Wednesday 7 August 2013

Devouring Films: Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane is one of those films that everyone knows about but no one has really seen. I was no different- but then, as Lovefilm has a knack of doing, they sent me the film on my list that I had the least real desire to watch. I mean, when are you ever going to be in the mood for Citizen Kane? You add it to your list because you feel like you should watch it, but that doesn't mean that you ever actually want to. Plus, you have to set aside like a week for that shit, am I right?

I was not right. I was very very wrong. Firstly you don't need a whole week to watch it (obviously...) you just need a tiny bit under two hours and a functioning brain. I think it also helps to wipe all preconceptions (which, it has to be said, I basically got from The Simpsons and Friends) about it from your brain and just watch it as if, I don't know, it's 1941 and it's just come out and you've never seen anything like it before.

Because wow, Citizen Kane must have been so revolutionary in 1941. It starts SO weirdly (actually, it starts weirdly even by today's standards, to be fair) with a newsreel presented without explanation, announcing the death of Charles Foster Kane, and goes on for at least 10 minutes. I'm not going to lie, I did start thinking 'is the WHOLE film like this..?' and I was ready to give up BUT THEN everything got excellent, the newsreel was deemed 'not personal enough' and some dude was sent out to get the true story of Kane's life, based on his last word:
Now. I know what Rosebud is, you probably know what Rosebud is, and if there's one famous thing from Citizen Kane, it's Rosebud. It's probably a good thing, then, that the search for Rosebud isn't really what Citizen Kane is about at all- in fact, it's really just the premise for telling Kane's story through a wide range of viewpoints and always always in retrospect. I don't know enough about film history to say this, but the acclaim Citizen Kane always gets seems to suggest that this whole telling of a story from different viewpoints, with each picking up where the other left off (ish...) was not really anything that had ever been done before.*

And you know what? It's SO well done that it's strange to think that it was the first time such things were done**or maybe I'm really just responding to how modern it really felt- I honestly feel like it could be made today, and there's nothing anyone could do to really improve on it. I sort of loved it- the trawling back through the years and acquaintances to try and get the real story about one man's life, but never really getting there because the one person who really knows it all isn't around to ask, and who's to say he wouldn't put HIS own spin on it too? It's all just very very human.

And also, I mean, THIS:
"If you could have found out what Rosebud meant, I bet that would have explained everything."
"No, I don't think so; no. Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get, or something he lost. Anyway, it wouldn't have explained anything... I don't think any word can explain a man's life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a... a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. A missing piece."
It's just so right on, and true, and I feel like people can get hung up on last words and turning points and trying to analyse life, when the truth is, life isn't like that. Sometimes you can look back and see turning points, but hardly ever, and I doubt that anyone knows the one thing that's the key to the puzzle of their entire lives, or even if such a thing exists, ever. But then again, maybe people can and I'm too young to know about it, but really I think it's only something that we tell ourselves.

SPEAKING OF MY YOUTH: Did you know that "Orson Welles was just 25 when he directed, co-wrote, starred in, and produced this, his very first feature film"? I mean, isn't that just sickening? It's like the opposite of my love for Julia Child and her late start in life, but also, where do you go after making what's commonly regarded at the best film ever at 25? Complete madness.

Here's the bottom line about Citizen Kane- it's a film I was expecting to admire and appreciate, which I did, but, unexpectedly, I also enjoyed it. I just straight up enjoyed the viewing experience. I mean, who wouldn't want to watch a film about a the life and exploits of a media mogul who was also once just a little boy with a normal life who loved his mummy? NO ONE, that's who. In case you couldn't tell, I kind of recommend this film, and I especially recommend not only appreciating but actually enjoying it, too. It's the best way.
Seriously, it's really fun!

*OR it's all famous and acclaimed for other reasons. How should I know?
**Whatever those things may be. I don't know, stop asking me.


  1. I have this incredibly huge, kind of embarrassing crush on Orson Welles so you're just preaching to the choir with this post - but yayyyy for watching C.K! It really is a fantastic film.

