Citizen Kane – Movie Review

Citizen Kane

This 1941 movie is said to be the best movie ever made. It is the first feature film of Orson Welles, who was 24 years old at the time and who also portrays the main character.

The movie’s plot is given in fast points in the first five minutes in what I thought was an interesting part, a documentary about the life of late Charles Foster Kane. It is then revealed that Kane’s last word was “rosebud”. So the documentary’s team decides to suspend release and they set forth to investigate what Kane meant by that word.

Charles Kane was a poor child born to a family who owns a boarding house in Colorado. Adopted by a rich man, he soon turns rebellious against his guardian and does not seek any of the many riches bestowed upon him – except a newspaper acquired through foreclosure. Soon enough, Kane turns this newspaper into an empire, with the main goal of fighting for the voices of those whose voices have been suppressed. Kane marries the niece of the US president and soon enough, his pursuit of power begins.

Welles delivers a chilling performance as the man who makes himself by himself and then takes it all away, brick by brick, watching everything tumbling down around him. His wife leaves him soon after she finds out about his affair. Later on, she dies in a car accident with his only son. He marries the singer with whom he had the affair and she ends up leaving him too. Soon enough, the vastness of the empty castle (Xanadu) he builds for himself doesn’t even compare to the emptiness he feels inside and he spends the remainder of his life wishing upon the memories of when he literally had nothing except his snow sled, his childhood – the only time where he was really happy, deeply addressing the issue of “does money buy you happiness?”

While watching the movie, you cannot but be drawn to the intricacy of the details. The cinematography is exquisite, the sound editing, etc… are all top notch. It’s no wonder why this movie was thought to be twenty years ahead of its time. The story itself is also a representation of American Capitalism at the time and it is executed really well.

At the time of its release, Citizen Kane was not recognized, awards-wise, as much as we bestow upon it today. It might have been for political reasons. It is said that Charles Foster Kane is a biographical representation of real life newspaper giant William Randolph Hearst, who had his ways around Hollywood and sought out to stop the movie from being released.

But now to the million dollar question… is Citizen Kane the best movie ever made? I would say no. Ask me what is the best movie ever made and I would say I don’t know. Sure, Citizen Kane is revolutionary in every movie aspect but many movies have also been revolutionary. However, it remains a fine example that being showered with awards does not necessarily mean the movie will linger in people’s memories. The Hurt Locker anyone?

11 thoughts on “Citizen Kane – Movie Review

  1. I actually watched this movie years ago, but i kinda have forgotten its plot; like i dont remember a wife/affair.. you just triggered me to see it again…
    and of course everyone has heard that it is the best movie, may be its because of its quality in that period… the cinematography, how some shots/frames were taken, it actually set new grounds for future filmmakers which today’s generation may see “ordinary”… so may be “best” is relative.. and no it will never be one of my favourite movies, and its not even close.. may be it would if we were filmmaking students?

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    • Yeah, I think those who are professionals might have a whole other level of appreciation for Citizen Kane because they understand the technicalities more. I didn’t expect to be blown away by the movie, and I was not, but I thought it was pretty well done – especially keeping in mind that it was done even before World War II.
      The wife/affair thing is an important plot point :p it’s why he loses the elections for governor :p

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  2. You will learn to appreciate classic movies as time goes by. I remember the first time I sat through an old movie. I guess it was an alfred Hitchcock movie: Suspicion. I wasn’t really amazed by it at first. But I was curious to know more about black and white films. Now 6 years later, I can’t get enough ot them. I’ve actually watched Citizen Kane 3 or 4 times so far, and it gets better every time I view it. I started with classic films, then got to a point where I was interested in old forgotten films. They enrich my life, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way once u start watching those really wonderful movies.

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    • Yeah, this was the first time I watched an old movie. I figured why not start with what is said to be the best one of them all. I still liked it but I felt underwhelmed. I had much higher expectations.
      I have old movies on my list to watch (most notable one being The Godfather) so I’ll get used to them, I guess.

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  3. Citizen Kane is not the best. It’s definitely one of the greatest, but you won’t appreciate old movies unless u watch Hitchcock, Bogart, chaplin, and many more. The Godfather is excellent, but I wouldn’t call it “old”.

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    • It is a great movie but everyone calling it “the best” set my expectations pretty high. Oh and I would call the Godfather old 😛 anything done before the decade I was born in is old :p

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  4. Some good replies here. Yea, you have to go all the way back to appreciate “Kane” within a chronological overview of movie history. Welles claimed he watched “Stagecoach” 30 times before he set out on his film and if you watch Stagecoach it will remain puzzling 🙂 Greatest film of all time is a tough call, but it’s in my top 10. Personally I think Casablanca is frame by frame the best film ever made. I would also put City Lights, Modern Times, and Blade Runner a hair ahead of Citizen Kane. Hitchcock is strange because while I don’t think any of his films are the greatest ever made, his best 5 or 6 films are probably a stronger group than anyone else’s best 5 or 6.

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  5. I would also put city lights and modern times on the list. In fact, every chaplin movie should be on the list (including the amazing “Gold Rush”). Casablanca is also terrific. But call me crazy, I thought Blade Runner was a bit overrated. “Brazil” was a better movie, and they were both released in the 80’s.

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