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Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
Orson Welles
Joseph Cotten as Jedediah Leland
Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane
Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane
Ruth Warrick as Emily Monroe Norton Kane
Ray Collins as James W. Gettys
Erskine Sanford as Herbert Carter
Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein
William Alland as Jerry Thompson
Paul Stewart as Raymond
George Coulouris as Walter Parks Thatcher
Fortunio Bonanova as Signor Matiste
Gus Schilling as The Headwaiter
Philip Van Zandt as Mr. Rawlston
Georgia Backus as Bertha Anderson
Storyline: A group of reporters are trying to decipher the last word ever spoken by Charles Foster Kane, the millionaire newspaper tycoon: "Rosebud." The film begins with a news reel detailing Kane's life for the masses, and then from there, we are shown flashbacks from Kane's life. As the reporters investigate further, the viewers see a display of a fascinating man's rise to fame, and how he eventually fell off the top of the world.
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Why the viewers of Citizen Kane are an essential part of the film
Famously in the film Citizen Kane the title character Charles Foster Kane dies in his bed, muttering "Rosebud" and dropping a snow globe, without anybody other than Kane being visible in the room. Yet the whole film is based on the premise that "Rosebud" was Kane's last word and a reporter tries to find out the meaning of the word by interviewing people who knew him. So how could he do this if nobody heard him say the word? Towards the end of the film the butler claims that he was in the room when Kane died. We never saw him in the bedroom but not the whole room was shown to us, so it is very much possible. But why is it that he wasn't shown to us being in the room when Kane died? Given how extremely well thought through the film is it is more than likely that this wasn't only done intentionally, but with a purpose.

The film mostly is told to us (quite literally) from a subjective point of view and through opinions of people who knew Charles Foster Kane. And Kane was a different kind of person depending on who told the story. A main message of the film - so to speak - is that there is no actual picture of a person, there are just many different fragmented pictures of which none are true or false.

In the very first scene of the film we see a sign that says "No Trespassing". This sort of makes us the intruders to Xanadu and to Kane's life. The camera goes through his garden around the castle leading into the castle. So in the beginning we, like, become another one of those subjective witnesses who try to get the "full picture" and who eventually will form an opinion about this person. And to include the viewer into this bunch of unreliable witnesses and to manifest the concept that we are in the same position as all of those characters who told us THEIR story of Kane's life, the viewer obviously (for now) is the only witness to the first act of 'Citizen Kane' and the last chapter of Kane's life. It is this very event that gets the stone rolling. It makes us a witness and now the investigation of Kane's past life can begin.

Now if you think of the interviewer/reporter who asks the people for Kane's story, we mostly see him from behind with the camera looking over his shoulders. Or he is obscured by shadows, a hat and (observating) glasses. Often he simply is off-screen altogether and we apparently are the interviewees' only listeners. The poor man is pretty much faceless. One could say that the interviewer, who never is fleshed out as a character - if you can even call him a character with an own identity - is taking the position of the viewer who witnessed his last word and who wants to find out what it means.

