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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 320 comments I feel confident there are no spoilers in this post.

The ads described it as "The love story that 'dared not be made.' " Louella Parsons thought it trash. John O'Hara wrote that it was the best film he had ever seen. William Randolph Hearst tried to have it destroyed. D. W. Griffith admired it, particularly, he said, for the ideas that had been taken from him.

The early draft carried the title "John Citizen, U.S.A.," which was later changed to "American." As "Citizen Kane," it opened in New York at the Palace Theater exactly 50 years ago this Wednesday, becoming, in time, the film most often put at the top of any list of the 10 best films ever made.

In honor of the anniversary, Turner Entertainment Company and Paramount Pictures are sponsoring a full-scale theatrical re-release of the film. Though it has been available over the years, not in mint condition, in revival houses, too many people have seen "Citizen Kane" only on television, which, really, is not to see it all.

From here NYTs a50th Anniversary of Citizen Kane. (I don't think there are spoilers it's more about the legacy of the film...but you might want to wait to read it until after you watch the movie)

I really hope to hear from others about their thoughts on this movie. Citizen Kane still shows up on greatest movie lists by professional critics and movie lovers to this day.

I wonder if there are any viewers who don't know what Rosebud is...and I always hope new viewers can watch the movie without knowing what it is the first time they see the movie.

I wouldn't read the following links if you haven't seen the movie before.

I found this page from a PBS special which I thought might be interesting background reading...

message 2: by Garrett Cook (new)

Garrett Cook | 15 comments I think the dialogue is hokey, the pacing terrible, some of the characters wooden, the cinematography overrated and in no way do I think it is the greatest film ever made. The greatest film ever made would have more of a heart, it would be more entertaining and it would not just be such a self aggrandizing exercise in craft. I think people are scared not to like this movie. There were better films made before it was made and there have been better films made since then.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

IIRC, it's more the innovation of camera shots Citizen Kane is known for, [the new technique [at the time:] I believe Welles was the first to use, shooting a scene from a camera boom and the use of 'deep focus' in a shot] not to mention the Hurst affair being broadcast. To us, nowadays, it may be melodrama, and old news, but at the time Hurst was one of the most powerful men in America, and one didn't mess around with him and live to tell about it.

message 4: by Candy (last edited Feb 11, 2010 06:03AM) (new)

Candy | 320 comments Garrett, it's interesting to hear your feelings about thedialogue and the sense of over-rated history surrounding the movie.

I want to respond to what you've said because you've actually brought up a really interesting aspect of the "halo" surrounding this movie...but I want to be careful not to blow the plot for others who might not have seen it.



What Kathleen says is true that not only was the movie a scandal because it was about Hearst, but it was innovative to many movie least in U.S. at the time. BUT...that's not how I would defend the movie to you...

Garrett, there is a famous article written by Paulne Kael about the movie Citizen Kane. This article might just be one of the most famous criticisms written. She wrote it in 1971 almost thirty years after the movie was made. She is defending the movie but she is also harsh on it and it's excesses.

In fact, one of the reasons I find this essay so good is because Kael seems to be able to descibe the weirdness and flaws of the movie, it's test of time and it's greatness all at once. She describes how because Welles came from a progressive experimental theatre background the film contains banal and conventional to it's audience at the time, but is strangely exotic to contemporary audiences. She uses phrases like "theatrical flamboyance" "excessive showmanship" "Pop characterizations" and "Citizen Kane is made up of an astonishing number of such bits of technique, and of sequences built to make their points and get their laughs and hit climax just before a fast cut takes us to the next."

She points out that the movie even satires the kinds of work Hearst himself was producing at the time!

Some of these thngs are aspects we can't possibly know about the movie except through accounts like Kaels.

I think her most profound insight is how she recognizes that the movie was meant on several levels to be a satire and comedy!!!!

