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Greatest Film of All Time Reviewed by BrikHaus!
Citizen Kane is considered to be the greatest film of all time. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 100%, the American Film Institute (whatever the fuck that is) ranked it as the #1 film ever made (apparently they haven’t seen Conan the Barbarian), and every film school instructor in the world jerks off to it on a regular basis. The real question we should be asking is: Why? Why do so many people give so many shits about this movie?
Film-fags will throw around terms like, “Deep Focus” and “Low-Angle Shots” and “Lightning Mix.” Those are film-making techniques that director Orson Welles helped to pioneer in this movie. Innovative techniques are not a reason for Citizen Kane to be called the greatest movie of all time. That would be like saying the 1893 Duryea Motor Wagon was the greatest car of all time because it had a 4 horsepower, single cylinder gasoline engine, a friction transmission, a spray carburetor, and low tension ignition.
You could say that Orson Welles is the “greatest pioneering film director of all time” but that has little to do with his movie being the best ever. So, again, why do people fawn all over this movie? Here’s why: it’s about gays. Yes, that’s right. It was a pioneering film with a rich subtext about a homosexual love affair. Orson Welles had HUGE balls to make a movie about gay love in 1941, and that is the reason it remains such a beloved classic to this day.
Citizen Kane begins with a slow, ponderous look at a modest Florida home, which is a Transylvania-style castle complete with pet monkeys, gondolas, and a golf course. Within the home, a shadowy figure whispers the word, “Rosebud” and then drops dead. Next, the movie jarringly shifts to an ultra-cheesy newsreel reporting the death of famous newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane.
The newsreel gives us a brief glimpse at the life of Kane, complete with great stock footage of zoo animals and construction work. Was “using stock footage” another one of Welles’ innovative techniques? At the end of the newsreel, we turn to a bunch of reporters. The head reporter, Mr. Rawlston, doesn’t like the newsreel. It’s not really about anything. He wants it to be something more. Already, Welles is telling us not to take this movie at face value. There is something much deeper, very psychologically rooted, that we must discover while watching the film.
Mr. Rawlston tasks a young reporter, Mr. Thompson (reporters apparently don’t have first names), to find out what the meaning behind “Rosebud” was. Like that would blow open everything we’ve known about Kane until this point. Another innovative technique in this scene was the use of “terrible acting.” Rawlston speaks in a nasally voice, and shouts his words at people in a rapid-fire, staccato manner, which has become a stereotype for how all old-fashioned reporters used to talk. His line delivery could be best described as, “get the words out as quickly and as loudly as possible.”
Next, Thompson begins to interview the people that knew Kane best. Each of them tells us a different part of Kane’s life, in more or less chronological order. It’s very convenient he happened to interview those people in just the right order for the benefit of the audience!
Kane’s life begins as a young boy living in an orphanage with his parents (I know it makes no sense, don’t ask), gleefully sledding down hills, building snowmen, and jumping up and down like a goon. An old creepy pedophile named Mr. Thatcher spots Kane from afar, and develops an immediate hard-on for the boy. He meets with Kane’s parents and offers to buy him. Yes, that’s right, BUY him. Apparently, it was still legal to buy children in the 1870s. Kane’s mom willingly sells Kane to Mr. Thatcher for some unknown sum of money. Kane’s dad barely puts up a fight. And so, Kane is whisked away with Mr. Thatcher (no first name) to some foreboding fate.
We don’t get to see what happens to Kane between the ages of Young Boy and Twenty Something Adult. Although, you can guess what happens. Old perverted men don’t just go around buying children out of the goodness of their hearts. No, you’d better believe that as soon as they were alone, Mr. Thatcher was making the young Kane do all sorts of disgusting and illegal stuff. The kind of thing the ancient Greeks called, “paiderasteia.” Mr. Thatcher bought Kane, and also promised Kane a fortune when he turned 25 years old. If that wouldn’t make him an underaged gay prostitute, then I don’t know what would.
Kane, of course, resents Mr. Thatcher for taking him away from his idyllic childhood free from man-on-boy sex. (I bet NAMBLA loves this movie.) When he turns 25, Mr. Thatcher makes good on his promise to give Kane $60 million and holdings in all sorts of areas of industry and finance. Kane decides to stick it to the old man (figuratively, although he probably had done it literally several times in the past) by rejecting all these offerings except two: the $60 million and control of a newspaper.
