February 6, 2011

Movie watched last night: "Citizen Kane."

What was the motivation to pull the old reputedly-greatest-movie-ever-made down off the shelf? Some conversation about putting together a story by interviewing various people who knew a specific individual one had never met and wanted to try to understand. I said that's the famous, highly praised narrative structure of "Citizen Kane," you realize, but you didn't realize that because you'd never seen "Citizen Kane." How do you get through life without seeing "Citizen Kane"? People are always pushing "Citizen Kane," which you rightly pointed out is a reason to resist it. So thanks for not resisting it when I pushed it, which I did not because I'm shocked that you'd failed to take in the greatest movie blah blah blah — in fact, I admire resistance to that sort of pressure — but because it had to do with an idea we were already talking about that had nothing to do with the irritating pseudo-accomplishment of seeing all the things you're supposed to see.

"Citizen Kane" questions for discussion:

1. Why did you see "Citizen Kane," or how have you managed to avoid it? Have you been bullied into seeing it, or are you one of the bullies? Do you feel like there are movies you're supposed to see, and do you see them or avoid them?

2. If you've seen it, do you like it? What don't you like about it? Do you like that kind of extreme visual composition where one actor is right up against the edge of the frame and the other actor walks away into the set and looks about one tenth the size of the other guy? Do you like that stagey acting? Do those special achievements in makeup from 1941 drive you crazy or do you find them heart-rendingly touching evidence of striving after Art?

3. With all this snow we've been having, we could make a list of movies with important snow, and "Citizen Kane" belongs on that list. What else? "The Shining"...

104 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

I watched the Japanese original Godzilla and excerpts from Up In Smoke (from the documentary on the prosecution of Tommy Chong). I think both films hold their own against Citizen Kane.

TerriW said...

My favorite snow movies: Fargo and A Simple Plan.

But A Simple Plan is also on my list of movies I loved that I never, ever want to see again.

Fred4Pres said...

Godzilla only has distant shots of snow on Mt. Fuji. Up In Smoke has some snow, but not the stuff that falls from the sky. But this one has snow in the title. It is actually pretty good.

TerriW said...

I saw Citizen Kane when I took an Intro to Film class in college. I suppose that was an easy, cheap choice but there were some other gems in that class that I'm so glad it introduced me to (20 years ago): Breaker Morant, Blood Simple, Badlands, House of Games.

Fred4Pres said...

I just watched Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day (again).

Diane Wilson said...

Watched CK out of curiosity. Interesting story, and the composition and cinematography didn't feel extreme in terms of modern film making. But it did feel stagey to and beyond distraction. I'm not in a hurry to watch it again.

Snow movies.... Doctor Zhivago? Laurence of Arabia? Hard choices.

Fred4Pres said...

Touching the Void and Alive are great snow movies too. You could throw in Dumb and Dumber to that mix.

Fred4Pres said...

Once my a/c went out on a 90/90 day, so I watched Dr. Zhivago and it made me feel cooler.

chickelit said...

With all this snow we've been having, we could make a list of movies with important snow, and "Citizen Kane" belongs on that list. What else? "The Shining"...

There's closing scene in "The Dead" as directed by John Huston. But James Joyce wrote that snow into the story and Huston had to do it.

ddh said...

La Grande Illusion is a great movie in which snow becomes a hinge in the story. Not as great a movie, but still pretty good, is Doctor Zhivago.

Thomas said...

I saw Citizen Kane a dozen years ago, when a cinephile friend visited and noticed that it was showing at the local art theater.

We went, and I liked it. There were maybe 20 of us in the theater. One couple got up about 10 minutes into the movie, walked out and didn't come back. "I thought it was the other Citizen Kane," I always imagined them saying.

J Lee said...

"Kane" was one of the earliest examples of a movie being viewed through a very political prism, since by 1941, Wiliiam Randolph Hearst wasn't just a major representative of big business, he was an apostate of both Roosevelt's New Deal that Wells, his Mercury Theater and most of Hollywood and the (non-Hearst) entertainment press of the day supported, but he also had gone over to the dark side, since if you go back and look at Heart's papers from the 1890s to the 1920s and his political actions in New York, he was the liberal media of the first part of the 20th Century. Cross Rupert Murdoch with David Horowitz and you get the feeling liberals of the late 1930s felt towards WRH.

It still a great movie, and Orson and crew obviously were having a great time making it, but it's reputation was enhanced by who they were targeting because of who he had been targeting over the previous decade.

(Also, "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Dr. Zhivago" are two more movies where scenes in snow play major roles.)

MikeR said...

Saw it in college. It was okay, I guess. I've no idea why anyone would consider it the greatest.

virgil xenophon said...

"Significant" Snow Movies? "Jerimiah Johnson" w. R. Redford could well be added, no? (An underrated movie, imo)

Tyrone Slothrop said...