She says " Kane is closer to comedy than to tragedy, though so overwrought in style as to be almost a Gothic comedy. What might possibly be considered tragic in it has such a Daddy Warbucks quality that if it’s tragic at all it’s comic-strip tragic. The mystery in Kane is largely fake, and the Gothic-thriller atmosphere and the Rosebud gimmickry (though fun) are such obvious penny-dreadful popular theatrics that they’re not so very different from the fake mysteries that Hearst’s American Weekly used to whip up—the haunted castles and the curses fulfilled. Citizen Kane is a “popular” masterpiece—not in terms of actual popularity but in terms of its conceptions and the way it gets its laughs and makes its points."

This article is very very long...about 70 pages originally published in The New Yorker magazine in 1971. I know it's long Garrett, but your articulate view of the movie suggests to me you might really enjoy reading it. I would LOVE to hear what you think of this essay and how it reacts to your viewing of the movie.

Here is a link to Raising Kane:

And here is an article from Slate about Kael and her famous essay on the movie:

message 5: by Janet (new)

Janet Leszl I did not re-watch this film but clearly remember my reaction to it. I thought, “What is all the fuss about, why is this such a great movie?” Yet days, weeks and even years later it resonates a chord in me. Having gained the whole world, essentially in the end he longed for the simplicity of his very early childhood before the realities of career driven society intruded on innocent dreams and desire for parental love.

message 6: by Candy (new)

Candy | 320 comments Janet, for me the most important aspect of the movie is exactly as you say...that Kane had unresolved "end of childhood" trama. For me, this is the aspect of the movie that has stood the test of time more than anything. Alll the group therapy and rehab programs are often focused on that very situation of what happens to us when we have an "end of childhood".

I've watched this movie many times but we are setting aside Saturday afternoon for a double bill if you will.

A few of us are getting together with some snacks to watch a double bill of Citizen Kane and F For FakeCk is Welles first movie...and Fake is his last movie.

Here is a synopsis of F For Fake:

F for Fake (French: Vérités et Mensonges) is the last major film completed by Orson Welles. Initially released in 1974, it focuses on Elmyr de Hory's recounting of his career as a professional art forger; de Hory's story serves as the backdrop for a fast-paced, meandering investigation of the natures of authorship and authenticity, as well as the basis of the value of art.
Far from serving as a traditional documentary on Elmyr de Hory, the film also incorporates Welles's companion Oja Kodar, notorious "hoax-biographer" Clifford Irving, and Orson Welles himself, in an autobiographical role.

Several narratives are woven together throughout the film, including those of de Hory, Irving, Welles, Howard Hughes and Kodar.
About de Hory, we learn that he was a struggling artist who turned to forgery out of desperation, only to see the greater share of the profits from his deceptions go to doubly unscrupulous art dealers. As partial compensation for that injustice, he is maintained in a villa in Ibiza by one of his dealers. What is only hinted at in Welles's documentary is that de Hory had recently served a two-month sentence in a Spanish prison for homosexuality and consorting with criminals. (De Hory would commit suicide a few years after the release of Welles's film, on hearing that Spain had agreed to turn him over to the French authorities.)

message 7: by Garrett Cook (new)

Garrett Cook | 15 comments I can appreciate the intentionally hokey elements and those are reasonably engaging, but I feel the central conceit just doesn't have the juice to make it as strong a Welles entry as The Trial or even The Stranger, both of which boast vastly stronger performances.

message 8: by Candy (last edited Feb 11, 2010 10:21AM) (new)

Candy | 320 comments Oh I do love The Trial and The Stranger. I think you are correct that the acting has stronger performances in those films.

I think, for me, part of the intrique in CK is that it doesn't have classical or wide ranging performances. Somehow...the emotional delivery that I feel from the film is powerful despite all the theatricality and operatic moods and mise en scene. I find it both "true and realistic" on an emotional and spiritual level...not in a manner of realism. "True" by emotions rather than by fact or realism.

Garrett...I am always knocked out at the penultimate scene in this movie. i almost always have tears. For me it's not about the whole story or movie. it's about childhood. And the loss of childhood and how that can manifest and be "acted out" in our culture.

It's the contrast and root of our consumeristic, materialistic society with it's emphasis on filling a hole. On success being defined by how much money or power we have...coming from unresolved "end of childhood". That all search for love, especially "in all the wrong places" is connected to how we have, or haven't, resolved our own individual "ends of childhood".

