Citizen Kane…or “WTF was I waiting for?”

13 02 2008

I’ve been what some may call a “film” “nerd” for many years now. It started in high school with a recommendation to rent Reservoir Dogs, and continues today in writing jazz songs based on movies and finding the rarest films in the world to obsess over. Where I differ is that I don’t think this makes me better than the casual film viewer, and actually it probably makes me worse, or at least “more lame.” As a film nerd, I have come to appreciate most of the classics, the Kubricks, the Malicks, the Bergmans, the Hellmans, the Altmans the et als, but I had never seen Citizen Kane until last night. I know, its weird that I went that long considering it tops a million lists as the number one film of all time, but alas thats what happened. I have had this film on bootlegged VHS for years, but given the copious amounts of praise for it, I was unable to bring myself to actually sit down and watch.

But all that changed when my girlfriend Netflix’d it and we watched it last night. She really introduced me to Orson Welles with his film F for Fake which is completely amazing, and so too is Citizen Kane. What really amazed me about it is the level of energy the film projects. The first 15 minutes alone are so fast and experimental that it totally made me forget that this film was made in the same year as the title of one of Spielberg’s worst: 1941. There is just so much going on, and the frantic pacing in the scenes combined with the editing just make really giddy cinema. The film never drags, and never runs out of great ideas. Even knowing the big surprise ending ahead of time (I won’t spoil it, but everyone know about the “Rosebud” thing) didn’t bother me, and I was amazed that nothing in the film insults the audience’s intelligence. What surprises me the most is that it’s a film that makes you think, doesn’t spoon feed you anything, is plotted very differently than most dramas, and Hollywood actually likes and respects it!

After the film, it occurred to me that one of the main reasons I had avoided the Kane for so long was that it always topped all the big lists. I figured that if Hollywood and their amazingly crappy method of rating films (Oscars/Golden Globes/S.A.G etc.) liked this thing, than there was no way it could actually be any good. But after the film, it’s obvious that this praise from Hollywood is out of a weird kind of envy. No one has come close to making a film like this, and outside of people like Todd Haynes and P.T. Anderson and old Nicolas Roeg, no one is even trying. Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine is a virtual re-imagined remake of Kane, and Anderson’s There Will be Blood follows a similar arc, and both of these films are completely incredible on their own merits. The Deal Yo? Why does Hollywood respect Kane, yet not learn anything from it? It seems like only the best even attempt to be influenced by the Kane. And then theres MichaelBay!

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3 responses

13 02 2008
Don

Great post about a film that never ceases to amaze! And if you like that one, you’ll LOVE “Touch Of Evil,” the incredible film noir that Welles made in the late ’50’s.

13 02 2008
Kelly Fenton

I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t seen it either! That’s despite the fact that we discussed the score at length in grad school. It’s been on my list for years, along with a bunch of others that I’m too embarrassed to admit to here. But hopefully entries like this will put some pressure on me to get my act in gear and become a “film nerd” too… because being a comic book nerd is really not enough. 😉

13 02 2008
Sarah

Pssssst! It wasn’t a hit when it came out and it took Hollywood 30-35 years to recognize it as a great film. Even when they gave Welles an honorary Oscar in the late 1970s (he had John Huston accept it for him, if I remember correctly), he still couldn’t get anyone to finance his films, and I think Huston scolded the audience about it. In the 1980s before he died, he even contacted Spielberg, who was willing to buy the McGuffin* at an auction, but not willing to either finance or find someone who would finance his films.

*Hitchcock term. Look it up.

Signed,
Yr. girlfriend, the baby Orson Welles nerd

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