May 1st marked the 70th anniversary of the release of Citizen Kane, the film that tops all those “best-of” lists (and for good reason) and has probably been given more critical attention than any other film in history.
For those of you somewhat new to the whole Kane klatch, DB Grady provides a solid overview of the film and its legacy—the usual about the technical innovations, how the film didn’t resonate audiences at first, that it was Orson Welles’s high water mark, and so on. But as Jason Kottke aptly states, the film’s profound drama and thematic strengths are often overlooked:
Citizen Kane is The Beatles of movies, not just because of its universal influence and acclaim, or because it really does live up to the historical hype, but because on top of its arty aspirations, what it really wants to do is entertain the hell out of you.
Also, if you’re watching it carefully, the movie’s self-reflexiveness hides and reveals a devastating history of media. You’ve got CFK, accidental heir to a fortune based on “oil wells, gold mines, shipping, and real estate,” who trades it all for a communications empire: newspapers, radio stations, paper mills, opera houses, and grocery stores, only to be pushed to the margins after a failed political run in favor of the next generation: magazines and movies, the trade of the newsreel producers who try to track down the labyrinthine origin of “Rosebud.”
More than any other film, Citizen Kane told me there was an undeniable artistic power in cinema, which is why the film—and its controversial legacy—resonate with me still, 70 years later.