For me the best way I can explain is if I reference D.W. Winnicott theories on childhood stages of development:

Am I making sense?

message 9: by Garrett Cook (new)

Garrett Cook | 15 comments Yes, certainly. I do like that Citizen Kane points out that adulthood is a Faustian bargain.

message 10: by Candy (new)

Candy | 320 comments Ha, wow...I like your thinking there.

Would you say it's the only outcome for adulthood? Am I too flaky by believing somewhere deep inside me that we can recover from "end of childhood" and have lives that are sold out to the devil? Is it not possible to have some kind of whole life not dependent on "acting out" our childhood traumas?

message 11: by Garrett Cook (new)

Garrett Cook | 15 comments I think it is possible, if we haven't sold ourselves out. As adults, we have new reservoirs of strength, resolve and perspective to draw from. Some of us choose not to, others decide that these are the weapons we should use on our demons. I think the latter is a good idea. But, Kane is put in a position where the cost of adulthood is his soul.

message 12: by Candy (new)

Candy | 320 comments Garrett says, "But, Kane is put in a position where the cost of adulthood is his soul. "

Yes, but is this not an irony because all of the people who the journalist interviews are searching to explain "who Kane was" and then the idea is can we ever really know who someone is, right?

When the irony is, that Kane seems to suffer from that adage that a unexamined life is not worth living. I'm not saying he wasn't worth living but as a metaphor the examined life is the one that has potential for protecting the soul from bargains.


message 13: by Martin (last edited Feb 12, 2010 05:49AM) (new)

Martin Yes Pauline Kael was the victim of an instructive practical joke by Warren Beatty. I remember Eric Idle once complaining that there were 3 professional film directors in Britain and 300 professional film critics. I hope the balance is better in the US!

Perhaps it's easier to appreciate Kane without qualifications in Europe: it is after all more like a European "art film" than something from Hollywood. I also understand Garrett's reaction against a "best film ever" label.

Anyway, I thought it might be useful to look at a couple of scenes in detail. This has caused me much effort! The original screenplay differs from the final film and does not include the bit I was after. I found the actual screenplay here,

but it is a bit garbled, it is transcribed as,

SUSAN (singing): Yes, Lindor shall be mine. I have sworn it. For we'll or woe. Yes Lindor. Close your eyes. la vince ro

and it should be,

SUSAN (singing): Yes, Lindor shall be mine. I have sworn it, for weal or woe. Yes Lindor ... lo giuderai, la vincerò.

The film packs so much in by its extraordinary compression. One sees this here with two scenes that show the development of Kane's affair with Susan Alexander. They go into the parlour, and she sings at the piano to Kane. But then follows one of those scene changes for which the film is so famous, and she ends the song in the "love nest" Kane has created for her, with different and more sumptuous furnishings (but still homely). The upright of the lodging house is now a grand piano, and she is out of her working clothes. She has been taking singing lessons, and Kane is trying to mould her taste, so she nows sings the aria in the original Italian ("I swore it, I shall win her/it.") The last word, vincerò, might make us think of opera, because of the ending of nessun dorma from Turandot, "vincerò vincerò".

What is the aria she is singing? It is I take it composed for the film by Bernard Hermann. It exactly captures the style of song that they liked to adapt from opera stage to parlour in the 19th century, like Balf's I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls, which you can still find on youtube.

The second scene itself lasts just a few seconds.

Hermann's music for the film is amazing. I never guessed Salammbo was not a real opera, and waited years to hear it on the radio, or see it in a music shop. Good thing I never asked for it! Salammbo was in any case a good choice for a non-existent opera. There had been attempts to turn Flaubert's novel into an opera, which finally came to nothing.

