may have supported. At least one of his relationships is loving, but he can’t sustain it. One must be left wondering if this is due to aspects of his conditioned self or his innate self, a question for all of us regardless of position or socioeconomic status, but all that matters is that it started with a universal beginning in untainted youth, a nostalgia for that time of feeling before life took its course on grating our existential wounds and caused the implementation of defense mechanisms in a shell that eventually would be gnawed down to the bone too.

The film continues to work for me in the way it humbly doesn’t even try to invest us in the span of this character’s life, but instead show the key points- or so we think- of resilience, passion, and withering, without ever getting to know the man. Welles seems to understand that it would be inauthentic to try to get to know a life through the medium and so he comically contextualizes Kane through the subjective eyes of others. The focus then becomes almost solely behavioral observations and omitting the emotional subjective experiences of Kane is itself an unreliable method that voids any claims in the absence of a significant portion of a human being: ones true convictions and morals outside of a behaviorist lens. Still, sometimes the outside perspective paints a truer portrait that we’d like to think, and while there are certainly some events and interactions that may evoke a few moral judgments through action, the collective accounts build to the joke of giving up hope at true knowledge by the reporter, because how can anyone really know anyone else? But we all started from the same place, with the same simple pleasures, fears, longings, and will likely all end the same way, like Kane. I can identify with this nostalgia, the pain of wrestling with one’s life on life’s terms, and the harm to oneself and others that has been left in the dust of any life lived long enough to know a few people and do a few things. But mostly I love this way of looking at biopics and the idea of taking an objective summarization of a life as impossible, with the exception of the humanist lens that all people have dignity and worth. The sled is that sobering reminder of this uniting experience crashing through the joke of a fragmented narrative, and it hits closer to home because of this juxtaposition.

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#7 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:55 pm

I think that’s an interesting point about Kane being seen primarily from the outside and that still having a degree of truth. Shades of the truism “We judge ourselves on our intentions and others on their actions,” perhaps. No one character may know or understand the totality of Kane, but the potentially unwelcome truth is that so it goes for all of us and to all of us. As the audience member, we are privileged with the fullest portrait, but I’m not sure we know any more or less in a functional way about the man than those who had less info but knew enough. Which is why the revelation of “Rosebud” is a bit facile— yes, after all it turns out he longed for the youth long-passed and the opportunities not taken, but in the end all that counts is the man, not the boy, he was. CC my Godard quote about answers here too!

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#8 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:58 pm

This was, perhaps, the first "great movie" (TM) I ever saw. I loved it then (despite being prepared to reject it BECAUSE of its advanced billing) and still love it (when I re-visit it -- maybe once a decade). It remains my favorite Welles movie overall, probably primarily due to the performances. (I no longer believe in "greatest films ever" -- just in "films I love a lot").

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#9 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:28 pm

It's one of the many brilliances of Kane that it depicts human life without reducing it--even doing so by offering us a convenient reduction, one we find soon crumbles under scrutiny. Any single lense or framework used on Kane is inadequate to explain him; and yet taken all together, the multiple viewpoints the film offers don't prove any more adequate. Mostly they outline the complexity of the problem.

You grow to realize any account of Kane is an account of the teller's own life. The reflections on Kane are also self definitions, each person defining their life to the reporter through their take on Kane and what they understand to be his role in their life. For example, Jedediah's sense of his life having peaked early and fallen steadily ever since into disappointment is told through a narrative of The Fall of Kane, a bright, idealistic young man who disappointed and alienated his supporters by selling out his ideals and values...more or less. Kane evades even that narrative in the end, tho', Jedediah having to throw up his hands and admit defeat after recounting Kane's decision to finish the negative review. And Susan, ever the forward-moving girl with a survival instinct, tells hers as a seduction into and finally escape from control and stultification, where she finally learns to use her voice for her own purposes rather than someone else's. Her Kane is both charming seducer and rigid, looming jailer. In another movie, her walk down the hall away from Kane would be attended by soaring music and a crashing "The End" as she liberates herself. Far from Jedediah's bitterness, she's someone who rolls with the losses.

