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 MVC #11 - Citizen Kane
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demonic 
"Cinemaniac"

United Kingdom

Posted - 02/09/2011 :  01:55:30  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Onward, ever onward, to the eleventh instalment of the 'Four Word Film Review' Movie Viewing Club...

From an idea originally suggested by TitanPa, we choose, view and discuss a new film twice a month - with each new round beginning on the 1st and the 15th.

Everyone is welcome to contribute if you have seen the film in question, and all the better if you have recently seen or rewatched the film. With all films chosen up to a month in advance it will allow those interested in contributing to source and view the film in question, either bought, rented or borrowed on DVD; through a subscription service or simply viewed online. You are also welcome to comment on any previous rounds at any time.

Each film is chosen by fwiffers in the order of initial interest shown on the discussion thread here. If you want to select a future title simply express interest on the thread linked above or send demonic or SeŠn a message and we'll add it to the list.

The current line up is as follows:

01.04.11 - TitanPa - TEETH (2007)
15.04.11 - GHCool - DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)
01.05.11 - demonic - THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928)
15.05.11 - SeŠn - MONSTURD (2003)
01.06.11 - benj clews - AMERICAN SPLENDOR (2003)
15.06.11 - bife - TURKISH DELIGHT (1973)
01.07.11 - Cheese Ed - ALPHAVILLE (1965)
15.07.11 - [matt] - A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT (2004)
01.08.11 - ChocolateLady - BAGDAD CAFE (1987)
15.08.11 - BaftaBabe - WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE (1993)
01.09.11 - Randall - CITIZEN KANE (1941)
15.09.11 - Chris C - ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)

There's no commitment to watching and commenting on every round, but all reviews, comments and contributions will be very welcome from all comers. It goes without saying these threads will be a spoiler-heavy area, and anyone reading posts before viewing the film in question should be fully aware of this.

------------------------------------------

The film under discussion for MVC #11 is Orson Welles' 1941 film debut as writer and director: "Citizen Kane" as selected by Randall. Often cited as the greatest movie ever made by critics and film-makers alike - it's time to watch, or rediscover, this undisputed classic of cinema.

ChocolateLady 
"500 Chocolate Delights"

Israel

Posted - 02/09/2011 :  08:24:29  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
That film schools and university courses on film still study this movie is saying something. Be it the camera angles or the script or the acting, this is one of those films that if you consider yourself any kind of a film lover, you really must see (and probably should have a copy of in your home collection. I am ashamed to say that I only purchased mine on DVD a little over a year ago). Watching it today it is still a powerful work and intriguing, even though it seems much slower paced than what we usually see these days. In fact, perhaps it is the slowness of the pace (which is consistent, and therefore something that makes the movie build to the climax so perfectly) that makes it so good.


Edited by - ChocolateLady on 02/09/2011 08:30:42
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randall 
"I like to watch."

NYC, USA

Posted - 02/09/2011 :  12:03:32  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
CITIZEN KANE (1941) has been my favorite movie since I was introduced to it in film school, the way you should be: in a screening room with a projector ticking away as actual celluloid runs through it. In the years since, Iíll bet Iíve seen it twenty times [thanks to home video, and yes, I do give thanks for it], yet I still discover something new every time it rolls.

KANE is a miracle. A bunch of talented New York theater folk came out west to make a movie. They had no idea how to do it Ė and nobody to tell them that this or that effect was impossible. What they did have was the most fearless [and arrogant] stage director of the time Ė and one of the leading four or five male actors Ė in Orson Welles. And they did enlist one grizzled pro, the cinematographer Gregg Toland, who was so intimately responsible for the filmís pioneering look that he shares a title card with the director.

