Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.
When discussing "Classic Cinema," the title that invariably always comes up is Citizen Kane. "The Greatest Movie Ever Made!" But is this true? Is Citizen Kane really the "cinematic orgasm" film professors and students alike claim it to be?
The movie's central theme is about "interpreting a man's life after he has died." Within the the film's first few moments, Charles Foster Kane has just uttered his final words: "Rosebud." Kane's death is the biggest thing to happen to the nation in years, and makes the headlines of every newspaper across the country. The question that remains when the dust settles is, "What or Who was Rosebud"? The answer is revealed to the audience (but not to the characters) at the end of the movie. Being considered one of the greatest ironies in cinematic history, it conveys that Kane actually regretted not having led a simpler life. This was the first time in history that a film had questioned the concept of "The American Dream." Could someone actually have amounted to this much an still have been unhappy?
As a film, Citizen Kane is a powerfully dramatic tale about abusing power and wealth. About how using wealth and power in excess will not only ruin you, but those around you.
Visually, the film is a masterpiece. Welles attempted shots that nobody had ever tried before. Shots like these are recreated even now, though usually not as well. But how much of this was actually Welles? The real question is, how much of the film was actually Welles' idea, and how much belonged to the legendary cinematographer Welles hired, Greg Toland? Toland had been long established as a cinematographer before Welles hired him, and the shots in this film are far better than anything in any of Orson's other films. Indeed Toland didn't work with Welles again, so why should we assume Orson Welles did anything but take suggestions from a wiser man?
My point in this rant about Toland is that Welles gets all the credit for a movie that was cinematically phenomenal, but how much of it was really him? How much did Welles really contribute, other that giving the occasional "thumbs up"?
I digress! My rambling about background information shouldn't be allowed to take away from the film. The main character is a cold and ambitious man. Driven and hard-working, he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. His poor personal decisions, however, lead him down a darker path. The problem is that the viewers don't connect with Kane the way they should. It's poignant when you realize what "Rosbud" is... (IT'S THE SLED DAMNIT!) ...but it doesn't touch an audience the way Bambi's mother's death does, or watching Vito Corleone see the body of his dead son, Sonny. I'm not saying that every movie requires that sad, personal moment, but Citizen Kane simply fails to reach any form of connection other than "eye candy" for film students.
The fact is that Citizen Kane is a major piece of American Cinema, but is it really "The Greatest Movie Ever Made"? I'm a little hesitent to jump on board this train. Visually, it's wonderful. Its story was bold for its time, but it doesn't connect with an audience the way "The Greatest Movie Ever Made" should. The emotional grip is lackluster.
In conclusion, "great movie"..."Not the greatest."