Citizen Kane (DVD, 2002, 3-Disc Set, Gold Edition Box Set; Includes RKO 281) Reviews
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Citizen Kane (DVD, 2002, 3-Disc Set, Gold Edition Box Set; Includes RKO 281)

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Why You Should Watch Kane!

Mar 5, 2000 (Updated Jan 25, 2001)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Classic in filmmaking, great cinematography, excellent plot structure and editing, excellent acting, near perfect film

Cons:Not sure what the purpose of the c*ckatoo is near the end

The Bottom Line: A true film classic that is required viewing by all film lovers.


Reviewing Citizen Kane would be like reviewing icons like the Bible or Shakespeare. I might as well go to the Sistine Chapel and review Michelangelo's Creation for that matter. Orson Welles, in his first film, created a masterpiece, which has been universally regarded as the greatest film ever made, so don't expect a traditional review here.

Kane has been dissected, analyzed, studied and reviewed by so many critics and film students over the past 50 years that there's nothing I could add of significance to better understand its superior cinematography with its groundbreaking achievements in low angle shots and deep focus, its elaborate circular plot structure, and numerous memorable images and moments.

Instead, I thought it'd be worth going over the reasons why you should rent Citizen Kane, or why some of you will find it necessary to re-watch it … and maybe even purchase your own copy.

Historic

You may want to watch Kane for its blatant historic references to the Bill Gates of the Depression Era, namely William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper publisher who built the castle at San Simeon as a monument to opulence. While RKO Radio Pictures gave Orson Welles, famous through stage and radio (recall the "War of the Worlds" broadcast that caused a panic), free reign to create any picture he wanted, they almost pulled the plug for fear of retaliation by Hearst. Welles never had the same freedom to create his films again.


Study in film technique

Are you a student of film? This doesn't have to be a formal study, but if you're serious about film, Citizen Kane is required viewing! And if you're REALLY serious about film, you might as well purchase your own copy to watch over and over. Kane is so layered and deep that you will see something new each time you watch.

Welles opened new vistas with Kane, using all the visual and sound technology he could gather and created new ways for the camera to create on the medium. I cannot recall any black and white film that is as interesting cinematically. Examine Kane's use of light and shadow immediately following the newsreel sequence, or in the library with the symbolic shaft of light pouring down on Thatcher's journal.

The camera angles alone are worth studying, as Welles was not satisfied with traditional static flat angles. Consistently the camera varies from low angle shots to straight shots to high or overhead angle shots while also changing distance. Not to mention the use of deep focus which at one point allows us to see a "defeated" Kane walk towards the windows which make him appear diminutive, and then see him recover his size and power when he returns to the table.

Film references

All filmmakers have studied Citizen Kane to learn how to make an effective film. Many directors will pay homage to Kane:
· Structuring their films similarly -- Kurosawa's Rashoman comes to mind as we see the same situation re-played through various points of view
· Use of the "Rosebud" type motif -- a puzzle piece is presented near the beginning of the film that ties the plot together. Hitchcock used this idea over and over, though he termed it the "McGuffin"
· Classic scenes are mimicked -- many films begin similarly to Kane's opening shots of Xanadu with the camera tracking closer until it's inside. Note Speilberg's homage to Kane in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark as the Ark is loaded into a warehouse -- a parallel to the final scenes of Welles' masterpiece.
· Film techniques are duplicated -- filmmakers study Kane thoroughly just as earlier filmmakers studied Griffith's works. Note how most modern directors have adopted similar camera techniques: Scorcese, Speilberg, and Spike Lee especially use a lot of movement and varied camera angles.


So people won't think you're an idiot

Do you have friends who are film buffs? At some point they are certain to refer to Citizen Kane. If they find out that you haven't seen the film, they'll think that you are film illiterate. They may not come out and say so publicly, but trust me ... the thought will pass through their minds. They may even neglect to invite you to an outing to see a sophisticated film since you obviously don't appreciate artistic film. So don't put yourself in that position.


Appear cultured

Very closely related to the previous "not wanting to appear stupid" reasoning, this category means that you can refer to a few items in Citizen Kane AND whenever someone brings up the topic best movies you can automatically and knowingly respond with the acceptable mantra that Citizen Kane is the greatest movie of all time. Most everyone knows that reputable critics have rated Kane as the greatest movie of all time by for years. I believe that Light and Sound have rated it #1 since 1950 and just this past year the American Film Institute voted Kane into it's rightful #1 ranking.

Now if you really want to impress your film literate friends, toss in the name of cinematographer Gregg Toland since much of the film's uniqueness comes from his talents.

Entertaining

Can a black and white movie released in 1941 be entertaining?

YES (unless you're an idiot). Sorry, that was the film snob in me coming out; but I find it very entertaining. I've seen Citizen Kane over 25 times by now and continue to find new gems each time I watch it.

Do you ever find your mind wandering while you're watching a movie, or perhaps nod off a split second? I find that is pretty common -- especially when a film is predictable. I have found it impossible to daydream or nod off whenever I see Citizen Kane, however. There is far too much going on the screen and inside my mind. Citizen Kane is to film what Hamlet is to literature, so multiple showings can only enhance the enjoyment (if you're a serious film addict).


Summary

I'm sure that there are more reasons to see Citizen Kane than I have listed here. I'll edit some more in as I think of them, or as readers make comments or email me others. One thing that will not change though, is my conviction that everyone should watch Citizen Kane at least once in his or her lifetime. Serious film buffs are certain to watch it a number of times.

Is it the greatest film of all time? I'd probably vote that way myself… though I can't honestly say that it's my all time favorite. Smaltzy as it may sound, I've seen Casablanca more times than I have Kane. But Welles' masterpiece is required viewing for anyone who claims to love film.



Recommend this product? Yes

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CITIZEN KANE is Orson Welles's greatest achievement--and a landmark of cinema history. The story charts the rise and fall of a newspaper publisher who...
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