Recently, Nikhil wrote a fine article on Citizen Kane. Gautam, our Editor-in-chief, invited me to weigh in as to why I believed that Citizen Kane (1941) is not the greatest film of all time. This despite selection by the American Film Institute in 2007 as the greatest film of all time. In my humble opinion, ‘Citizen Kane’ has been surpassed by greater films — though it is still among the greatest. Perhaps, its legacy is that so many films that followed used elements or were influenced by cinematic elements in the film, paying homage sometimes, adapting the elements to their own use in others.
Orson Welles was 24 when he made the film, and broke all the rules because to him there were no rules within art, to create was paramount, to find new ways to communicate was intoxicating to him, so he simply went out and did it without any consideration for anything other than finding new ways to tell a story.
And his story, what became Citizen Kane (1941), was of course about William Randolph Hearst, the publishing magnate Welles disliked intensely.
His lead character, Charles Foster Kane, portrayed by himself becomes an enigma to us, a puzzle which will never be solved, on one hand charismatic, on the other a complete fraud, he is all too human. Welles performance is often not given the credit it deserves, for he is brilliant.
Nominated for nine Academy Awards, the film won just one for its near perfect screenplay. Had justice been done, awards for Best Picture, Actor, Director, Cinematography and Editing would have come as well. The New York Film Critics were the only awards group to have the courage to name the film the best of the year, which clearly it was.
BROKEN NARRATIVE: Though not the first to use the device, Welles made it look effortless, breaking the film into a non-linear story, so there is no beginning, middle and end. He moves back and forth through time, the entire film essentially flashback to the life of Kane.