    1. Kayleigh! The whole time I was watching this, I was trying to figure out if I did fancy Orson Welles or not! (In the end, I came down on the side of yes, pretty much) But awwww bless ya! And yes, it is indeed very good! I'm definitely going to have to buy it so I can watch it more times :)

  2. Ugh FINE I will watch this. I mean, I've owned it for long enough, you'd think I would have by now. Except I keep watching the Simpsons version instead.

    "where do you go after making what's commonly regarded at the best film ever at 25? Complete madness" This just makes me think about the fact that he made RIDICULOUS commercials in the '80s. so I think that's where you go. A downward spiral. Of course he was also in the Muppet Movie around this time so great things can still happen (even if it is a 2 second cameo).

    1. The Simpsons is pretty much better than all the other things in the world so I understand that. But THIS IS VERY GOOD, so I will allow you to watch it.

      I did not know about these commercials of which you speak and somehow I think I don't want to! Let's just pretend he went out in a blaze of glory. Yes. That.

  3. Back in college, I took a class called Major Film Directors, in which we watched like 12 movies that our professor thought exemplified the breadth of filmmaking (but would also fit into a 90 minute class, etc etc). It was one of the best classes I have ever taken because until then, I hadn't seen a SINGLE ONE of the movies we watched.

    Citizen Kane was one of them, and I think the only person in the lecture hall who HAD seen it was the prof. We talked about it for days.

    I probably need to re-watch this, is what I'm saying. Perhaps a personal film festival is in order...

    1. That class sounds amaaaaaazing! I did two units (classes... Whatever) at Uni that involved films and even though it meant dragging myself in for an extra two hours a week (SHOCK) it was so awesome. And I hadn't seen most of the films either, so yeah, it was amazing. But we did not watch this! (Mainly because it wasn't based on a book or a play since they were technically still English Lit units haha).

      So yes. This is awesome. And also now I'm kind of sad that I didn't watch it in an educational setting because I know for a fact that I could discuss it way more than I did here and also FOR DAYS. But at least I have you guuuuuys :)

  4. Well, thank you Miss Laura. Because I have had this film sitting under my bed for AGES (of course, it is now in a box somewhere so I won't be watching it for a while, but sssssssh) and kept flicking past it to watch other things instead and NOW I will be much more likely to just think "NOW, ELLIE!" and watch it. When I find it, anyway.

    I think this is why I'm more likely to watch movies if they're on TV. Because it's on and it's now and THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO WATCH IT and there's more of a compulsion to just GET ON WITH IT ALREADY instead of watching another episode of something funny just because it's easier. I also don't mind the timing as much either. Like, if I'm watching a DVD I'll have a kind of mental cut-off start time so I'm not going to bed at stupid o'clock, but if it's on TV I'll just watch it anyway. I did this the other night with Fight Club and I was SO PLEASED to have finally seen it, even though it finished at 1am and I probably wouldn't have seen it for two years otherwise.

    My very long-winded point is, NOW I WILL WATCH IT BECAUSE YOU SAID SO. So thank you. :)

    1. I feel like this is the ULTIMATE film that people own and yet have never seen. Not that that's the case with me but OMG it would be if I'd ever actually bought it. So I'm really glad that Lovefilm sent it to me, actually. NOW. At the time I was like 'meh.'

      I totally do the exact same thing as you, but how mental is that?! I mean, we could literally go 'oh, I don't think I'll watch a DVD tonight, it's too late. I'll watch a bit of telly instead.' And then watch a film! I have done this before in life, is what I'm saying. But DEFINITE YES to the DVD cut off start time. Mine is about 9pm, if you're interested! And yet I could watch about 4 episodes of 40 minute long tv starting at at least 10pm! Ridiculous.

      And YES WATCH IT WOOOOOOOOOOOOO! (and oh, wait, did you like Fight Club?! I looooove it)

  5. Heh! Yeah, I really like Citizen Kane but I can't seem to persuade Tim to watch it because he has all the same preconceptions you had. I will read him your words and demand he capitulate!