The Third Man is far better at holding my interest. The famous Rosebud mystery just never grabbed me.

Graham Powell said...

Hey! It's in my NetFlix queue!

I think I managed to avoid watching it for so long because it doesn't sound like much fun. But I do plan to watch it! Someday.

chickelit said...

The famous Rosebud mystery just never grabbed me.

Rosebud should grip rather than grab. NTTARWT.

The opening scene of "Touch of Evil" is Orson Welles's real masterpiece. 3 and 1/2 minutes of uninterrupted single shot. Watch it here.

Chef Mojo said...

Like TerriW - and I'm sure countless others - I first saw Citizen Kane in a college Intro to Film class. Loved it out of the box. I've watched it over and over again. I saw it recently, and damned if I still don't like it.

I like everything about it. In particular, it is a slice of Americana; a view into something long dead and gone, both in terms of American life and American film making. The actors voices are amazing, as are their accents. Remember, these were radio and stage actors, as well as film actors. I love the photography and the use of composition to portray everything from power to disorientation.

Other snow movies? War movies: Patton. Battle of the Bulge. Stalingrad (1992).

John Carpenter's The Thing. The Eiger Sanction. Ice Station Zebra. "The Blizzard" in Akira Kurasawa's Dreams.

ricpic said...

Kane always struck me as a bunch of little boys playing grownup. The exception being Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein.

Ron said...

It's a running joke that nearly every Tim Burton movie begins with a snowstorm.

J2 said...

Spoiler Alert

I remember this incident about 30 years ago. I'm pretty sure it is not urban legend.

A Boston tv station preempted the end of Citizen Kane for a football game.

They cut the sled scene.

The Crack Emcee said...

I saw CK because I was supposed to (it isn't the greatest movie ever made but the greatest up until that time) and I needed to see what leaps it introduced. Of course, if you're an artist, there are movies/records/whatever you're supposed to see/hear/whatever. How can you talk about art, excel at it or or break it's rules, if you don't know it's canon?

Did I like it? I think it's more accurate to say I respect it. Looking at it from this modern vantage point, it can't help but look dated, with most of it's "art film" innovations already incorporated into my understanding of the medium. But it's still startling to see them in such an old film. I can only imagine what audiences of it's time thought (it had to be, in some ways, like what watching Star Wars was for us) if they got it at all.

An important movie with snow? That's easy:

The Ice Storm

Almost everything you need to know about modern America, right there, and done by Ang Lee before he, himself, became a nutjob.

Scott said...

1. I first saw it in college, at a U Film Society (MN) showing, I think. (Anybody remember Al Milgrom?)

2. Theatrical motion pictures (i.e. the ones you're supposed to see in a theater) are, first and foremost, theatrical. Bearing that in mind, Citizen Kane is kabuki. It's the slow, mannered dance of archetypes. It's sort of engaging on that level. Pseuds can talk all day about how daring and innovative Orson Welles' cinematic and narrative technique was. But when it comes down to it, the movie isn't moving. It doesn't grab you and shake you and take you to intense places emotionally. It doesn't engage you or make you want to know the characters -- or make you grateful you don't. There are tens of thousands of movies that do just that. My life will not be one iota poorer if I never see Citizen Kane again.

3. None that hasn't already been mentioned. I was an extra in Ice Castles, sitting up in the bleachers at old Williams Arena (U of MN) while they were tediously filming down below. I didn't win the drawing for the snowmobile they bribed us with. And Robbie Benson wasn't all that.

Fernandinande said...

Why did you see "Citizen Kane," or how have you managed to avoid it?

Saw it ages ago in some college art-film show or some such, and part of it fairly recently.

If you've seen it, do you like it? What don't you like about it?

It was boring. Whats-his-name is quite over-rated.

What else

"The Thing".

Mr. Xyz said...

I saw Citizen Kane on TV. It was OK. If a film is supposed to be the greatest film ever, shouldn’t it hold up on commercial TV?

I’m likely a poor judge of film though. I liked Titanic the first time and had to see again because I couldn’t believe so many thought it was bad. (I see few films at the theatre.) It was a chore to watch Tatanic after the guy meets the girl but seemed to hold up before that.

I went to see LA Confidential because it was supposed to be a great film. I was disappointed. At least two of the characters looked similar to me, perhaps that messed it up for me.

I saw Citizen Kane twice. The first time, I needed a nap and fell asleep. The second time, I made sure I stayed awake for same reason I watched it: it’s supposed to be the greatest film ever.

jeff said...

Its been decades since I saw it, but wasnt he alone when he died and said "rosebud"? How did the reporters even know about it? That always bothered me.

Scott said...

Jeff, I think there was a nurse at the side of his bed when he said it.

wv: snizater

The Crack Emcee said...