Even Kane's "Rosebud" is one more revealing but inadequate narrative of his life. He seems to be viewing his own life as a narrative of loss and emptiness that he sought but was never able to redress. Again, the brilliance in seeming to privilege Kane's story by making it the frame and the central mystery only for the answer to be equal parts illuminating and confounding--only one more story to add to the balance.

I don't know if it's one of my very favourite films, but, to throw in an unnecessary provocation: it's inestimably superior to How Green was My Valley. I'll take originality and invention, from form all the way to conceptual framework, over the traditional and the classical, no matter how well done they may be. It is astonishing for a film from this era to embrace ambiguity so thoroughly.

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#10 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:34 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:55 pm
As the audience member, we are privileged with the fullest portrait, but I’m not sure we know any more or less in a functional way about the man than those who had less info but knew enough. Which is why the revelation of “Rosebud” is a bit facile— yes, after all it turns out he longed for the youth long-passed and the opportunities not taken, but in the end all that counts is the man, not the boy, he was.
I think that's exactly right but I see that as a strength not a weakness. We don't know him at all, the composite we 'get' from the collective is itself a joke because it's not an accurate representation of who he is, just as we never really know what Rosebud actually means to him. The "revelation" of Rosebud is only facile if we choose to draw inference to the thoughts and feelings of Kane that we aren't afforded. We project our own nostalgia and longing for that innocence, the opportunity for a do-over, onto that symbol. It becomes a mirror for ourselves and then we choose a surface-level facile approach in its definition of simplifying while ignoring the complexities. All we really know is that Kane thought back to that moment of innocence, but the rest is a narrative we construct, just as we do with our own filtered nostalgia. It's specifically this incomprehensible significance placed on the object that makes the ending powerful, not the contrived simple reduction we place on it through fantastical estimation of a character's feelings and thoughts whom the entire narrative blocks us from truly knowing.

Edit: Sausage said it better, great post

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#11 Post by zedz » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:49 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:55 pm
I think that’s an interesting point about Kane being seen primarily from the outside and that still having a degree of truth. Shades of the truism “We judge ourselves on our intentions and others on their actions,” perhaps. No one character may know or understand the totality of Kane, but the potentially unwelcome truth is that so it goes for all of us and to all of us. As the audience member, we are privileged with the fullest portrait, but I’m not sure we know any more or less in a functional way about the man than those who had less info but knew enough. Which is why the revelation of “Rosebud” is a bit facile— yes, after all it turns out he longed for the youth long-passed and the opportunities not taken, but in the end all that counts is the man, not the boy, he was. CC my Godard quote about answers here too!
I think the 'Rosebud' reveal is something Welles has both ways.* It's on one level too simplistic and pat (especially if you just read it as "innocence lost"), but it's actually woven through the screenplay in a very subtle way that insists we take it seriously. It - or the scene in which we first see it - is evoked in a number of the third person flashbacks by characters who know nothing about it (for example, when Kane meets Susan Alexander, he's on his way to see it). (I haven't watched the film for years, but as I recall, the last time I saw it I believe I noted that every single flashback - and even the newsreel - in some way refers to that scene, which can't be a coincidence.) And that initial 'Rosebud' scene is the primal scene of the character's development, as he (incorrectly) sees it as a rejection by his mother instead of what it really is (a sacrifice to save him from his father). The key flaw of the character is explained several times by different characters, in a wide enough variety of ways that Mankiewicz and Welles cover their tracks, but each partial explanation works together to form a prismatic whole: that original 'betrayal', in which he sees himself 'sold off' by his mother, renders him unable to relate to others in a non-transactional way. He can't not buy other people's affections, and he can't trust anybody else to like him, let alone love him, without some form of transactional value. Thus every human relationship is poisoned at its root by incipient mistrust.

I think it's a beautifully constructed and masterfully executed film, but it's never been a favourite of mine.

* And so that final scene is a conjuror's double-bluff reveal of the story's actual lynchpin, which Welles immediately tosses away, saying "only kidding."

