is Citizen Kane the best film ever made?
What do you think? Is it terrific, is it really? Well the poster certainly says so.
I've just been doing some studying on the film and how film historians that approach the subject from an aesthetic viewpoint do believe that it is terrific. But can film be considered art when it is first and foremost a commercial product?
Having watched the film fairly recently I would say that whilst it is most definitely NOT in my top ten all-time favourites (or top twenty for that matter), I can see why it has this almost universal appeal.
I would also like to stake two guesses:
The first being that critics and film historians like it much more than your average person. And,
That men like it more than women....and hold your bloody horses, I'm not being sexist, it's just that it really is a patriarchal film...it's all about men, men, men and power, power, power with some money, money, money thrown in for good effect....yadda, yadda, yadda!
The only women that feature in Citizen Kane are his Mum (who gives him away! TO THE BANK!), his first wife Emily (a 1941 trophy wife who he cheats on) and Susan, his second wife who he treats like an idiot. Charmed Mr Kane, I am not.
Maybe when you look a little deeper into the history behind this movie it becomes more apparent as to what a masterpiece it is. Also you have to remember that this was 1941, this film is way ahead of its time for 1941 and also stands the test of time with its universal storyline of greed, consumption and the hollowness of capitalism.
There stands Kane in his Xanadu (can't write it without singing it Olivia NJ style!), filled with expensive objects of beauty (including poor old Susan), miserable as sin and yearning for his Rosebud which turns out (WARNING:::::::SPOILER ALERT) to be his flippin' childhood sleigh! I mean, really, what does that tell you about the over-consumed and over-consuming?
Orson Welles was given free reign by RKO to do as he liked on this film, which is astonishing when you consider this was the era of the Hollywood studio, and their usual tight controls. Also it is hard to see Citizen Kane as a 'mainstream' Hollywood movie, it definitely fits more into the 'arthouse' movie camp and yet it WAS a Hollywood movie through and through, Welles was able to cross these boundaries only because, one presumes, he had the free reign to do so.
Interesting also to note that on its release in 1941 the film made a loss, it was nowhere near a commercial success. Maybe the new-fangled filmic devices used by Welles such as newsreel montages, deep-focus cinematography and the cutting away of time was too much for the average 1940s cinema audience and yet it is these and other 'Wellesian' touches that impress upon the critics year after year.
I also find it fascinating that Welles just kind of slouched off into professional obscurity after Kane, he travelled around only making films when he had the money to do so and that wasn't often. Again I think he was ahead of his time; he didn't want to be told what to do by some ill-informed studio head, he wanted artistic freedom and Hollywood certainly wasn't going to give it to him.
In my opinion it is a 'must watch' film, it's a bit shouty for my taste but if you can get past that and follow the story, without wincing at all the SHOUTING, then you will find it to be quite a sad tale. Not feeling to sorry for Mr Kane though, he was a bit of an idiot really, now wasn't he.