“Citizen Kane” – Classic Film Reviews #7

“Citizen Kane” was released in 1941 and was directed by Orson Welles, written by Herman Mankiewicz with Welles, and stars Orson Welles as Kane. Alongside Welles is Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, and Agnes Moorehead. The American Film Institute ranks the movie as the best American film of all time and it has a 100% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie follows the life & legacy of Charles Foster Kane, a powerful and very wealthy newspaper owner, as well as the search for the meaning of his final word: rosebud.

Citizen Kane' Synopsis and Plot Summary

I’ll start with what’s great about the film: Orson Welles’ direction and Gregg Toland’s cinematography. At the time, the way the camera was positioned and moved was revolutionary, and the shots are still stunning to this day. The lighting and set decoration are also immaculate, and this film really changed how movies are made. However, a key thing to remember is that the real reason this film is regarded as the best of all time is mainly due to its technical achievements, not its messy and boring story.

Making Sense of Citizen Kane | The New Republic

Now onto the messing and boring story that earned Mankiewicz and Welles an Oscar for best screenplay. Laughable. The film is so poorly structured. It’s intercut with flashbacks and the present search for the meaning of “rosebud,” and while that can be pulled off, this movie fails to do so. This is due to the flashbacks within flashbacks and the fact that the flashbacks aren’t always in order.

Citizen Kane, Woolly Bear Caterpillars and The Search for The Right Metric  - Chargebee's SaaS Dispatch

Here’s an example of the messy structure: one flashback shows a young Kane arguing with his adoptive father (named Walter Thatcher) about his beginnings at the newspaper company, then another flashback is shown where an old Kane is insulting Thatcher, then an old associate of Kane’s in interviewed in present day, and then another flashback occurs in which young Kane first starts his newspaper company. This makes for a sloppy and confusing structure that could easily be fixed by putting the flashbacks in order.

Citizen Kane movie review & film summary (1941) | Roger Ebert

Another common and valid complaint is that the film is boring. While it does pick up speed in the second half, the first half of the movie is really slow. This lackluster pacing makes the viewer instantly uninterested, and that’s why many people struggle to finish watching the film.

There isn’t much else to say about “Citizen Kane”. It’s brilliant on a technical level, but the script is a little messy in the first half of the film. I recommend the film overall due to the second half and the beautiful shots it features.

Grade: B

My review of “MANK,” David Fincher’s new film about the making of “Citizen Kane”: https://reelopinion.com/2020/12/05/mank-citizen-kane/

An insightful review of “Citizen Kane” by YouTube Film Critic, Chris Stuckmann that provides an alternate perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQPfDBbsclc&t=231s

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