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#12 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 25, 2019 11:27 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:28 pm

I don't know if it's one of my very favourite films, but, to throw in an unnecessary provocation: it's inestimably superior to How Green was My Valley. I'll take originality and invention, from form all the way to conceptual framework, over the traditional and the classical, no matter how well done they may be. It is astonishing for a film from this era to embrace ambiguity so thoroughly.
As much as this forum likes Ford, I imagine it's still not much of a provocation here! I was kind of stunned, though, when I read one of Bogdanovich's later film books and he argued that the superior film won Best Picture, especially considering his close friendship to Welles

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#13 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Mon Nov 25, 2019 11:57 pm

I prefer the Ford, think it greater, and consider Welles my favorite filmmaker. It seems the more you love Welles, the more you consider How Green Was My Valley superior to Citizen Kane.

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#14 Post by domino harvey » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:00 am

I mean, I would have voted for Sgt York or Here Comes Mr Jordan over either, so it’s not even an issue for me!

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#15 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:15 am

HinkyDinkyTruesmith wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 11:57 pm
It seems the more you love Welles, the more you consider How Green Was My Valley superior to Citizen Kane.
I thought I loved Welles but now I’m not so sure since I can’t relate to that opinion

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#16 Post by nitin » Tue Nov 26, 2019 2:49 am

Yeah same here.

Was also going to post something but zedz has said everything I wanted to re the Rosebud ending.

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#17 Post by Roger Ryan » Tue Nov 26, 2019 10:02 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:34 pm
...We don't know him at all, the composite we 'get' from the collective is itself a joke because it's not an accurate representation of who he is, just as we never really know what Rosebud actually means to him.
This is why the penultimate shot in the film (a return to the opening shot of the "No Trespassing" sign) is more important than the "Rosebud" reveal. Thompson's quest is doomed from the start since it is a contrived angle to even try and fit a man's life into a newsreel let alone hang it on a single word. Note that Welles is setting up a juxtaposition between the old media (the newspaper) and the new media of the day (the newsreel). Despite the fact that Kane was a yellow journalist, his twice-daily publications had plenty of newsprint to cover the world in depth. In comparison, the newsreel can only present its content superficially (think of how Welles might have shown the life of Kane in a series of tweets today!). Rawlston's line "we've got to get something more into this newsreel..." should be heard as ironic since the very format is ill-suited for in-depth coverage. The information that Thompson is getting from Kane's surviving associates could never even be summarised in a newsreel which is what makes that single word so tantalizing to the new media providers: it's something simple to explain everything quickly. After the name of the sled is revealed to the audience, Welles reminds us with the "No Trespassing" sign that Kane is ultimately unknowable. I'm even of the belief that "Rosebud" is a mystery to Kane as well. The snowglobe triggers an association to the word for Kane, but it's likely he's forgotten that the word was emblazoned on his childhood sled; he himself is ruminating on the meaning during his last weeks on earth. Incidentally, the replacement sled that banker Thatcher gives the young Kane as a Christmas present is called "The Crusader".The name is only visible for a split second as the wrapping comes off, so this ironic turn remains nearly subliminal...at least until the viewer could freeze-frame the moment on home video.
Last edited by Roger Ryan on Tue Nov 26, 2019 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#18 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Nov 26, 2019 10:59 am

