CITIZEN KANE (1941)
Starring- Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore
I'm going film school on your ass this week, kids. I know it sounds super pretentious of me to say this movie is one of the greatest ever made, but I was in film school once, and I really do appreciate this as one of the best films of all time. Sadly, Orson Welles peaked at the age of 26 with his work as Director, writer and star of this masterpiece. I guess I better get cracking, since I turn 27 in March.
I digress, this film is amazing in almost every regard, especially when you consider a 26 year old kid made it. Citizen Kane is the story of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (based on real-life media baron, William Randolph Hearst) and the search for the meaning of his last word "Rosebud." Most of the film is told in flashback, as an unseen reporter interviews those close to Kane for clues as to Rosebud's identity. Welles masterfully crafts the mystery, and drops hints along the way as we are taken through Kane's successful and also turbulent rise and fall from power.
Welles plays Kane at all stages of life (except his youth) remarkably well, and his supporting cast gives him plenty to play off of. Many of the actors in the film are veterans from Welles' Mercury Radio company, and their pre-existing rapport is evident in their onscreen interactions. Joseph Cotten's work with Welles especially stands out. (See my first movie of the week for another Welles/Cotten classic)
While Welles deserves much of the credit for Citizen Kane, he would have been lost in his first film effort without a few select individuals. Cinematographer Gregg Toland creates some of the most iconic shots ever committed to celluloid, and Robert Wise's editing is fabulous. It's not surprising that both men were nominated for Oscars. Wise eventually won as a director. The script also received polish from Herman Mankiewicz who claimed sole authorship of the script. History has come out in favor of co-authorship for Welles and Mankiewicz, with much of the dialogue being credited to Mankiewicz.
All of the scandals surrounding this movie aside, it is a great work of filmmaking in every facet of the trade. See it again, or for the first time, and try to figure out what Rosebud is before the big reveal at the end.
Things to watch for-
The depth of field shot that opens the film with the snow globe
Bernard Hermann's amazing score
Agnes Moorhead (Bewitched's Endora) as Kane's mother
"I don't think there's one word that can describe a man's life."