Mr. Thatcher can’t believe how reckless and outrageous Kane acts for only wanting $60 million and a newspaper. What the hell is wrong with this kid? It’s like he doesn’t even want to be rich! Anyway, Kane takes immediate control of the newspaper and decides to change it from a respectable source for news, and turn it into an inflammatory gossip rag along the lines of William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal or Fox News. Kane publishes his newspaper, writing fake story after story, all the while garnering a huge following in readers. Mr. Thatcher still can’t believe Kane’s behavior. Welles decides to once again take advantage of the “terrible acting” technique, and has Mr. Thatcher display his disapproval by huffing, puffing, sputtering, being at a loss for words, and growling. Yes, growling.
When Kane takes control of his newspaper he brings along two people: Mr. Bernstein (again with the no first names stuff, it must be another one of those innovative techniques at work) and Jedediah Leland. We aren’t privy to the details of how he met these men, but one thing is certain, one of them is Kane’s lover. Welles uses his innovative technique of “overt racism” by having Mr. Bernstein be a Jewish caricature. He’s got a big hook nose, speaks in a high nasally voice, is an expert financier, and a “reliable” banker/manager. Leland is a much more complex and mysterious character, and one that will remain prominent throughout Kane’s life.
Leland is indeed Kane’s true romantic interest in this movie. From the moment he appears on screen, he seems to be intimately familiar with Kane. Every male character in the movie calls Kane either “Kane” or “Mr. Kane.” Leland, however, calls him “Charlie.” (Quite a departure from the formality of everyone else, don’t you think?) As a correlate to that, everyone refers to Leland as “Jed” but only Kane calls him “Jedediah.” When Leland speaks to Kane he does it with a soft voice, with almost a lyrical quality to it. He is so enamored with Kane, he can’t help but speak to him in a sing-song way. He often looks at Kane with homolust in his eyes. And there is this one shot in the movie, which is never repeated, where we get a close-up of Leland looking at Kane. He has a gleam in his eyes, a wry smile, and the shot has this hazy, dream-like quality it to, like the camera was covered with a thin piece of cheesecloth. It’s the same shit they use in soap operas. Why should that one scene, that one look, be the only in the movie to appear that way? It’s a subtle clue from Welles to the audience that the relationship between Kane and Leland is much deeper than just friendship.
Throughout the course of the movie, Kane gets married twice and divorced twice. His first wife, Emily, laments that he spends all his time at the newspaper, and she hardly ever gets to spend any time with him. She even says, “Sometimes I think I’d prefer a rival of flesh and blood.” In an earlier part of the conversation she asks, “What do you do with the newspaper in the middle of the night?” Well, this entire scene is laden with irony. Emily knows he spends all his time at the newspaper, and she feels as if he is cheating on her with the newspaper. She even wonders what can he be doing spending so many hours over there. The truth is that she does have a human rival, although it is a MAN and not a woman. Kane spends so much time at the newspaper office because that’s where Leland is. The long hours aren’t spent toiling over the minutiae of the newspaper, but rather wrapped in an amorous embrace with his manly lover.
Kane meets a young “singer” named Susan with whom he has a brief sexual encounter. It doesn’t go well. Kane just isn’t attracted to women. What he truly desires is to be with Leland. Nevertheless, Kane’s political opponent, Jim Gettys, finds out about the affair and attempts to use it as a means of having Kane drop out of their heated political race for Governor. If he doesn’t, Gettys will let the entire world know about Kane’s extra-marital affair with another woman. Kane refuses to drop out of the race. Why should he? He isn’t interested in Susan anymore, and the affair was short-lived. So, Gettys leaks the scandal, it costs Kane the election, and Emily divorces him.
After the loss, Kane paces around his empty newspaper office, considering what has happened. Suddenly, Leland appears. He’s drunk and takes an adversarial approach to Kane. Leland learned of the affair with a woman, and he is deeply hurt by that. He knew that Kane was only married to Emily to keep up appearances. He figured that their love was true. But the affair with Susan told Leland that Kane was having second thoughts about their relationship and homosexuality altogether! Feeling betrayed, Leland asked to be transferred to the Chicago office where he wouldn’t have to see his former lover on a daily basis. Kane agreed.
