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A Movie You Must Watch: Citizen Kane

posted Mar 25, 2011, 7:25 PM by Golden Knight

By Christian Romo

             Citizen Kane is Orson Welles’s legacy. It’s difficult to imagine that a 24 year old director was given the helm of the largest movie project in history up until that point, but Welles came through by producing quite possibly the greatest film in American history.

            The film is an account of the life of the media emperor William Randolph Hearst, portrayed fictionally as Charles Foster Kane, the wealthiest man in America, played by Welles. The story is driven by a reporter assigned to figure out the true meaning of Kane’s puzzling last word: “rosebud”. The reporter meets with the most influential people in Kane’s life, including his best friend at the New York Daily Inquirer, his butler, his manager, and his second wife, Susan Alexander. Each recalls Kane in a different light. Bernstein, his manager, tells of a witty, exuberant Kane while Susan Alexander moans over Kane’s cold self-indulgence. The reporter never gets any answer he can work with, and though the origins of “rosebud” are eventually revealed, the metaphor is either hollow or something one could have already guessed.

            The film is laden with witty one-liners and classic, almost chilling quotations from Kane (“I think it might be fun to run a newspaper…”).It takes 25 minutes for Kane to make his first appearance on screen, but from the beginning Welles plays the colossal yellow journalist with aplomb. The ensemble has great chemistry, but no one gives a better performance than Dorothy Comingore, who plays the strong, tormented Susan Alexander. Her early years as Susan portray her as a flighty, Hollywood mannequin, but she eventually develops into the classic dramatic woman scorned. Taken at first watch, this movie is obviously well made.

            What makes it elite, however, is its style. Most black-and-white films feel understandably dated, but for a film that will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year, it was decades ahead of its time. Any film that uses multiple flashbacks or a narrative that freely jumps around the years should give all credit to Citizen Kane. Welles’s marvelous storytelling, gigantic sets, and impeccable delivery leave this film feeling fresh three generations later.

            Whether it was the greatest film in American history will be debated for years (it neither broke even at the box office nor won the Academy Award for Best Picture), but its importance is undeniable. Orson Welles’s portrayal of the Sultan of San Simeon is nothing less than triumphant.

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