Citizen Kane (April Fool’s)

This poster does not seem to have anything in common with the movie.

Directed by Orson Welles

United States; 1941

119 min.

Starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, and Agnes Moorehead.

In Short: Often considered to be one of the greatest films of all time, Citizen Kane has begun to make me question my taste in films. How is it that everyone liked this film so much? While it has a few neat visual tricks that were probably considered groundbreaking at the time, the story is based on a dubious account of history, the acting is unimpressive, and none of the characters are the least bit sympathetic. Felt more like a Michael Bay film than classic Hollywood cinema.

Review: When I was a grade school boy, my teachers always told me never to judge a book by its cover. Now, at the ripe old age of 23, I have learned that the same should be said for DVD cases. When I rented this film from Blockbuster last night, the box described it as being a “highly involving drama” that “ranked among the greatest films ever made.” While it’s clear that Orson Welles was aiming for this, what the film actually turned out to be was a complete bomb. No pun intended.

The first problem is that none of the characters have any memorable attributes. All of them are played woodenly by pretty-faced young actors, teen heartthrobs who I would have guessed were not even born at the time this movie was made, but I guess anything is possible with makeup and CGI these days. The drama between the three characters, especially that between the lead male and supporting male, along with the lead male and supporting female, is completely superficial. It felt more like something from a bad romance novel than from one of the greatest films of all time.

While the film is renowned for its groundbreaking technique, I found the editing and shot composition to be more befuddling than anything. Welles sure employs a wide variety of camera angles, but the editing between them makes it difficult to discern the spaces between them. Also, the editing is much too fast for me to comprehend much of what is going on, making the scenes of violence nearly unwatchable.

The running time is also a major issue with the film. While the DVD case and everything I read said the film was a mere 119 minutes, it felt like it was at least 3 hours long, but that may have just been due to how bad the film was.  I experienced a similar feeling during Manos: The Hands of Fate, which I will admit was definitely a worse film than this technically, but is at least entertaining to laugh at in how incompetent the execution is. With Kane, the Hollywood pedigree and obviously large budget ensure that those involved were at least competent enough at their positions to ensure it wasn’t a complete embarrassment. Unfortunately, they couldn’t stop Orson Welles’ poor directorial decisions in this debacle.

The one thing that is particularly amazing about Citizen Kane is how accurately it predicted the United States’ eventual involvement in World War II, especially considering that its release predated the attack on Pearl Harbor by a full seven months. I can only wonder if a print got shipped to Japan somehow, and they decided to attack based on the strategy seen in this film.

Citizen Kane looks almost nothing like the DVD case at Blockbuster lead me to believe it would be. For one thing, I thought this was supposed to be in black & white? Instead it was in full color, and widescreen, too! I was pretty sure we learned in Film History class that studios didn’t start experimenting with widescreen until the 1950’s. Perhaps the fact that it was maybe the first major widescreen film helped establish its influence. Also, as mentioned before, I did not think this was going to be a war film. I almost got up halfway through to make sure the clerk had given me the right DVD, but was temporarily paralyzed by the film’s mediocrity.

What’s more disappointing is that I have quite liked some of the actors’ other projects. In particular, I thought Welles was great in Chasing Amy and Good Will Hunting, though I could’ve done without Gigli, which actually does make Citizen Kane look like the greatest film of all time in comparison. Joseph Cotton did what he could with his small part in The Virgin Suicides, and Agnes Moorehead was pretty good in The Aviator. What a shame that all of them are best known for starring in this massively over-hyped film.

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About Adam DiPiazza
I love Peach Snapple.

7 Responses to Citizen Kane (April Fool’s)

  1. Mac Colestock says:

    I can’t say I disagree. Cotton’s performance as the Blathering African Huntsman in George Lucas’ Moby Dick was fantastic, to say nothing of his Oscar-worthy appearance in Transformers. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Charlton Heston’s part in Kane though, seeing as how his act as the drunk Mexican investor pretty much carried the entire film.

  2. Stefan D. Byerley says:

    Heston’s performance drove to tears in Kane, though I can’t remember why. Certainly need to re-watch that movie.

  3. Seymour Brighton says:

    Why is this supposed to be funny? I don’t see any puns…

  4. Mitch North says:

    I have no idea which version you were watching if it was in colour. I don’t think that would translate very well at all with this film in truth. Sounds like an after-job in the same vein as the much maligned Casablanca colour version.

    That said i feel Citizen Kane is one of those films respected for what it did with the medium at the time. The new conventions, specifically shot composition, that it offered. I neither think or expect it to have the same impact in those areas in the present day era. I still think it features an interesting, though perhaps too drawn out, story. The film becomes almost gruesome towards the end with the emphasis put on the monstrous qualities of dying Charles Foster Kane. The film is grand in scale and ambitious. Indeed i fail to think of many films that pull of telling the story of one man’s entire life over the course of their narrative, or as effectively.

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