Monday, November 9, 2009

Film Connect:  Citizen Kane

Yeah, I took it back.

Way back.

To 1941.

That's so far back the term "old school" sounds too new to describe how far back it is. I borrowed Citizen Kane from the library this weekend not entirely on accident. I've wanted to learn more about the classics--books and movies--for a while now. Consider it part of my campaign to become a little less ignorant every day.

In brief, the movie is about the character Charles Foster Kane, played by Orson Welles (also the director) and his quick and unearned rise as publisher of a newspaper empire. He begins his career with good intentions, then power and money do what they do best (strip a man of all moral character), and he dies lonely in a giant estate (think Neverland times 50 with a castle and man-made mountain) called Xanadu.

Well, I haven't sat through a black and white movie since ...ummm...actually, I don't know if I've ever watched an entire black and white film (does Schindler's List count? Or that Prince flick, Under the Cherry Moon?). I'm ashamed to say I was surprised by how relatable the language and storyline are in Citizen Kane to a Generation Yer. Not sure what I expected. Elizabethan English? The dialogue and the problems are no different than those of today.

I immediately recognized the cinematography to be well thought out, an attribute that is often lost in film making. The lighting and depth of every shot in every scene has a purpose. Citizen Kane has been heavily lauded over the years for its groundbreaking cinematography.

The story kept my interest, if for nothing else than to find out the meaning of "rosebud." The makeup used to age the actors over decades is impressive, even compared to the "Benjamin Button" type effects of today.

Lingering Thoughts

Well, the lesson is nothing new--money can't buy happiness. The lesson for me is to not sell short the OGs of film. In the age of remixes and remakes, it's easy to fill ourselves with the newest model, the latest edition. But the cliche marketing adage of "new and improved" is often not the case.

Even though the American Film Institute and others rate Citizen Kane as one of the greatest movies of all time, I won't go out of my way to watch it again. It's a decent film, I just feel it strengths lie more in the technical arena than in the story. Any student of film and/or pop culture should study Citizen Kane and take notes.

Next up, Casablanca.

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