Here's all the mentioned movies I've seen so far:

The Japanese original Godzilla
Fargo
A Simple Plan
Breaker Morant
Blood Simple (It's still an honor to say I saw this on opening day.)
Badlands
House of Games
Doctor Zhivago
Laurence of Arabia
Touching the Void (brilliant - and the best atheist movie ever made)
Alive
Dumb and Dumber
The Dead" as directed by John Huston
The Empire Strikes Back
Touch of Evil
Patton
Battle of the Bulge
Stalingrad (another rarely seen, but outstanding, movie - made me hurt for the germans, which is quite an accomplishment.)
John Carpenter's The Thing
The Eiger Sanction
Ice Station Zebra.
"The Blizzard" in Akira Kurasawa's Dreams

Like I said, you gotta know,...

EDH said...

Every time I've tried to watch Citizen Kane, against my best efforts I've fallen alseep in the first 15 minutes. And it's been several times.

Evidently, for me, the movie is a "turkey" -- like a big turkey dinner.

jeff said...

"Jeff, I think there was a nurse at the side of his bed when he said it."

Are you sure? I thought the nurse entered the room after the globe shattered.

E.M. Davis said...

Kane is a technical marvel, indeed.

Early use of deep-focus photography, impressive use crane shots, and sets constructed with ceilings(you know, the place up until then you would normally hide the lighting?).

The story languishes a bit, but the performances (Joe Cotten for one) were great and the various uses of time mechanisms to tell the story were innovative, too.

jeff said...

Ah, found this......"The camera pulls back more quickly to show that what we have been looking at is actually just a scene inside a snow globe in the hand of an old man. The camera focuses on the old man’s mouth, which whispers one word: "Rosebud." He then drops the globe, which rolls onto the floor and shatters. Reflected in the curve of a piece of shattered glass, a door opens and a white-uniformed nurse comes into the room. She folds the old man’s arms over his chest and covers his face with a sheet."

The Concrete Dog said...

for 50 yrs
wm randolf herst
spent a millin bucks or mor
buyng antiquitis
a mad lifetim
of aquisishun

at th time
that was a quartr
of all th
art objex sold
in the whol wrld

thats alot

like citzn kan
he never saw thousands of thm
antiqes stored in
unopend crates

i myslf sat unnoticd
in a small cornr
for almos 3 yrs
until a visitng child
askd if sh culd tak me hom

to mov a 12fth ecntury
cloister from segovia
bot unseen
herst bilt 21 miles
of railrod
10,700 crats of ston

but he ran out of mony
and thy sat
in a brooklin warehous
fr 26 yrs
now ther in miami i thnk

i nevr saw the movi tho
i hrd about th endng
innocens lost
maks men into bastrds
or somthng

but rly
its th way of al flesh

Trooper York said...

"Althouse said
What was the motivation to pull the old reputedly-greatest-movie-ever-made down off the shelf?"

You didn't want to show Meade your rosebud?

Sixty Grit said...

I've seen it a number of times, have it on laser disc. I first saw it 40 years ago, have watched it again, through the years, and find it enjoyable. Greatest movie ever? Probably not. But it is good.

I have watched a lot of Orson Wells' movies - he was smart and had a good visual sense. He could certainly talk real well. I like the cuckoo clock scene, the opening of Touch of Evil, and am still wondering if people really believed that we were being invaded when they listened to War of the Worlds on radio.

Charles Foster Kane died with Rosebud on his lips - lucky bastard!

Trooper York said...

The best snow movie ever was John Carpenter's remake of "The Thing."

It would make you shit your pants just like Garage Mahal when he sees someone in a Pittsburgh Steeler uniform. Just sayn'

MrBuddwing said...

1. I first saw CITIZEN KANE in high school, back in the 1970s. I saw it because I was one of the kids (today they'd be called geeks) on the audio-visual squad, and I ran the projector. I've seen KANE again and again over the years, on TV, in a theatre, on DVD. I've never felt bullied into seeing it, nor have I bulled anyone else into seeing it. I had the pleasure of introducing KANE to a lady friend and did some major hemming and hawing when I explained the "true" meaning of the term "Rosebud."

2. Well, of course I can recite a litany of all the things that people love about KANE - the deep focus photography, the flashback structure, Bernard Herrmann's musical score, etc. But I suppose I admire Kane for being an audacious first film by a 25-year-old genius named Orson Welles who, having made a name for himself on stage and in radio, was given free rein to make a movie with complete artistic freedom. It's a movie that's a product of its time - I don't think Welles could have pulled it off at age 35 and certainly not at 45.

I don't have it in front of me, but Pauline Kael's essay, "Raising Kane," made me realize how conventionally CITIZEN KANE could have turned out if the property had landed at, say, MGM - I could picture the glossy MGM photography and ponderous lap dissolves and some middle-aged guy trying to play younger Kane. Too depressing to contemplate.