Roger Ryan wrote:
Tue Nov 26, 2019 10:02 am
therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:34 pm
...We don't know him at all, the composite we 'get' from the collective is itself a joke because it's not an accurate representation of who he is, just as we never really know what Rosebud actually means to him.
This is why the penultimate shot in the film (a return to the opening shot of the "No Trespassing" sign) is more important than the "Rosebud" reveal. Thompson's quest is doomed from the start since it is a contrived angle to even try and fit a man's life into a newsreel let alone hang it on a single word. Note that Welles is setting up a juxtaposition between the old media (the newspaper) and the new media of the day (the newsreel). Despite the fact that Kane was a yellow journalist, his twice-daily publications had plenty of newsprint to cover the world in depth. In comparison, the newsreel can only present its content superficially (think of how Welles might have shown the life of Kane in a series of tweets today!). Rawlston's line "we've got to get something more into this newsreel..." should be heard as ironic since the very format is ill-suited for in-depth coverage. The information that Thompson is getting from Kane's surviving associates could never even be summarised in a newsreel which is what makes that single word so tantalizing to the new media providers: it's something simple to explain everything quickly. After the name of the sled is revealed to the audience, Welles reminds us with the "No Trespassing" sign that Kane is ultimately unknowable. I'm even of the belief that "Rosebud" is a mystery to Kane as well. The snowglobe triggers an association to the word for Kane, but it's likely he's forgotten that the word was emblazoned on his childhood sled; he himself is ruminating on the meaning during his last weeks on earth. Incidentally, the replacement sled that banker Thatcher gives the young Kane as a Christmas present is called "The Crusader" (the name is only visible for a split second as the wrapping comes off, so this ironic turn remains nearly subliminal...at least until the viewer could freeze-frame the moment on home video).
Thanks for this, Roger! The idea that this tangible object becomes ironic in its application to comfortable meaning is very much what I see as the joke, but the Rosebud ending of pathos is complicated by that reading that suggests Kane himself isn't even clear in the source of his existential longing - in addition to us as viewers, and the various side characters, unclear themselves. If Kane is actually unable to match the tangible object of the sled, or awareness into the specifics of his emotional release, for the word that escapes him, his understanding of this longing and pain continues to by enigmatic in meaning to him even on his deathbed, which is probably truer to life and all the more soul-shattering in its overwhelming obscurity.

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#19 Post by Drucker » Tue Nov 26, 2019 1:27 pm

I consider myself one of the forum's Welles' devotees, so I'll chime in and say that my two cents is the film absolutely lives up to the hype. I am very drawn to the way it was made, and think what comes out of it is so lively, much more so than anything else Welles made.

While people here familiar with Too Much Johnson and Hearts Of Age know that it's obviously not true that Welles first got into film with Kane, reading The Making Of Citizen Kane is exhilarating, and there's a real sense that the film's production felt like the group flying by the seat of their pants. I'm especially drawn to Carringer's reading that the film is the result of working with significant limits. Unlike with the poor cuts to Ambersons, all of the limitations imposed on Kane from budgetary and external pressures really do work out. Start shooting the newsreel scenes without announcing to the studio. Cut out the political espionage. Make-do without sets that were too expensive. It packs so much energy into two hours, and yet the results from a storytelling standpoint are what Roger notes above: we learn so much about a man's life, but we are left with all of this mystery at the end.

I find Welles to be a consistent filmmaker, and the pacing of many of his films follow a similar trajectory. They start with a bang, there is early energy, conflict emerges, and in the second to last section there is a substantial cool-down before the finale. This plays out really well in films like Macbeth and Chimes At Midnight. But it's a template he perfects with Kane, which brings me to my last point. Most of Welles' films don't reflect his true 'vision' for what they were to be, and so that has to be reckoned with when evaluating his work. But with Citizen Kane, it's exactly what it was supposed to be. We are not left with pieces of a greater whole, and there is no 'what if' with the film. Nearly 80 years later, it stands out from films of its time, has an immediate energy, is at times hilarious, and at other times quite sad, and still inspires quite a bit of discussion. Welles may think and feel that other films were greater and he had much more to contribute to the world of cinema than merely his first film, but Kane is a near-perfect work of art. And there is really nothing quite like it!

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Re: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

#20 Post by FrauBlucher » Tue Nov 26, 2019 5:01 pm

Nice going Roger and Drucker. You guys wrote what I always think of Kane. Knowing everything about Kane but he still remains a mystery. Which btw, I feel that way about Welles himself, which may not be a fair or accurate point but his persona gives off that air of mystery to me. All the tangible objects in Kane are just a hint but give us nothing conclusive. Hearst/Kane was a master manipulator which Welles wants the audience to see first and foremost. The only thing Welles drives us directly to is Kane’s comeuppance, which really is a theme in Welles’ canon

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