Close Up

26 January 2018: Citizen Kane


Citizen Kane
Orson Welles
1941 | 119 min | B/W | 35mm

“What often gets lost within all the popular discourse around Citizen Kane – which tends to focus on the film’s themes of wealth, ambition and collapse; Gregg Toland’s landmark cinematography; Welles’ swaggering performance; the famous “Rosebud” motif; and the film’s lasting influence on Hollywood storytelling – is just how impenetrable and peculiar it is on a structural level. For a cinematic debut, the film is bravely scattershot, careening from the expressionist mosaic of its prelude to pastiches of Capra-esque newsreel montage, somber chamber drama, nostalgic impressionism, and a panoramic talking-heads approach that splinters the narrative proper (the flashbacks to Charles Foster Kane’s biography) across various arguably dubious perspectives – friends, colleagues, and family members of the inexhaustible newspaper tycoon. All these different registers forecast the many stylistic temperaments the director would adopt throughout his illustrious career, while also introducing what would become a major, though less frequently articulated, Welles theme: the inherent inadequacy of storytelling, despite its many bells and whistles, to comprehensively encompass a human life.” – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our Orson Welles retrospective