You could look at it as an inside joke by Welles, that the very premise of the film is based on what initially looks like a goof. He waits until the last interview to tell us that the butler was actually in the room to witness the word, and now the film doesn't need us as witnesses anymore. We are done being witnesses, as now we have created our own individual image of Charles Foster Kane in our mind, based on everything we saw and heard. Maybe soon another viewer will trespass the the barriers of Xanadu, wondering who this man was. And this time he will walk up to us and ask us who Charles Foster Kane was, and we will be glad to tell him.
A must film for any film maker
There's something worth stealing from Citizen Kane if you're a film maker. What else can you say about this film except for it being the greatest gift one can give to the film industry. Having it have been a box office bomb when it opened in LA in the 1940's only adds to the films greatness. Citizen Kane was before its time and still remains today a movie marvel. There is not a single film school in the World that will not show this film at least twice to its students. A perfect film to watch and discuss for the entire class period. Citizen Kane has more examples of modern movie making than any other film made before or after.
More to Citizen Kane than meets the eye...yet more direct than the modern crap covering screens
Citizen Kane was one of the first movies to portray the American Dream as anything less than attractive. As a child, Kane is fully happy as he plays in the snow outside the family's home, even though his parents own a boarding house and are quite poor. He has no playmates but is content to be alone because peace and security are just inside the house's walls. When Thatcher removes Kane from this place, he's given what seems like the American dreamâ€'financial affluence and material luxury. To most this would seem to be a piece of Heaven blessing them with good fortune for a happy life. However, Kane finds that those things don't make him pleased, and the exchange of emotional security for financial security is ultimately unfulfilling. The American dream is an empty, hollow shell for Kane. As an adult, Kane uses his money and power not to build his own happiness but to either buy love or make others as miserable as he is. When one watches the movie it seems that his purchasing of the newspaper was a fun venture. But if you look closer into the reality of the film, the newspaper was simply a means of touching thousands of people, and ultimately gaining their affection. Kane's wealth isolates him from others throughout the years, and his life ends in loneliness at Xanadu. He dies surrounded only by his possessions, poor substitutions for true companions. His last word is "Rosebud." Child hood and that which he missed out on. "I could have been great man without all of this money."
A case study in projection
I rented this movie almost accidentally on the route back from shooting pool, without any preconceptions of what it was about, although I was very aware it had been dubbed "the greatest film ever" by many.

Basically, the film asks a highly abstract question of whether we can reconstruct a puzzle from a set of available pieces: are the pieces independent or can there be a piece which fundamentally affects the reconstruction? It also presents a very specific example of how this kind of projection applies to human psychology: can there be a single event or item, a "rosebud", such that a man's life cannot be wholly understood without it? We all project our persona every day to our fellow human beings, but no one else really knows what's running in our minds as we lay in bed in the evening: the portions of our minds with no trespassing.

I especially like how this theme is shown on so many levels at once. At the bottom, the reporter is trying to reconstruct Kane's life by anecdotal evidence; Kane's readers are trying to reconstruct the world state by Kane's newspaper; and finally, we the viewers are trying to reconstruct the meaning of the film by watching it. The film was based on the media mogul William Randolph Hearst, whose persona the writers first shattered to pieces and then reconstructed to form Charles Foster Kane.

An interesting add to the interpretation (forgot the name of the critic behind it) is that the whole movie is imagination, or self-inspection, by Kane himself in seek of his rosebud. In this case, the unseen Thompson could be seen as Kane himself, trying to find his lost childhood innocence from the inner depths of his mind.
There are two periods of film history: Before-CK and After-CK.
I'm not in the habit of granting gold, silver and bronze. In this case I'll make an exception for this is an exceptional experience. I watched this film many times. Lately, I found myself crying for no apparent reason while watching it. It must be the Stendhal syndrome has dawn on me I guess. There are two periods of film history: Before-CK and After-CK.

My guess is it still is ahead of its time just as Van Gogh was 100 years ahead of his time. Nowadays, his painting he could never sell himself are breaking record prices at auctions.

Years from now, the general public will demand to be taken beyond this milestone. As of now, it still is "art-house" stuff for students and intellectuals.
A masterpiece
"Rosebud" marked the last words of Orson Welles' character in his debut motion picture Citizen Kane one of the best movies ever made. The movie stars Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane a newspaper tycoon who recently passed away and a whole lot of reporters scramble to find out what the last words "Rosebud" really meant, not only that it also tells the major events that happened in his life. The movie stars Orson Welles in a superb performance as Kane a man who not only wanted to become a newspaper tycoon but also wanted to become the governor of New York state but unfortunately for him lost the election. The movie combines a lot of genres such as drama, romance, comedy, mystery and suspense. Writers Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles made a screenplay that was very suspenseful and interesting and the most important part was what Kane's last utterance "Rosebud" really meant. There was a lot of other good performances throughout Joseph Cotten (in his film debut), Agnes Moorehead, Dorothy Comingore, and especially the director, producer and star Orson Welles. the movie may seem a little confusing at times but it still is a great movie.
An Expert On What People Will Think
The problem with writing about a film like Citizen Kane is that with 809 previous comments on the boards here, there is little that hasn't been said already. The best you can do is not look at any others and express your own thoughts your own way.

