Sunday, January 29, 2012

Citizen Kane {and Alfred Hitchcock}.

I've often heard Citizen Kane called the best (or one of the best) film ever. And of course that made me really curious. I've had it on an old VHS tape for months now, and I watched it this weekend.

Before I saw it, the only things I knew about this film were that it was all about Orson Welles (he starred, directed, co-wrote, etc.) and that the plot somehow involved an opera singer.

Here's the basic plot: A super wealthy newspaper tycoon dies, and his last word is "Rosebud." All of the reporters start trying to figure out the meaning behind the cryptic word. In doing so, they (and the viewers) learn all about the life of Charles Foster Kane through the people that he was closest to, if you could call it that.

The plot and the characters were okay. Honestly, it was all sort of depressing. I know that I watch a lot of happy, slightly "fluffy" old movies- comedies and musicals and such. But I do like movies that are serious and/or gloomy, too. This is a huge movie about a man's life. Even though he's charismatic in the younger scenes, he's not an especially likable character. As the movie went on, I did end up feeling sorry for him. Because the character Kane's life was sad and shallow and materialistic.

{I blame it on the bad decision his mother made when he was young, but I won't go into all that. :) }

It kept making me think of Gone with the Wind, another film that is supposedly one of the best ever but that's also depressing and full of selfish, unlikable characters. But I don't really mean to compare the two, because I hated GwtW and I enjoyed Citizen Kane.

Plot and characters aside, the movie itself is gorgeous.

The only other Orson Welles film I had seen was his Jane Eyre, and even though he supposedly didn't have anything to do with the filming of that one, the cinematography feels a lot like this.

I mean, look at these two pictures:

Amazing. Citizen Kane is full of unique lighting, black and white contrast, and strange angles. It's lovely. Sometimes I'd get so caught up in how neat a shot looked that I didn't focus on what was being said or done. Everything is so dramatic and classy.

Another unusual thing is that, in telling a life story, this movie starts with the death of the man. Then it goes back and pieces everything back together, though not always in chronological order. So it's a lot like a jigsaw puzzle (coincidental that one of his wives loves puzzles?).

Orson Welles was by far the most important and intriguing character. But I was also really impressed with Joseph Cotten as his friend, Jedediah Leland. I just saw Cotten for the first time in Shadow of a Doubt a few weeks ago.

So that's my short, scattered "review" of the famous Citizen Kane. :) While I definitely wouldn't consider it the best film ever (at least not on my list of favorites), I think it is an important classic film and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Over the last couple of weeks, all of my Netflix movies have been Hitchcock ones that I had never seen before. I didn't have time to write full reviews, but I thought I would just mention the ones I've seen:

Shadow of a Doubt

Is beloved Uncle Charlie a murderer? That's basically what it comes down to. I liked it, and Joseph Cotten does a great job of seeming incredibly fun and ordinary and incredibly creepy. My favorite parts were the discussions between the dad and the neighbor. :)

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Yes, as unbelievable as it sounds, this is a cheerful comedy by Hitchcock. Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery were awesome. But I thought it was just an average comedy- not anything special like you would expect.


Does Hitchcock have a fascination with national landmarks? I loved this one. It was quirky and suspenseful throughout and had good humor. The lead couple was very entertaining, and after watching Robert Cummings for the whole film and trying to place where I'd seen him before, I remembered {the Japan episode of the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour}. It's worth watching just for the traveling circus scene. The end scene is classic Hitchcock suspense.

The Trouble with Harry

Now this is the type of darkish comedy you'd expect from Alfred Hitchcock. It's really kooky and strangely funny, through the first half or so seemed to drag a little. The humor is unusual. The scenery was gorgeous (the parts that were shot on location). I didn't even realize that the Captain was Kris Kringle {Miracle on 34th Street}! I just thought he sounded a little like Michael Gambon somehow. Yes, the Beav is here, too, though I've always found him a little annoying.

Before I saw the film, I was completely mistaken about it. From the brief plot summaries I had read, it said that Harry is "expired," and nobody in town can seem to get rid of him. I always took that to mean that he was a ghost who wouldn't leave the town (probably came from watching Casper too much as a kid). But that's not what it was at all.

Until next time,


  1. You hit the nail on the head with Citizen Kane! We studied it really extensively in film school and it's considered one of the best films ever because of its revolutionary cinematography, not necessarily because the story is amazing. I didn't like any of the characters either, but it is a gorgeous film and many of the techniques Welles used had never been done before. (like cutting a hole in the floor of the set, putting the camera in it and filming the characters from an extremely low angle to show their power in the scene)

    Also, I adore Hitchcock but I've never seen The Trouble with Harry. Thanks for the review, I'm putting in my Netflix queue right now!

  2. I have never been able to sit through Citizen Kane. :P Love all of those Hitchcock films you mentioned, though! :)


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