“Citizen Kane (1941)” Review

Eh, what? This is like a game of humiliation. What’s the worst thing someone who claims to be even mildly interested in cinema could confess to never having seen?

Why did I watch it?

Virtually every list of “100 Best Films of All Time” feature Citizen Kane. In most of them it’s at the top. I’ve never seen it.

Did it meet expectations?

Obviously it could not have more to live up to.

Another Orson Welles film, The Third Man, I also came to late. I’d heard much about it, but never seen it, despite it being written by Graham Greene (Brighton Rock is one of my favourite films). Yet after three viewings I still haven’t warmed to it. Oh, it’s beautifully lit, and photographed. I just, for some reason, don’t enjoy watching it.

Citizen Kane gripped me straight away, however. It opens like a fairy tale, segues into newsreal and is told through not-very-linear flashbacks connected by a present day (1941) newspaper investigation. Well, I don’t need to tell you about the film, you’ll have seen it already; but the way it build up the picture of Kane, whose story we know the end of from the beginning, was incredibly effective. Welles is superb – in fact all the cast are, taking on their characters at greatly differing ages. The cinematography and the design is all top notch; you can see why it’s a classic. But most of all, how relevant it all seems, now more than ever. So fresh.

All this time I’ve been failing to get round to watching it, I’d been trying to avoid spoilers as to who (or what) is Rosebud, so, to my great satisfaction, I remained in suspense throughout.

You should watch it if…

  • You have any interest in the techniques of storytelling in cinema
  • You’d enjoy seeing a brilliant told fictional biopic, a proper tragedy
  • You want to gain a powerful insight into the character and behaviour of those with power and influence

You shouldn’t watch it if…

  • Um…
  • Um…
  • Um…. Well, I guess, if you don’t like cinema.

Next up: Chappie (2015).

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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