Rich man Charles Foster Kane
May have gone a bit insane,
Building Xanadu, his mansion,
Product of his wealth’s expansion.
Looming large with doleful dread,
There he lived, but now he’s dead.
“Rosebud” was his dying word,
Which the papers overheard.
Some reporter seeks the news
Through diaries and interviews.
He learns that Kane was born in need
Until good luck did intercede.
He had to leave his home and sled
To gain what he inherited.
He grew to be a cocky youth,
Intent on passing on the truth.
He bought a newspaper for fun,
Becoming New York’s favorite son.
Soon he owned the choicest staff
And wasn’t shy to have a laugh.
He married well, but, as years passed,
Their nuptial bliss just did not last.
He met one Susan unaware
And soon began a veiled affair.
He ran for office to denounce
A crooked man he thought he’d trounce,
But his opponent did reveal
Kane’s lover, crushing his appeal.
His marriage ended through his pride,
But Susan soon became his bride.
He goaded her against her will
To sing in opera, low on skill.
Kane punished those he once commended;
Soon his every friendship ended.
He built for Susan Xanadu,
Complete with swimming pool and zoo.
He rarely ever left his ward,
And Susan got to be too bored.
She left him, prompting great distress,
And he decayed in loneliness.
His life was always full of stuff,
But it was never quite enough.
The news reporter doesn’t find
The “Rosebud” that was on his mind,
But we know ‘twas Kane’s boyhood sled,
A vestige of the life he led.

Here is yet another indicator that my list disagrees substantially with the critical community. Citizen Kane, like The Godfather, is considered one of the greatest films ever made and topped both AFI’s original and their revised top 100 list. It’s not the kind of movie I enjoy watching often, but I recognize its importance and influence on future filmmaking, as well as the reasons for its well-deserved accolades.

The brain child of first-time star and director Orson Welles, Citizen Kane is replete with flashbacks, indirect storytelling, and unique camera angles that made Welles a true pioneer for his time. The clarity he achieved with people or objects at various distances in the same shot, the placement of the camera on the floor or the ceiling, the way he told the whole story right at the beginning before going into it in further detail—all of these elements distinguish the film as an artistic masterpiece.

Commonly considered an unflattering fictionalized depiction of newspaperman William Randolph Hearst and others, Citizen Kane also holds an interest for me for Welles’s detailed yet ambiguous portrayal of a flawed man. Kane is at once sympathetic and unlikable, starting at the former and moving toward the latter as the film progresses, and it is this duality that I enjoy while my VC does not. I admire films that give a well-rounded if inconclusive look at that enigmatic thing we call life. Also, I’m always captivated by seemingly inconsequential features that take on greater emotional weight later in the story, in this case, the snow globe, Kane’s list of principles, the jigsaw puzzles, and of course the infamous sled, which embodies one of the early up-to-the-viewer endings utilized in more recent films like Inception. I enjoy the way this technique builds pathos and makes one care for the characters, whether in a film like Citizen Kane, a cartoon like Up, or a TV show like Lost.

For all its grand style, superb acting, fine script, and classic scenes, the film overall is rather depressing, and, as was typical of old black-and-white pictures, rather slow and sometimes overly dramatic as well. It may not be the most watchable movie, but Citizen Kane deserves its place on my list, as well as its much higher ranking on others.

Best line: (Thompson, the reporter, with a great metaphor at the very end) “Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn’t get, or something he lost. 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.”

Artistry: 10
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 4
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 10
Watchability: 4
TOTAL: 37 out of 60

Next: #249 – Places in the Heart

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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