Another simple example of compression: the famous bit where the camera goes through to solid sign "el rancho" (done by drawing the sign apart) is easy to miss because it is so short, the not quite so famous ending of The Passenger is also easy to miss because it is so long. The whole long 6 minute take, obviously influenced by Kane, can be seen on youtube,

-- but improves on the original when the camera turn round and you see the barred window still in place. On the DVD of the film Jack Nicholson (the character on the bed) explains how it was done, somewhat sheepishly, as if giving away a conjuror's best trick!

message 14: by Candy (last edited Feb 12, 2010 08:17AM) (new)

Candy | 320 comments Mindblowing. I had to post that film clip on my blog from The Passenger. It' stunning. I haven't seen that movie ina long time, but I just addedit to my dvd list! Thanks Martin.

I can see both Orson Welles influence and Hitchcocks.

I found this clip on youtube:

It's of the opening scene. Maybe this clip will inspire others to watch the movie. I love how the sign "no trespassing" is in the opening shot and it's significance to me is that we feel we shouldn't really look at the psyche of another person...or maybe it is the attraction to that transgression we love in movies. With just a simple sign it sums up so much of the feeling of peeking into another persons life that movies give us.

I really appreciate your knowledge of opera Martin. I had never ever thought to investigate what song she might be singing or it's potential significance to this story. Well done! Something abut the idea of opera being "abridged" for popular usage for parlour entertainment suits the idea of Kane riffing on the gothic camp stories Hearst would publish.

I don't about the Beatty/Kael joke and I am trying to find something about it. What I am finding is the consesus was that the joke backfired on Beatty?

Oh I just read this article about a biography:

Which sounds kind of juicy.

I'm actually a fan of Warren's Beatty. It seems true though that no one under 40 knows who he daughter used to massively dislike him and couldn't understand why I thought he was a good director and performer. When she saw Bulworth with me she "got it". And when she saw how gorgeous he was she could understand the appeal as a movie star hunk.

but I ramble...

I like the idea of discussing cenes too if we can find them...

I found this one about publishing and writing:

Wow, it's terrific how it's only one camera and no cuts....but look how the camera "floats". Handheld indeed! I think it must be on a tripod but rigged to rotate and give the effect of a human head and eyes watching the conversation. Fascinating!

There is a lot in this dialogue about education, storytelling, pomp, and most certainly compression!

This scene could be right out of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert it feels so contemporary and with issues about media we still haven't resolved.

message 15: by Laura (new)

Laura (laurahogan) | 2 comments The aria she's singing wasn't composed by Bernard Hermann. It's "Una Voce Poco Fa," from Barber of Seville by Rossini.

message 16: by Martin (new)

Laura, thanks so much for that info. Another mystery solved! (I was intending in any case to deny the knowledge of opera Candy attributed to me, but that is hardly now necessary after your post.)

I've been listening to different versions of un voce poco fa on youtube. Sung by real professionals, you can see that Susan is not really an opera singer. Of course, this is the aria we see the Italian singing teacher trying to teach her -- I'd forgotten that. (Have I got that right?)

But the wonderful closing aria of Salammbo is of course by Hermann, and is itself on youtube. Sung for example by kiri te Kanawa,

message 17: by Laura (last edited Feb 13, 2010 10:43AM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) | 2 comments As long as we're on the topic: For my money, the best Una Voce Poco Fa of the past 50 years or so is Marilyn Horne. sorry about the static video, but can't argue with the audio:

message 18: by James (new)

James | 4 comments I'd question whether it's adulthood itself that's a Faustian bargain, or the type of adulthood under examination, especially as the alternative is a Peter Pan kind of existence that seems ultimately empty to me. Even without the stagnation that would go with eternal childhood, I think that childhood is overrated - for many people it's not a happy time of life. If someone threatened to send me through my childhood again, I believe I'd ask whether they couldn't just shoot me instead. Maybe my perspective is skewed by my own experience, both in my childhood and in my work as a family therapist.

message 19: by Garrett Cook (new)

Garrett Cook | 15 comments I quite agree with you about childhood. If you'd really like to see my feelings on the subject, check out my book Archelon Ranch. I was merely saying that something is always left at the gates. Peter Pan drives me nuts. He's a coward. He won't make the requisite sacrifice.

message 20: by Candy (last edited Feb 15, 2010 06:34AM) (new)

Candy | 320 comments Very good to "see" you here James!