3. You want snow? You don't get much snowier than David Lean's DOCTOR ZHIVAGO.

WV: sculkmac

Jeff with one 'f' said...

On Dangerous Ground. Nicholas Ray and Ida Lupino at their finest. Plus Bernard Hermann!

Martha said...

Prompted by the death this week of Maria Schneider and Ann's post about her death, last night I watched LAST TANGO IN PARIS. No snow scenes but many sex scenes. Although I was prepared to be shocked I was not shocked. How our sexual mores have changed since 1972. Marlon Brando was magnificent in the film. Maria Schneider appeared to be vulnerable. The film is unforgettable.

William said...

I saw Citizen Kane when I was 12 or 13, before I knew that movies were art and that Citizen Kane was great art. I saw it on a fuzzy, rabbit eared tv with plenty of commercials and savage cuts to make it fit the time format. Even so it had a huge wallop and was like nothing I had ever seen before. There are a few movies that, whatever you think of them later, have the impact of an actual, lived event. The 400 Blows, La Strada, The Seventh Seal are now art house cliches, but I saw them naively without awareness of their reputation. For just that reason, their first viewings were as memorable as a positive biopsy report. The shock of the new is now gone, and the experience is no longer duplicable. Even if you have never seen those movies, their techniques have been endlessly utilized and they no longer seem quite fresh......Incidentally, it seems that Citizen Kane and his thwarted ambitions and loves are truer to the biography of Orson Welles than Randolph Hearst.

EK said...

I first saw “Citizen Kane” many years ago as an undergraduate. It’s a wonderful character study and well worth your time if you haven’t seen it. Its “greatest film” status rests on accomplishments that modern viewers aren’t likely to appreciate today, however, because what Welles did in 1941 was so thoroughly assimilated into the practice of subsequent Hollywood filmmaking. I’ve seen “Citizen Kane” described as “the first modern sound film,” and there’s a big element of truth in that statement. In terms of visual styling and narrative structure, it was a truly transformative film that was years ahead of its time.

On the subject of “snow movies,” the first title that this turn-of-phrase brings to mind is “Where Eagles Dare.”

Jason (the commenter) said...

Why did you see "Citizen Kane," or how have you managed to avoid it?

They showed it in college, and since I had better things to do, I went and saw it. There was no pressure.

If you've seen it, do you like it? What don't you like about it?

It's okay. The problem with enjoying Citizen Kane is that it's been copied so many times. When you do that with an idea, the original fades.

Pogo said...

I was greatly impressed by it in college. I have watched it only once since then. It has become too encrusted with imitation, analyzation, and unrealistic expectations to see with simpler eyes.

Great movies repeat themselves;
first as tragedy, second as farce.

Largo said...

@Crack:

Good comment on The Ice Storm. Fargo was fun in a black way.

How about Snow Literature? I ask this because I've always been enchanted by the short story "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" since I first read it in college.

(I see now that there is in a film based on the story. I think I will give it a watch.)

Trooper York said...

Citizen Kane is of a piece with a lot of overrated crap that the intelligentsia tries to tell us is great but which is really mediocre at best. Like Woody Allen, Bob Dylan, NPR, Russian Novels, advanced degrees, goose liver pate, and snails it is an acquired taste. It just helps if you are a pretentious, pompous doucchenozzle if you want to acquire that taste.

The Three Stooges, Dean Martin, Top Forty Radio, George Peleconos novels, donuts and meatbala sandwiches are the real gifts from God.

The Gospel today was about the “Salt of the Earth.” Which is what we should strive to be and what should be the basis of our lives. And salt is what worthless douche bags like Nanny Bloomberg, Michelle Obama and the liberal academic intelligentsia want to take away from us.

Enough with Citizen Kane. They are playing Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstion on AMC.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Althouse: With all this snow we've been having, we could make a list of movies with important snow, and "Citizen Kane" belongs on that list. What else? "The Shining"...

When you say "snow" I think "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance". Has anyone else seen it? The snow floats through the air in many of the scenes; fucking beautiful. Plus the soundtrack keeps repeating some Vivaldi, not his winter concerto, but it reminds you of it.

rcocean said...

Citizen Kane - Great photography, mediocre story. Acting is uneven, Welles is great, Dorthy C is awful.

MrBuddwing said...

How about Snow Literature? I ask this because I've always been enchanted by the short story "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" since I first read it in college.

(I see now that there is in a film based on the story. I think I will give it a watch.)


Gene Kearney remade "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" as a segment on "Night Gallery," hosted by Rod Serling. The original is more interesting, IMHO, with one exception: For the remake, the narrator is Orson Welles (which brings us back to CITIZEN KANE).

WV: susog

Alex Ignatiev said...