I've always felt the real reason that William Randolph Hearst so bitterly resented Orson Welles's masterpiece is that it got really too close to his own soul for him to be easy. Most folks who talk about Citizen Kane go for the obvious target, Welles's depiction of Marion Davies (Susan Alexander) as a no talent gold digger. In fact Welles himself in later years said he thought he was unfair to Davies then in Dorothy Comingore's performance.

What Welles showed in Charles Foster Kane was the insincerity of his beliefs. The key line in Citizen Kane I've always thought was what Joseph Cotten said that his friend Charlie Kane had a lot of opinions, but didn't believe any of them. To this day serious biographers of Hearst still wonder exactly what he did believe when the day was done.

Citizen Kane came up with a host of Oscar nominations, but only took home one award for original screenplay for Welles and Herman Mankiewicz. Original it certainly was in concept and execution.

The role that was written by Welles and Mankiewicz and directed by Welles for Welles is one of the greatest roles ever written for any film actor. The technique of Citizen Kane is always discussed, the flashbacks told from many points of view for the audience to get a grasp of what the title character was all about. What's not discussed is Welles himself.

What he does in fact is give several performances of the same man in one film. Welles reinterprets Kane five or six times depending on whose flashback we're seeing. He's a scared child being taken from his parents, he's a rich frat boy and incorrigible scamp as seen by George Couloris the J.P. Morgan like banker, he's an idealist and crusader as seen by his business manager Everette Sloane, a man with no core set of beliefs who will do anything to bend the public to approval by his closest and maybe his only real friend Joseph Cotten, a lonely man with a compulsion for real love by Dorothy Comingore, and as an aging tyrant by butler Paul Stewart. Welles makes every one of these Kanes come alive and each relates to the other.

The names of all those I've mentioned in the cast before were from Welles's Mercury Theater Company, nearly all went on to substantial movie careers. Others from the cast who did are Ray Collins, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, and Erskine Sanford. I don't think any other film comes close to introducing so many talented players to the screen.

The film begins with the aged Kane's death and that single word 'Rosebud' which sends everyone scrambling to find out just what he had on his mind in his final moments on earth. Those searching never do find out, but you the audience does and the unveiling of Charles Foster Kane's inner soul is something once seen and never forgotten.
Narrative and Eye Disconnect
Spoilers Herein.

This an extremely influential film, by one of the very few inventors of cinema. But I do not think it is Welles' best. (That's either `Othello' or `Lady from Shanghai' depending on your religion.)

First of all, this is not the work of a genius, but the excellent product of three committed artisans: Welles, Tobin and Mankiewicz.

Mankiewicz, with his brother, were the industry's working intellectuals. Here (aided by Houseman), he simply got a client intelligent enough to know what was up. Similarly with Tobin, who was the Sascha Vierny of his day. These two men pulled on Welles, but as we will see, in independent directions.

The story, Hearst and all that, is irrelevant except for the notion that a writer in the right place can create reality if willing to pay the price. The acting is fine of course, uncharacteristically abstract -- but that's hardly innovative nor groundshaking. No, what makes this film important are two features, and the failed relationship between them.

The first of these is the incredibly complex narrative structure. Things that are normally nested frames: a reminiscent flashback, a text annotated with pictures... are here multiply set up and in turn enfolded into the film proper. We see a newsreel, whose footage later appears in the `real' action; we have a recalled death vision of a childhood but that becomes untenably self-critical; we see her singing and again from her perspective. We have several on-screen narrators but each gets swallowed. There are so many narrative devices at work it keeps us spinning, sledding as each comes into play and is then reabsorbed. The puzzle is assembled several different ways. Nowhere else is such narrative cleverness been even attempted, not by Lynch, Bergman, Wenders, anyone.