KANEís innovations begin with the screenplay. [It won KANE's only Oscar, among nine nominations.] It is a story told sideways by a series of unreliable narrators. An obscenely wealthy press mogul dies. His last word, ďRosebud,Ē sets off a series of interviews in which those who knew Charles Foster Kane tell his story Ė but each, of course, only knows his or her particular part of it. So we jump around in time, todayís audience exhilarated by this zigzag dash through the years and the nose it thumbs at Hollywood convention. Welles himself convincingly plays the adult Kane from young Turk into dotage, and makeup is only part of how he does it; itís a master class in film acting. The stories donít always match [in fact, who exactly was it that heard Kaneís last word if he was in a room alone?], but thatís life, isnít it?

Wellesís Mercury Theater colleagues were all new to the movies. CITIZEN KANE introduces Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloane [he has a heartbreaking monologue which has nothing to do with Kane, yet which most viewers remember as a high point], Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins, and more, most of whom went on to distinguished careers because they were good.

Toland introduced a new way of presenting a movie, but weíve assimilated most of his innovations so totally that sometimes it takes reminding. CITIZEN KANE was the first movie to use wide-angle lenses to reveal ceilings, which had previously been nothing but hanging lights: the claustrophobic effect can indicate unease or madness. Toland devised a way to keep fore-, mid- and background images all in sharp focus. And he and Welles never forgot that a moving picture was first and foremost a picture; remarkable that a stage-trained talent would do so much to tear down the proscenium-oriented template of early movies. The now-classic ďbreakfast sceneĒ depicts the long unwinding of Kaneís marriage with amazingly few words, in a sequence which could never be reproduced on a stage.

Most of all, though, CITIZEN KANE is a ripping yarn with fascinating characters and a powerful, poignant reveal at the end. [Shame on anybody who spoils it for you, though it has entered the general culture by now.] But even if you already know what Iím talking about, I guarantee itíll pack a harder punch than you expected. The real-life news tycoon William Randolph Hearst saw too many similarities between his own life and the one depicted in the film, and offered $800,000 to destroy the negatives and any prints. When he was refused, he banned any mention of KANEís studio, RKO, in his newspapers, including paid ads. Because of this, and because Forties audiences did find the narrative structure challenging, KANE was a box-office failure and cost Welles his autonomy: he would never again be protected from studio tampering or given final cut. All that was left was a masterpiece. I think Iím gonna go watch it again right now.

Edited by - randall on 06/09/2011 22:31:49
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demonic 
"Cinemaniac"

United Kingdom

Posted - 02/09/2011 :  12:44:45  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Fantastic commentary Randall- thank you. It's a pleasure to read a film fan writing about a movie they love.
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BaftaBaby 
"Always entranced by cinema."

Posted - 02/09/2011 :  13:25:14  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
A truly Wellesian apologia, randall! I think you must have a peep-hole into my brain - so many, many things in sync with you.

One of the most telling examples of Toland's language of cinema is the number of shots of Kane looking up at him. The overall effect is a cumulative impression of his power ... which turns to irony as his life is revealed.

Welles, like Brando and Gabin and a handful of others, are proof eternal that cinema can produce creative greatness. Just a small example from A Man For All Seasons is his cameo as Cardinal Wolsey - there is simply no finer expression of the whole of a man's life condensed by Welles into a few minutes. It's magnificent and heartbreaking.

He was 26 when he made Kane. How lucky we are to share it.

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randall 
"I like to watch."

NYC, USA

Posted - 02/09/2011 :  21:07:37  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by BaftaBabe


One of the most telling examples of Toland's language of cinema is the number of shots of Kane looking up at him. The overall effect is a cumulative impression of his power ... which turns to irony as his life is revealed.


Can't tell from your sentence whether you mean low-angle shots [Toland looking up at Kane, including the campaign rally and the omni-focus "Charley Kane" dance number] or high-angle [Kane looking up at Toland, such as the publicity shot with newspapers strewn on the floor, or Kane watching them raise his newspaper headquarters logo from below]. Either way, you've hit upon something: a third dimension in point of view which was a new bit of film grammar. Of course, you don't have to register any of this to enjoy the picture, and as I suggested up there, by now such effects don't even seem progressive any more.