I saw Citizen Kane when I was about 12. My uncle, who was a movie fanatic, asked me if I wanted to watch Citizen Kane. I'd never heard of it, but he told me it was a good movie. That was it.

I watched it. I thought it was amazing.

I hate movie bullies. I always recommend Citizen Kane when people ask me for movies to watch, but I don't launch into its story. I just tell them it's a good movie.

I love the makeup and the staginess; Welles had a peculiar talent for making staginess look good on film, like Branagh does.

I watch Kane every few years.

Other snow movies: most have already been mentioned.

woof said...

Other excellent snow movies:

1) Affliction
2) Nanook of the North
3) The Sweet Hereafter
4) The Gold Rush

that-xmas said...

I dunno, I always preferred "The Third Man".

chuck said...

I thought it was boring.

Martha said...

For a movie with lots and lots and lots of snow see Smilla's Sense of Snow--a movie about a woman of Eskimo origin who is a snow expert of sorts. Based on Peter Hoeg's bestseller, this film is set in snowy Copenhagen and on Gela Alta, a frozen island off Greenland's western coast.
The film is a mystery movie --snow and ice play a most important role.

that-xmas said...

My favorite movie involving snow is "The Stuff".

:-)

The Crack Emcee said...

One more:

Tom Cruise's first movie (I think) "Legend".

It's one of my favorite fantasy films, even if it does feature Tim Currey and stars a Scientologist. It's not easy for me to forget that while watching, but I try.

Lord knows, I try.

Robert Cook said...

"...(CITIZEN KANE) isn't moving. It doesn't grab you and shake you and take you to intense places emotionally. It doesn't engage you or make you want to know the characters -- or make you grateful you don't."

Who says a film must be "moving," that it should "shaky you and take you to intense places emotionally?"

As George Lucas said, it's easy to involve audiences emotionally; all you need to do is show a kitten and then have the kitten be threatened with harm and the audience is emotionally involved. (Frank Zappa, whose work I largely dislike, said something to the same effect about the ease of manipulating listeners's emotions with well-worn musical tricks.)

That said, for me, CITIZEN KANE is emotionally involving. For you, it's not.

In the end, it's all subjective, of course. I saw CITIZEN KANE initially in a college film course, as so many others have reported. I enjoyed and liked it, but didn't appreciate it's greatness. I was too young and had too little knowledge of art or life or much of anything. As I have seen it again over the years, I appreciate it more and more, and find it hard to turn away from.

Those who compare The Three Stooges and Godzilla favorably to CITIZEN KANE are just being willfully contrarian. (Not that I haven't enjoyed the Three Stooges or Godzilla in my life. I'd be willing to sit and watch a Godzilla movie, still--maybe--but my time for enjoying the The Three Stooges is long past.)

Trooper York said...

that-xmas said...
My favorite movie involving snow is "The Stuff

Actually it was Superfly.

Or maybe Scarface, the AL Pacino remake.

Trooper York said...

I can understand why you don't enjoy the Stooges anymore Robert, it is the same reason you don't like the Obama Admininstration.

But don't let the child in you die. Revel in the moment. A good eye, ear twist or curly shuffle can make your day. Just sayn'

rcocean said...

Emotionally un-engaging? Yeah, I'll buy that. CK dominates the movie, but we're not supposed to like him too much, after all the movie was an attack on CK (aka William Randolph Hearst).

So, its hard to get wrapped up in the life and loves of this selfish 1940 Millionaire. Things like the mock March-of-Time newsreel & Dorothy C's shrillness don't help either.

PaulV said...

Trooper and Sixty may know how Welles pushed Hearst's button.
AA should ad tags SEX and Anatomy.

djf said...

CK is over-rated, I can watch it, but it drags in places. So, just as a movie I give it a 'C', actually "The Third Man" with O. Welles is much better. I give it an 'A-'

Another reason to dislike CK is that it is such a blatant hatchet job against WR Hearst. Apparently in real life, when he grew old, he wasn't some lonely old man who had lost all his friends and was lonely. In real life, WR Hearst enjoyed having money, and a younger woman as his mistress, and hanging with his Hollywood buddies. Ran into some financial difficulties during the Great Depression, but overall was a rich old man who enjoyed life. And Welles admitted that the portrayal of Hearst was a lie, but it didn't stop him from making the movie and ruining WR Hearst's reputation forever.

Lem said...

Have you been bullied into seeing it, (Kane) or are you one of the bullies?

I was bullied into seeing Kane and when I finally saw it I was glad I was bullied otherwise it would have never happened.

Lem said...

Do you feel like there are movies you're supposed to see, and do you see them or avoid them?

I was bullied into seeing Unforgiven.. again I was glad somebody with enough sense to something I would like made me rent it.

Having been bullied, I dont think twice if and when somebody says they haven't seen something to make sure I bully them.

