Citizen Kane ★★★★★

Film School Drop Outs 2019
Week 20: Studio - RKO Radio Pictures

What can I really hope to add that hasn't been said about Citizen Kane? In broad strokes, the presentation is just 2 hours of completely showing off -- it's the kind of film that you hear about how it was innovative and influential in cinematography, and you might worry it'll feel like a historical exercise. However, in reality it's all striking and time has not dulled it one bit. The story is such an engagingly human tale about excess money as a poor substitute for meaning in one's life, and the harmful ways one can shape their relationships as trying to control and own those around them. Finally, the script and performers are all charismatic; that Orson Wells acted in this and to some degree wrote it while also directing with such perfect control is incredible. It takes on such a legendary status because it is perhaps the definitive example of a film where every frame feels meticulously designed.

With that out of the way, I'd like to reflect a little on how this movie relates to my journey into more seriously exploring cinema. Citizen Kane is one of those films that I've known is considered so perfect for so long, but spent a long time only feeling that I "should probably see it eventually." I imagine this isn't an entirely abnormal experience. From the outside looking in, this sort of acclaimed classic film may not appear too interesting on the surface. A rich newspaper man dies, he says a word, and people try to find out what it meant. It can look a little academic, like putting up with this boring "well made" film so you can understand the medium better. Some of this is baseless projection, but I think there's also a bit of fault in the way people talk about it; sometimes a bit of superior gatekeeping type language can slip in. I've moved well past the point of thinking this way, but when I was just starting to get interested in films, I did essentially imagine Citizen Kane to be something of an influential precision-made slog. But it's so far from that! Most of the classics are, really. Citizen Kane is full of electrifying energy and momentum the whole time, succeeding more at delivering real thrills than many blockbusters do.

The only real points I have to make with this are that I imagine some people will identify with how I used to feel, but more importantly, I think we have an obligation with movies like Citizen Kane to talk about how damn fun they can be. Yes I love the lighting and the unique shots and the use of aging makeup and this list could go on and on but what this movie needs isn't more of that. What it needs is for me to say that I really deeply felt the thrill of Kane's meteoric rise, the tragedy of his fall, and I even laughed a lot along with the jokes. It's monumental entertainment, just as much as it's a technical masterpiece, just as much as it's a moving investigation of a life not so well-lived.

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