Monday, 25 January 2016

Citizen Kane (1941)

"If I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a great man."

At the age of 38 I've finally seen this film, and feel a little bit more cultured than I was. It's far too dense with signifiers and crammed with meaning to add much to the decades of critical discussion after just one viewing, yes, but at least I can say what I thought. Essentially, it's exactly as good as people say it is. Sometimes you can go into a film with sky-high expectations and end up a little deflated that it turns out to be merely excellent rather than sublime. I suspect my expectations were lowered a little by the fact that Citizen Kane no longer tends to sit at the top of all these "Top 100" lists as it used to but, well, it should. 

Yes, the whole "rosebud" thing turns out to be a fairly facile revelation about the loss of childhood innocence, but there's a lot more going on than that. Plus the direction is incredible courtesy of a young Orson Welles, and his performance as Charles Foster Kane is spellbinding: a man of depth, wit and charisma and who never quite lets you in. 

The script, too, is as philosophical as a nineteenth century novel, with a line on memory that's redolent of Proust and a clever examination of the newspaper industry's loss of innocence, paralleling Kane's own. Most clever, though, is that Kane is only ever seen through the memories of others, never on his own terms; perhaps we have the cinematic equivalent of the unreliable narrator.

Oh, and at last I get the references in the White Stripes' "The Union Forever".

This is a truly great film and worthy of far more than a hurried blog post written on the 16.09 from Birmingham New Street to Coleshill Parkway. If you haven't seen it, you should bloody well do so.

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