Sunday, 3 January 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 110

Time to revisit a film that has had a huge impact on my life in terms of my film viewing and eventual career. I first saw this film 10 years ago as part of a film studies course I took at University. The course was the only one I really It opened my eyes to the language of film and how they are made. The first time I realised that a film could be more than just entertainment but a work of art. This appreciation for film that has developed over the years has steered me to my current job as General Manager of The Belmont. It has allowed me to indulge my love of movies and hopefully develop other peoples too.
But I'm digressing, time to review the movie;

28 - Citizen Kane - 4 stars
Will "The Greatest Film Ever Made", as many of the critics polls and lists often award, live up to its title?
It is a film that splits many people. Critics adore it, some hate it, a lot have never seen it.
Watching it again it is obvious that it is a film that is much easier to admire than to like or 'enjoy'.
From a filmmaking perspective it is an absolute marvel to behold. Probably as big a game-changer in its day as Avatar is today. It advanced the medium in terms of storytelling, camera shots and editing techniques such as dissolves (the initial fade up to Xanadu), montage (the breakfast scene), and most beautifully of all is the use of deep focus to create some stunning long shots. And all of this achieved by Welles at the age of 25!!! I'm coming up to my 30th birthday and it makes me feel lazy in comparison.
As for the story, it is more difficult to engage with. A reporter tries to discover the meaning behind 'Rosebud' and the real Charles Foster Kane behind the public image. The problem being that Kane is dead, and the stories about Kane are told by other people and therefore not from Kane's viewpoint, making it difficult for the audience to really connect with him (despite a great performance from Welles who plays him from 25 to 70, something that gets overlooked when people focus on his direction, production, writing, etc).
Towards the end of the film, the identity of 'Rosebud' is still elusive and the reporter remarks;
"Anyway, it wouldn't have explained anything... I don't think any word can explain a man's life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a... piece in a jigsaw puzzle... a missing piece."
To both the reporter, Kane remains an enigma or unsolvable puzzle... that is until the camera pans away and over the huge array of Kane's possessions until it lands on *spoiler cough cough*... I'm not going to tell you, go see the movie!
Now the audience has something tangible to work with but must draw their own conclusions as to what it symbolically represents.
This is what may frustrate modern audiences, some who demand that everything be spelt out to them in bold capital letters. There is a time for movies like this and a time for movies that make people use their brains and rewards them for it.
Personally I like a movie that gets people talking and provokes discussion after its finished, whether it's the true identity of Keyser Soze, what Bill Murray whispers to Scarlett at the end of Lost In Translation, or what is meant by Rosebud.
In closing, how best to describe Citizen Kane? It is similar to these 100 greatest film lists. When people vote for the 'best' films, they really are voting for their favourites. I do consider Kane to be one of the greatest films ever made, but in terms of enjoyment and if I was scanning my DVD collection for something to watch, it probably wouldn't be the first one picked off the shelf, so therefore I can only award it 4 stars.
That being said this is a film that everyone who is passionate about film should see at least once... that way you can make up your own mind and not have to go on what all the critics have written.

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