I am glad both James and Garrett mention Peter Pan. I am not sure that Kane is living a Peter Pan kind of existence. And the end of childhood trauma or lack of trauma does correlate for some peopel to a Peter Pan kind of existence.

But I don't think that's what is going on here. I am not suggesting that end of childhood can be avoided or prolonged (although the Peter Pan personality may try).

I think the "end of childhood" may influence how we live our lives. Especially if it is not recognized and articulated. For my, Kane was in denial and lived by the devices his persona created for him to cope with loss and transitions.

I don't think anyone can avoid a transition of end of childhood...I think we have varying degrees of response and health.

James, I can really understand why you say that childhood might be overrated. I get that...but for me it's not about it "being good or bad" or romanticized or discounted. It's about it being different than adulthood. It's about how we travel between the growing up.

the concept of "end of childhood" and how we live as adults doesn't have any preference or whether someone had a "happy or sad childhood". People with blissful childhoods and people with traumatic childhoods all have a transition period when they know..."the party is over". it's relative for every individual. For those folks who had traumatic childhoods, sometimes with abuse, or in war countries...their end of childhood may have been at three or four years old. And for those people whose childhood ended at 10 or 15 years old ....the time periods of where a child is developing may affect how they respond and live for the rest of their lives....

...if it isn't articulated and resolved. The issues will be different usually manifesting in destructive or (questionable boundaries) in different ways depending on how and when that sense of "the party's over" for each person.

Back to Citizen Kane, his end of childhood was when he was about 8 years old. It was sudden and involved losing objects and actually moving. We see his whole life plays out with him moving constantly, and obsessing with objects. A possibility exists that if he had been able to articulate the feelings surrounding his end of childhood...and observe the patterns of behaviour he used...he might not have been a victim to his own devices. As it was he was obsessed with "acting out" his childhood end over and over...and we don't see the evidence and confirmation of his triggers and patterns that until the very end of the film....

And the audience are the only people who see this connection.

message 21: by James (new)

James | 4 comments It seems to me that the character of Kane is an example of a pattern that is one of our culture's biggest problems, the delusion that we can achieve happiness by getting enough stuff, or some particular item of stuff, and that we can hide from pain and fear and loneliness and loss by burying ourselves under a mountain of our stuff, and by running and running and running from one place to the next, one relationship to the next, one identity to the next.

There used to be a billboard I really liked on I-8 going west through El Cajon, just east of San Diego; it was a picture looking up at a dramatic angle at a big 4x4 pickup parked on a rugged hilltop, and across the sky above the truck it had the words, "Wherever I go, There I Am."

message 22: by Candy (last edited Feb 15, 2010 07:22AM) (new)

Candy | 320 comments James said, It seems to me that the character of Kane is an example of a pattern that is one of our culture's biggest problems, the delusion that we can achieve happiness by getting enough stuff, or some particular item of stuff, and that we can hide from pain and fear and loneliness and loss by burying ourselves under a mountain of our stuff, and by running and running and running from one place to the next, one relationship to the next, one identity to the next.

Yes, for me, that is exactly how I take the film. I think it is it's strongest theme.

I believe aside from any innovations, camera work, style...That theme is the reason it is an enduring favourite for many people. Why it shows up on "best of lists".

(the link to his end of childhood is an extra "bonus" in the storytelling...and I don't really mean it to detract from the central theme you so perfectly articulated, James.)

message 23: by Garrett Cook (new)

Garrett Cook | 15 comments Candy wrote: "Very good to "see" you here James!

I am glad both James and Garrett mention Peter Pan. I am not sure that Kane is living a Peter Pan kind of existence. And the end of childhood trauma or lack of t..."

Kane is the inverse of Peter Pan. He let all of himself go in order to become an adult. Manhood to him was about acquisition, though because he sacrificed humanity and conscience to get there. It's a different kind of cowardice.

message 24: by Candy (new)

Candy | 320 comments I can see it in that light too Garrett. You've given me much to think about and wrestle with these last few days, I really appreciate your views Garrett. Thanks!