The other innovation is the breaking of convention with the eye of the camera. The camera takes positions -- physical and philosophical -- that were previously utterly unknown. Previously, the camera was audience supplemented by `context' shots: perspectives that a human observer might not see but that seemed natural. Now, the camera is something unto itself that we have to accommodate. The camera does things no human would or could. It sometimes (often!) sees two things simultaneously, something that never happens with the natural eye. It has a curiosity that we would not have directed. The eye defines the lighting, not the other way around -- here everything is colored not by what it is, but by how the film's eye changes it.

Both of these experiments are masterful. They changed the world of films, and hence dreams, and hence all of abstract thinking forever.

But the flaw, the lethal problem with this film is that the two experiments have independent lives. They are not coordinated beyond some fairly easy touchpoints and then only in the simplest of ways: an image that is being described by a speaker and the nature of the newsreel. It is as if there were TWO geniuses at work, each doing something important and neither communicating with the other. So when there is a shift or a trick in the narrative, the eye is ignorant of it.

But hey, it was just the man's first film. He quickly fixed that in `Othello' and especially `Shanghai.' The merger of eye and narrative is the real revolution. `Kane' raised the question, which is why it is important. Tarkovsky, some Bergman, Malick, Greenaway have subsequently succeeded with this merger using different devices, but the master is Kurosawa. Welles made Kurosawa possible. It all starts here, but only as a promise. In real terms, the film is a failure.
tough sledding
I have an observation concerning Rosebud (and I don't mean that story about Marion Davies). Everyone seems to assume that Kane saying "Rosebud" means he was thinking of the one time in his life when he was totally happy and had what he wanted. For years I have also assumed that. The other day something occurred to me and I am curious to know if it has occurred to anyone else.

When Kane first meets Susan Alexander he says he is on his way to (or coming from? I don't recall which) a warehouse where his childhood belongings are stored which he has not seen in many years. He doesn't mention the sled, but presumably that is the one thing which drew him to the warehouse. Kane is splashed and Susan laughs at him and one things leads to another. But my point is this: Kane would never have met Susan but for Rosebud. If Kane never met Susan he would never have been caught in the "love nest" with her and lost the election for governor. Kane might have had another mistress, but this seems unlikely. Kane is not very interested in sex - perhaps because he feels he is making love to the whole world. His interest in Susan is primarily idealized and not physical. So but for the meeting Susan, Kane would likely not have had a scandal and would have been elected governor. We are told he would then have almost certainly been elected President. Also he would not have lost his wife and his son would not have been killed in the car accident. As President, Kane could have been the most powerful man in the world. Instead he loses this chance, loses his wife and loses his son - all because he happened to be on a certain street at a certain moment. And the reason he was on that street at that moment was Rosebud!

So maybe when Kane says "Rosebud" he is not thinking of when he was a carefree lad playing in the snow. Maybe he realizes that because of Rosebud his whole life went spinning in a completely different direction from what it otherwise would have taken. By pure accident Rosebud ruined his life and shut him off forever from everything he otherwise could have been and could have accomplished. And maybe that is why "Rosebud" is the last word he speaks.

But if this is true (and it seems quite logical to me) then why does no one else comment upon it? Why has no one spotted it? Or has someone I just don't know it? Or could it be that this is the kind of truth that no one wants to face? That all of our lives are determined more by blind, idiot accident than by design or purpose.
"Citizen Kane" is possibly the single most "important" film of this century. Setting aside the (then) controversial subject matter and the grief Welles went through over this film, watch the film at least once for sheer enjoyment. The black & white cinematography is brilliant, the direction is smooth, and the key players all turn in outstanding performances. Orson Welles richly deserved his Oscar for Best Actor this time around. Even the makeup, while seeming "overdone" by today's standards, is effectively used. This movie belongs in every movie lover's library!
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