MrBuddwing said...

Welles admitted that the portrayal of Hearst was a lie, but it didn't stop him from making the movie and ruining WR Hearst's reputation forever.

I should think it was Marion Davies' reputation that took the bigger hit.

WV: dersavil

Lem said...

This post reminds me of Seinfeld's parents bulling him into seeing Schindler's List.

meep said...

1. My now-husband dug out a bunch of old VHS tapes when he moved to NYC, and Citizen Kane was in the pile. So we watched it.

2. I liked it, but more from a direction/composition point-of-view. It's not something I'd watch again and again... like Star Trek.

The thing I liked the best was the lighting.


3. Snow? well, duh -- White Christmas! Though lack of snow was a big plot point....

meep said...

Also, the main reason I watched Citizen Kane was so I could finally understand all the Simpsons refs to same.

SGT Ted said...

I saw in in film class at college. The film was actually ground breaking in alot of ways for its time. It's a fascinating study in the evolution of cinematography.

Suzy said...

Movies where snow is important: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. :)

Chef Mojo said...

This comment thread brought this to mind:

Kids In The Hall - Citizen Kane

Trooper York said...

Orson Welles was a first ballot origninal inductee into the Overrated Hall of Fame along with Leo Tolstoy, John F. Kennedy, Dylan, Woody Allen and everyone who ever went to Harvard.

He is sort of the Babe Ruth of the overrated.

Scott said...

"That said, for me, CITIZEN KANE is emotionally involving. For you, it's not."

Si mon oncle avait seins, il serait ma tante.

Orson Welles was an Important Man whose Movie, Citizen Kane, made an Important Statement using High Art and Revolutionary Technique.

Of Course, the Unwashed Masses could not Appreciate such A Tremendous Cinematic Achievement, which is why it was A Box Office Flop.

Trooper York said...

On the other hand, Orson was a true aficionado of one of America's greatest achievements; Macaroni and Cheese.

I once heard a tape of him expounding on his love of macaroni and cheese. Baked. Topped with bacon. Three different types of cheese.

It just goes to show you that nobody is all bad. Just sayn'

Amy said...

I watched it when I was taking chemo. We signed up for Netflix because I figured I'd be spending a lot of time lying on the couch (which turned out not to be entirely true). But when we set up the queue, I felt I 'should' watch CK since I had never seen it.
Found it boring and emotionally cold and non-engaging.
And now it will always remind me of chemo.
So I'd say it's pretty much ruined for me.

Lem said...

..we could make a list of movies with important snow,

Frozen River (2008)

Let the Right One In (2008)

Freeman Hunt said...

My favorite snow movies: Fargo and A Simple Plan.

I second that. I love love love A Simple Plan.

Also, Citizen Kane.

MrBuddwing said...

Si mon oncle avait seins, il serait ma tante.

"If my uncle had breasts, he'd be my aunt"???

Formidable!

WV: panize

Freeman Hunt said...

There are certain movies you have to see if you're interested in film as art, and you want to be able to talk about it and evaluate it intelligently. (Just like there are certain books you need to read to do the same for literature or paintings you need to be familiar with for art.)

Citizen Kane is one of those movies. It's part of the film canon.

Do you feel like there are movies you're supposed to see, and do you see them or avoid them?

Yes and yes. But I'm not one of the bullies. Most people don't care about film as art, so I see no reason to push the film canon on them.

I enjoy many styles of visual composition including extreme and subtle styles. Same with acting. There is a place for all sorts of approaches. The favorite director in our house in Kurosawa, who is often very extreme and operatic like Welles.

Have you ever seen Welles's The Trial? Incredible. And makes you feel absolutely horrible because he so captures the feeling of the book. It's one you marvel at and maybe don't dare to re-watch. Oddly, it's definitely one of the very best films I've ever seen, and yet it's utterly unenjoyable by design.

Freeman Hunt said...

The Thing and Let the Right One In were great suggestions. Perfect snow movies.

Less snow, more Christmas, but one would be remiss to forget Die Hard.

Bob_R said...

I just picked up CK one day in the video store (remember them) years ago. I like it a lot - great photography, some excellent performances. I also really like the structure - it makes a fun double feature with Pulp Fiction - the nonlinear time elements complement each other.

RonS said...

Orson Welles was a genius showman. His commerical successes were few,but his cultural and artistic influences loom large across the cinematic landscape. Orson Welles OWNED whatever character he portrayed, reveled in every project he was auteur of and, in his later years, was a raconteur without peer. CITIZEN KANE is a GREAT FILM because it embodies an American kind of pluck, that makes no apologies, moves boldly forward to experiment with new ideas in presenting film narrative. It continues to stir audiences to debate it's merits, decades after it's inital release. CITIZEN KANE was never really about William Randolph Hearst. Kane was about Orson Welles, a 25 year old American, who dreamed big, in a country where you can, and achieved a kind of immortality many envy. Should one see this film? YES! See it, if only to remember what an ambitious individual can accomplish in a God Blessed Land where dreams come true.

traditionalguy said...

