Lights, camera, intrigue! – Orson Welles’ 1941 magnum opus Citizen Kane remains a groundbreaking revelation over 80 years later. Chronicling the rise and fall of wealthy newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane, Kane pioneered so many filming and narrative techniques that it practically wrote the visual language of cinema itself. Through inventive cinematography, layered storytelling and virtuoso directing, Welles earns every ounce of Kane’s vaunted reputation. Let’s dig into how one film changed movies forever.
From its audacious debut with “News on the March” – a fictional newsreel segment – Welles declares his ambition. Sharp editing, exaggerated camera angles, and exaggerated sound place us directly into Kane’s world. And Gregg Toland’s deep focus photography allows action both near and deep within a scene to stay sharply focused. Every technical element screams innovation.
Welles also pens a structurally inventive script told through flashbacks by Kane’s inner circle. Influenced by Citizen Kane, non-linear and unreliable narration became cinematic staples. And Welles himself gives a towering performance as the titular Kane, convincingly playing him from 20s to 60s. His presence matched his talent. And the stellar supporting cast ground this larger-than-life figure through intimacy.
Now I won’t spoil Rosebud revelations or other key story details! But Welles and co-writer Herman Mankiewicz layer Citizen Kane with observation and meaning. Beyond technical dazzle, it examines how the American dream’s promise distorts under ego and power. News media scrutiny also proves cuttingly familiar. The script deservedly won an Oscar – proof strong writing enables daring form.
Does relying on flashbacks create emotional distance? Perhaps, but they also piece together a complex man through contrasting viewpoints. Kane himself remains elusive, but those in his orbit feel poignantly real. And Welles finds strange warmth in Kane’s final days, his failures making him relatable at last. That gives the mystery palpable humanity.
Upon release, Citizen Kane fostered some controversy over its perceived Hearst basis. But audiences and critics quickly realized Welles’ audacious talents, even at just age 25. Kane revitalized editing, sound, lighting and more as artistic tools. Eight decades later, its secrets endure. What does it chronicle? The American dream’s corroding effects on an ambitious man – and future filmmaking itself.
In closing, I can’t recommend Citizen Kane enough for any cinephile. Let Welles usher you into the dizzying rise and fall of Charles Foster Kane – and modern moviemaking being born before your eyes. Come witness Welles and Toland’s technical mastery and storytelling innovations that still feel fresh and radical so much later. An undisputed classic.