By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
The last word uttered before the death of Newspaper Tycoon Charles Foster Kane was “Rosebud”. In eulogizing Kane, a reporter named Thompson (William Alland) feels that this may be the key to understanding the man. Thompson embarks on a fact-finding tour of Kane’s friends, family and associates, who each help to fill in pieces of Kane’s life story. Kane was a complicated man, who once had dreams of changing the world. Kane seemingly had all the money and power he needed to fulfill his ideals, and yet died old and ineffectual. How does one define the life of a man once he’s gone?
The tragedy of Charles Foster Kane’s story is the real potential he had to do good, and the way that same power corrupted him every step of the way. Kane’s dreams were ambitious and ultimately self-defeating and empty. His pursuit of more power only led to him losing what he wanted most; to be loved.
Director Orson Welles broke the mold with his very first film, creating an intensely probing story, with absolutely gorgeous visuals. Few debut films have fared so well, and in retrospect, it seems amazing that the studios gave him the total control he demanded (nearly unheard of even in the best of times). Even in a career which was full of masterpieces, Citizen Kane remains his greatest achievement.
The cinematography, which Welles oversaw alongside veteran Gregg Toland, is spectacular. It utilizd deep focus shots throughout, and with angles and motion unseen in film of the time. Welles practically wrote the book on making a film aesthetically appealing, while also dramatically arresting and dynamic.
In his performance as the eponymous character, Welles totally absorbs himself into the role, resulting in a character transformation which feels almost like method acting, years before “The Method” had a name. This is particularly unprecedented given Welles’ Shakespearian roots, which normally call for a more classical approach. The makeup work in the film is fantastic for its time, allowing Welles to portray Kane at every stage of his life. It is incredible that the 26 year old Welles was able to feel so fully convincing as an elderly man…
Much has been made (and spoiled) regarding the nature and meaning of “Rosebud”. Without spoiling it, let me say that Rosebud proves to be a fascinating and iconic reveal, which in one single shot shows where Kane’s head was at throughout the rest of the film. I was floored at the depth behind the statement that something so simple can turn into something so defining in the life of a human being. While I’m not so pretentious as to call any one film “The greatest movie ever made”, Citizen Kane lives up to the highest of expectations, and is a powerful artistic statement.
Take a Drink: whenever someone uses his full name (Charles Foster Kane)
Take a Drink: each time “Rosebud” is spoken
Take a Drink: when you find yourself imitating Orson’s line read of “tooth ache!” (Shout out to Bill Arceneaux for this one)
Drink a Shot: when Susan Alexander Kane sings (double it when she goes off key)