The award winning teacher in you is coming out again today. IMO Orson Wells was not the genius he is accused of being, and Citizen Kane is a tedious hit piece way ahead of its time. The studio needs to colorize it and put in some 1960s love scenes with Gina Lollobrigida.

TML said...

I had an even better appreciation for CK after visiting San Simeon years ago. Absolutely insanely over the top.

TML said...

@Crack: "The Ice Storm": Yes. Amazing film. A crushing film. Right up there with Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter"

MadisonMan said...

I don't recall when I first saw it. But I knew what Rosebud was because of the old Peanuts strip.

Snow movie: How about Empire Strikes Back? It's set on the Ice Planet of Hoth for a good long time. Otherwise I'd echo Fred: Groundhog Day.

Rick67 said...

I had always heard of it but never seen it. The recently famous Plinkett review of Star Wars prequels even mention it (by way of comparison) so heck if it wasn't time to watch it.

1. During my 14(?) hour flight from New Jersey to Beijing in May. Dang right I watched it.

2. I wasn't as amazed as I'd been led to expect. Yeah it was good. But I didn't quite get why it was "best movie ever made" (which we all know is "Seven Samurai"). Found it strange and surreal at times. Like "Twilight Zone". Not knocking it just saying. Found Kane's treatment of other human beings painful to watch.

But the idea that a single painful childhood experience could so dominate and determine the path of someone's life... is provocative and arguably often true.

3. "Lost Horizon". Duh.

E.M. Davis said...

Other "Snow Shows:"

Trapped in Paradise
Better Off Dead
Christmas Vacation

J said...

2. If you've seen it, do you like it?

Yeah. For the most part. Great cinematography at least . Though when you read a bit of the back story, it may not seem so great--such as the fact that Mankiewicz knew people who had an axe to grind with Hearst, and that Welles however talented (he's a ham, IMHE) was an ambitious hustler, not nearly the "leftist" some take him for.

Hearst started out as a crusader against robber baron capitalism--so when he , or his journalists (including gents like Twain, Ambrose Bierce, and Jack London) took pots shots at robber barons like Huntington, Crocker, $tanford, and their cronies, the robber barons def. wanted to take shots back. IT gets complicated--for one, Hollywood jews considered Willie Hearst an anti-semite, if not nazi sympathizer (unlikely...Hearst had some conservative jewish associates, And his enemies weren't all jews). So there was definitely a motive for a Hearst-slash pic.

Actually the affair with Davies seemed a bit overdone. And Rosebud? Why, most hipsters know it's merely a petname for Miss Davie's........ clitoris.

Suburbanbanshee said...

Back in college, I had a chance to watch a bunch of classic movies on film, on a big screen, for cheap. Amazingly, movies like Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and Throne of Blood actually are better than the hype.

Throne of Blood is a good snow movie. Not real snow, but it's convincingly wintry on the set.

Rhodamine said...

I love CK! Had a crush on the young Welles so saw it of my own accord.

"It's All About Love" with Claire Danes is a very good, very snowy film.

Doug Sundseth said...

I've started to watch CK. It didn't hold my attention enough to finish it. (I can think of no bigger fault in entertainment than that it's boring.)

FWIW, I prefer John Campbell's "Who Goes There?" to the movie versions (notably "The Thing").

Other good snow movies:

Die Hard II
It's a Wonderful Life

TW: hypening

Curiously appropriate for a thread about CK.

blake said...

Doug finally mentioned "It's A Wonderful Life" where snow and Bailey's existence are inexorably linked.

I put on "Fargo" and "Simple Plan" a lot this month and pretend we have winter.

House of the Flying Daggers, I think, has a battle that lasts a year.

Legend isn't even close to Cruise's first film, Crack. I think you're looking at Lords of Discipline or Taps, maybe? (I can't remember which one he was in.) Something '79-'81 era. I think it was even after Risky Business.

blake said...

I saw Citizen Kane on a double-bill with Casablanca when I was a teen. Loved both of them in entirely different ways. I've only seen CK once but can't count the number of times I've seen Casablanca. Like Lubitsch/Ameche Heaven Can Wait, once I start watching I can't stop.

But I don't rule out being a member of Troop's pretentious douchenozzle club, either.

Sixty Grit said...

Does a battle on the ice qualify as a snow movie? If so, watch Alexander Nevsky, directed by Sergei Eisenstein - that will fill all your needs for cold weather, inexpensive effects and Stalinist agit-prop for at least a week, unless you are a democrat, in which case you can never get enough communism.

Allan said...