Thank you both for your kind words, especially treasured coming from you two.

Edited by - randall on 02/09/2011 21:34:55
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GHcool 
"Forever a curious character."

Los Angeles, CA, USA

Posted - 06/09/2011 :  06:59:30  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I own the DVD and watch it fairly often (like twice per year). I just saw the film recently, so I took the opportunity to watch it again, but this time with Peter Bogdonavich's commentary track. For those of you who don't know, Bogdonavich is an excellent film critic, fine film director, and long time personal friend of Orson Welles. His commentary is about as close as we shall ever come to getting a director's commentary track by Welles himself. His anecdotes about Welles and his relaying of Welles's own opinions of Citizen Kane are worth listening to the whole commentary, but I actually preferred Roger Ebert's commentary more since it speaks more about the history of the project and the film-making process.
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randall 
"I like to watch."

NYC, USA

Posted - 06/09/2011 :  12:59:54  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've heard both those commentary tracks, and they're great. It's wonderful to hear Ebert at length, which you can also do on the DVD of DARK CITY.

I also recommend THE CITIZEN KANE BOOK, which contains the shooting script and Pauline Kael's influential piece "Raising Kane."

Edited by - randall on 06/09/2011 13:04:46
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GHcool 
"Forever a curious character."

Los Angeles, CA, USA

Posted - 07/09/2011 :  05:07:26  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by randall

I've heard both those commentary tracks, and they're great. It's wonderful to hear Ebert at length, which you can also do on the DVD of DARK CITY.

I also recommend THE CITIZEN KANE BOOK, which contains the shooting script and Pauline Kael's influential piece "Raising Kane."



Ebert also has a great commentary on Casablanca.

In the Bogdonavich commentary on Citizen Kane, he ridicules Kael for writing that one of the elaborate scenes in the movie happened by accident!
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randall 
"I like to watch."

NYC, USA

Posted - 07/09/2011 :  11:26:08  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
That's true, but you should always take anything Orson [IOW, Bogdanovich] says with a grain of salt. A controversial thesis of Kael's piece was that most of the credit for the script should go not to Welles but to co-writer Herman Mankiewicz. That can't have sat well with the director, who claimed that while theatre was a collective art, cinema comes from just one person. [More salt is needed here.]

The CASABLANCA commentary is a gem too. These are the closest that we'll ever come now to one of Ebert's famous shot-by-shot lectures. I'm just happy he can still write. You will probably also enjoy Richard Schickel on ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.

But for real fun, nothing beats Jim Piddock's uncredited commentary on BLOOD SIMPLE. It's hilarious for the whole two hours.

Edited by - randall on 07/09/2011 22:37:34
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Sean 
"Necrosphenisciform anthropophagist."

New Zealand

Posted - 16/09/2011 :  00:55:27  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Another one that I've seen before but didn't feel like re-watching (I seldom re-watch movies; there are only 10-15 of the 2000-odd I've seen that I can watch over and over again).

I watched this a few years back, I remember little about it but do recall noting it's originality and relevance. I see I've scored it 8/10.

I didn't like it as much as others here clearly have, I put this down to the fact that it's a biopic on a type of character (a narcissistic megalomaniacal media baron) that I find rather uninteresting. Kane is an asshole but he isn't a Hitler, or a bin Laden, or a Ted Bundy, or a Jackson Pollock (all of whom I find fascinating); from what I recall he's more of a Richard Fuld or a Dick Cheney or a Rupert Murdoch (or a cross between the three), and I have no real interest in reading or hearing about any of them.

I like movies about assholes, but Kane or his ilk are not able to hold my attention for long.
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Salopian 
"Four ever European"

Posted - 26/09/2020 :  00:12:06  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've just watched this for the first time -- it is unexpectedly on B.B.C. iPlayer.

Better than I expected but not as good as I hoped.
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