Friday, May 9, 2014

Flick Pick: Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane
(RKO, 1941)

By most accounts the greatest film ever made, topping poll after poll, notable as an effort by first-time director Orson Welles, all of 26 at the time. It doubled its production budget at the box office, was nominated for nine Oscars, and won for Best Original Screenplay, which Welles shared. Based not loosely enough on media magnate William Randolph Hearst to suit him, the film was blacklisted by every part of his media empire, and he was furious about its release and success. His threats of further industry wrath induced block voting by screen extras that denied the film, and Welles, both the Best Picture and Best Actor awards. Seminal in technique and epic in scope, it's a movie that's been picked to pieces by every film school and student since, such that youngster Welles took every subsequent producer and director to school on making movies in a then few-decades-old medium, right up to the current day. It's barely an exaggeration to note that it took the outbreak of WWII a few months after this movie premiered to get it off the front pages. Afterwards, Orson Welles wept, for there were no more worlds left to conquer.


Dan said...

Minor nitpick, every reference for this movie I have found lists it as 1941 not 1938. Most accounts consider this the greatest American film. Do you consider this the greatest American film? If not what is your greatest film, American or otherwise?

Aesop said...

Thanks for the nitpick, I biffed the date I throw in as a space filler (my recollections are usually pretty close, which only counts in horseshoes), and forgot to fix it before posting (fixed now); it was in fact 1941, as my post's text made clear, and as you noted.

I think Citizen Kane was groundbreaking, esp. for a young art and barely post-teen artist. At the point it was made, talkies had only been around a dozen years or so.
I would put it in the Top Ten of all-time, but looking at everything that's come since, I wouldn't personally list this as "the greatest film", particularly since few people under 40 have ever even seen it outside of film studies classes.

My top slot, I fear, would be a blank, because I always like to think the greatest movie, like any other human endeavor, is always at the mercy of the next record-breaker. This is a list of a year's worth of movies, many of which, at the time, may have laid claim to that honor. I haven't, even among this list, seen the movie that holds all others in thrall for all time, but I expect that the peak will rise higher decade by decade.

Hollywood lately exhibits a schizophrenia, alternating great efforts with sanctifying mediocrity for its own sake.

If they ever leave their adolescence and fascination for smearing feces on their faces and calling it art, I can only hope what will come will far surpass much of what we've seen so far.

If that isn't the case, then movies, like hieroglyphics, are a dead language, and merely a curiousity for most of us.

I hope that answers your question.

Dan said...

Yes that answers my question. Citizen Kane isn't in my personal top ten. I personally rate The Third Man (1949) and Othello (1952) as better Welles films. I appreciate your year long list especially finding out about movies I haven't heard of. Thank you.