07 October 2021 908 Views

#TBT Why do I go on about Citizen Kane?

by James Murphy

..Because that film IS Cinema!..

Potted film school.

If you have not watched CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles; 1941)?

Then you are missing out. Big time! Here’s why:

    • It’s accessible. Contrary to popular narrative, this is not some elevated lengthy brain challenge. The movie is concise, clear and purposeful. A fast watch, easily digested and fun for that.
    • Legacy! You can see how its visual motifs influenced blockbuster movies. The closing shot in Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark is PURE Citizen Kane! Tim Burton’s fondness for abandoned mansions and newspaper piles dropping on street corners (BATMAN, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, MARS ATTACKS!) : all started with Orson Welles.

    • ITS MEDIA MESSAGE remains relevant, today, 80 years on. Fake news? Social media? All to some extent, prophetically foretold in CITIZEN KANE.
    • AUTEUR! The very idea of a movie starting up an empire but clashing with existing ranks in that order is very much a product of Orson Welles’ own narrative here. George Lucas took a similar path with STAR WARS.

    • EFFECTS / THEATRE: Welles pioneered film-making techniques in this movie which still have relevance in today’s cinema craft. Those are a product of stage work, too, binding the two mediums, forever.
    • ICONOGRPAHY: ‘ROSEBUD’! The falling snow globe. Montage! The image of a man growing older as the film progresses and both beginning and ending with – spoiler alert- the main character’s death? Everyone still copies those tropes. THIS is where Chris Nolan arguably has the genesis of some techniques which define his work, today? Martin Scorsese swears by Orson Welles’ work and watches ‘Kane anytime he cannot sleep. 

  • HISTORICAL AND METATEXTUAL: The story behind the making of this movie and how it was in effect ‘cancelled’ due to studio politics could not be more relevant today. Which is why people still make movies ‘about’ CITIZEN KANE. cf: MANK (David Fincher, 2020).

So yes. WATCH CITIZEN KANE. Or miss out on a gem in the history, legacy and future of motion pictures. Plus it’s FUN. Trust me 😉 



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