I like the idea of some kind of inversion between Kane and Pan. Nice image.

message 25: by Candy (new)

Candy | 320 comments While reading Hermes The Thief I came upon one of the author's central themes and I thought it really tied into what James said about the major theme of Citizen Kane so I thought I'd add it here...

Everyone is familiar with the aristocratic prejudice against retail trade and manual labour, rationalized by Plato into the ethical doctrine that all professionals in which the is profit are vulgar and incompatible with the pursuit of virtue. The prejudice is ultimately derived from the conflict between the traditional patriarchial morality, sustained by the aristocracy, and the new economy of acquisitive individualism-the conflict of Metis and Themis in Hesiod. One of the results of this attitude was to identify trade with cheating, and the pursuit of profit with theft.

As we saw in the preceding chapter, Hesiod regards acquisitive individualism as "theft" and "robbery". Solon uses the same terminology in his indictment of those who pursue wealth without regard to the common weal: "The very citizens, in their folly, are willing to contribute to the destruction of our great city, yielding to the temptation of riches. They do not have the sense to set limits to their superabundance. They grow rich through yeilding to the temptation of unjust practices, and sparing neither sacred nor public property, they go stealing and robbing whenever they can.

message 26: by James (new)

James | 4 comments I would have to see some persuasive evidence before I could buy into the principles that trade is cheating, or that the pursuit of wealth, period, is the same as the pursuit of wealth without regard to the common weal, yielding to the temptation of unjust practices. We do see a lot of the latter behavior today - I think it's always been there, but it's more visible due to our society's saturation with media and since the 80s has been treated as a virtue, the 'greed is good' value system. And, as with Kane, it doesn't really lead to satisfaction or happiness - best example I can think of is a tidbit from a profile I read somewhere of Bill Gates; he supposedly told someone that sometimes he can't sleep at night, but is kept up by the aggravation of thinking about all the things he doesn't own.

But the idea that trade and labor are bad is indeed an aristocratic prejudice, because the only people who can live by these standards are those who have inherited enough wealth to pay the bills for a lifetime - anyone else would quickly end up starving and homeless, at which point the egalitarian legal system that prohibits rich and poor alike from panhandling and sleeping under bridges would become an issue.

For an aristocrat who has never had to worry about the necessities of life to call it vulgar when other people work to obtain them is patently unfair - the message really amounts to "You're vulgar and unvirtuous if you aren't me... I'm virtuous by way of accident of birth." Sort of a micro version of the Master Race belief system that claims the right to exploit and exterminate the untermenschen.

I believe it is much fairer and more reasonable to adopt the philosophy that there's nothing wrong with inheriting or achieving wealth as long as one is not harming society in the process, but that the wealthy have an obligation to share their good fortune with the rest of society, that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers and should pass on to our children a better world than we inherit from our parents.

As for happiness, from what I've seen it's a lot more likely to come from doing something that one finds fascinating and fulfilling than something that pays as much as possible. I think of my mother - she taught first grade, although she had more than enough talent to do other things that would have paid more, but she loved her work. They asked her to become a principal, but she declined - the satisfaction meant more to her than the extra money would have. Likewise, when I retired from the military I'd spent 15 of the 20 years working in data systems and telecommunications, and I could have stepped into a civilian career in the same field that would have paid very well; but I knew by then that my heart lay elsewhere, so I started a second career as a psychotherapist, possibly the lowest-paying job you could find anywhere that requires a graduate degree, but I like it as much as I disliked managing computer systems.

message 27: by Stagg (new)

Stagg | 15 comments I liked Citizen Kane very much. I used to see it almost only in an artistic way. The whole black and white composition. Now, because of this group, I was able to see the story more. All of this came to the/my conclusion of Orson Welle's position within the Hollywood games. Orson Welles was either too far behind or too far ahead within Hollywood's economic funding systems. We are all better off due to his hard work ethic that I think came from the radio era. Think about it- he worked very hard to give us lots of films (many of them he funded by his own money and in archives, no Hollywood distribution) even if you don't like his work/or him-there should be respect for the output. Maybe all of us have a Rosebud if we admit it or not.

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