I have seen Citizen Kane a couple of times more or less
because there was nothing else on TV at the time.
My reactions both times were:
an exceptionally boring movie about a tedious and uninteresting man.
(And I still don't see the point of that 'rosebud' business.)

William said...

It seems that Citizen Kane inaugrated open season on the Hearsts. In Deadwood, the tv series, the senior Hearst comes to town and in a town full of hideous sleazebags sets new records for sleazy behavior. I know nothing of the true history of the elder Hearst, but my guess is that they were taking liberties with the truth. Like son, like father. In another movie, The Cat's Meow, WR Hearst was depicted as a murderer. Swanberg wrote a six hundred page biography, Citizen Hearst, and rehashed every bad thing that Heart ever did....Some of his contemporaries claimed that the wasn't such a bad guy, but that's not the reputation that endures. At any rate, perhaps Orson Welles was more responsible for the kidnapping of Patty Heast than Sarah Palin was for the shooting of Gifford.

Jim Howard said...

I'm a Kane bully, having forced all my wives and children to watch the movie twice, the second time with the commentary audio.

A nice little snow movie was 'Mystery, Alaska', which included real acting by Bert Reynolds.

I also agree with the prior poster in recomending 'Simela's Sense of Snow' . This movie is mandatory for serious students of snow movies.

Judith Brodhead said...

I teach film, and have taught Citizen Kane many times, but I don't begin with it anymore: I start with Casablanca. (Listening to Roger Ebert's commentary on Casablanca is a little film course in itself.) Citizen Kane is full of great technique and innovations (deep focus, etc.) but I find it impossible to like, and hard to care about the characters. I'd vote for Dr. Zhivago as my favorite snow movie, and the book Smilla's Sense of Snow ("Snee," in Danish) is eloquent in its many descriptions of snow, especially in Greenland.

jaltcoh said...

Saw it in college. It was okay, I guess. I've no idea why anyone would consider it the greatest.

I was about to type pretty much the same thing.

I doubt that most people who call it the greatest film ever (or even one of the greatest) are conveying their genuine, first-hand experience watching it. They're just stating its reputation. But the reputation must have come from somewhere. At some point, someone must have watched it and truly been dazzled, awestruck, blown away by its greater-than-all-other-movies greatness. But I can't imagine that that's most people's experience. Most of them are repeating the opinion that's been deemed, at some point, to be officially correct, as a way to signal their knowledge and taste.

Belkys said...

The Magnificent Ambersons is better
Snow:
White Christmas
Gorky park
Enemy at the Gates
War and peace
Where Eagles Dare
Survive!

aronamos said...

Snow important to a movie? "Wizard of Oz," of course! They'd STILL be sleeping in the poppies without it.

wv: mashroma. The scent of potatoes.

Sigivald said...

I haven't seen it, and have no interest in it.

I "like film", but I'm not pretentious enough (or dedicated enough to it As An Art Form) to think I need to see it.

(And all the comments praising it here are confirming that, because they're praising aspects or virtues that I do not care about at all.)

dwightbrown said...

"Why did you see 'Citizen Kane,' or how have you managed to avoid it?"

I watched it for the first time when I was a teenager; I think it was a VHS rental, but it may have been on television.

"Have you been bullied into seeing it, or are you one of the bullies?"

I wanted to see it, and I don't think I've ever "bullied" someone into seeing it (as I understand the term), but I have talked it up to people.

"Do you feel like there are movies you're supposed to see, and do you see them or avoid them?"

It depends. There are some movies I feel I should see, and have seen, because I'm a film buff, and they're historically important. On the other hand, there are some people who are shocked! shocked! that I haven't seen things like "E.T." or the first "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

"If you've seen it, do you like it?"

Yes. It is my favorite movie. I like the acting (which I would not describe as "stagey"), I like the fact that it established a whole new grammar, if you will for movies. And I like the fact that the core of the movie is a simple story about a man who has everything money can buy, but in the end, discovers that there are some things money can't buy.

pinkmonkeybird said...

Since cinema is the preeminent art form of the 20th Century, resisting seeing it is like resisting reading Moby Dick or resisting listening to Ives' The Unanswered Question...unless one has admiration for ignorance.
It has often been said that once can never watch Citizen Kane too many times, it is so dense with ideas and allegory.
I first saw it in a History of Cinema class and have probably watched it about 20 times. I've also read the script and read several essays on it. I still find wonderful connections in it.
"I'm everything you hate." Kane was the Ted Turner of his day (or the W. R. Hearst, if you will).
Every piece of art should be judged of its time. If you watch and listen to 30s films, Kane was very innovative, so this comment on "stagy acting" is unfair. It was the Blonde On Blonde of its day and it still soars in its mastery.

Other important snow movies might be Griffith's Way Down East or The Wizard Of Oz "Poppies....poppies".