Again, keeping up appearances, Kane married Susan and tried to launch a career for her as an opera singer. While this is what is occurring on the surface, the truth lies far deeper than that. He builds her an opera house. Strangely, he doesn’t build it in New York City where they live, but rather in (you guessed it) Chicago. What better chance for Kane to see Leland again than during his wife’s opera premiere? Leland is drawn in the same way, volunteering to write the dramatic review for Susan’s opera. What better way to bring himself closer to Kane?
The opera is a disaster. Susan can’t sing for shit, and everyone knows it. Regardless, all the other staff members write glowing praise for her debut. Everyone, that is, except for Leland. Leland is the only person who will write an honest review. He has to get into a drunken stupor to do it, because he knows that the bad review will hurt the one he loves most in the world. Unfortunately, he gets so drunk he passes out, and cannot finish the article. Kane finds him unconscious, and decides to finish the article himself. He completes it in the manner Leland would have wanted: an honest review of what a horrible singer Susan is. It isn’t easy for Kane to do this, but he wants to stay true to the ideals of his lover.
Kane feels incredibly conflicted. He has deeply romantic feelings for Leland, but he cannot allow himself to be hurt all over again. He thinks the best course of action to remove Leland from his life forever. Kane fires him. But not before giving him a $25,000 severance package. One last gift for a departing lover, no doubt.
The remainder of the film shows us Kane’s decline. He remains married to Susan, but never pays her any attention. Marriage to a woman is a boring social necessity to Kane. Eventually, she realizes this and divorces him. He builds a Dracula-castle in Florida. He buys anything and everything he can get his hands on from sculptures to paintings to memorabilia from his past. Kane is attempting to fill the void left in his heart from the absence of Leland. However, material possessions are not enough. Nothing will ever replace the love he and Leland shared. Finally, he becomes ill and dies of a broken heart.
The audience, through the viewpoint of Mr. Thompson, is once again confronted by the question: what is Rosebud? He asks Kane’s Italian butler. Welles once again uses his innovative technique of “overt racism” to depict him. He replies, “Rose-a-bud? Mama-mia! I tell-a you about-a Rose-a-bud. How much-a is it-a worth to you? A thousand-a dollas? Now that’s-a spicy-a meatball.” Of course, it turns out the Italian really has no clue what Rosebud means either.
Rosebud is eventually revealed to be the sled Kane used as a child. It harks back to a happier, carefree time. Before he met Leland. Before he met Mr. Thatcher. Before he experienced so much grief. Before he was introduced to manly love. Although, one has to wonder if he said Rosebud because he was glad it symbolized the beginning of his life as a homosexual. Without it he never would have met Leland, and never would have experienced true love. Perhaps that is the meaning of Rosebud after all.
The final shot of the movie shows SUPER DEEP MEANING as all of the worthless junk Kane collected (including the sled) is burned. We are treated to an exterior shot of Kane’s house, and we see all of his belongings pluming out through the chimney. Yes, that’s right. It’s another one of Welles’s innovative techniques, “subtlety.” Watching that final brilliant scene, it’s almost as if you can hear Welle’s saying, “LOL LOOK YOU GUYS KANE’S ENTIRE LIFE IS GOING UP IN SMOKE LOL!”
Citizen Kane is lauded for being an influential movie as it pioneered many techniques which are still used to this day. One of those include the “dissolve” in which a concluding scene blends into a beginning scene. Welles clearly had a boner for this technique as the whole movie is nothing but “dissolve-dissolve-dissolve.” Over 90% of the scene transitions are done with a dissolve. Sometimes he uses dissolves several times in the span of a minute, and other times dissolves occur within other dissolves. Brilliant! The other innovative techniques Welles pioneered were “slow pacing” and “boring story.” Both of these are used quite frequently to this day, as well.
The acting in this movie is really good. Welles’ acting consists primarily of mugging for the camera every time he’s on-screen, which is most of the movie. The other actors shout their lines with forced surprise. The “ethnic” characters are told to play up racial stereotypes as much as possible. (If we can’t laugh at minorities, then who can we laugh at?) Finally, Susan’s actress portrays a drunk, but more like a Looney Tunes version of a drunk, staggering around, yelling loudly, hiccuping. It’s incredibly realistic.
Citizen Kane provided a lot of advances for the Hollywood machine. Now more so than ever, the film industry is able to spew out even more putrid turds and do it with the fancy, innovative techniques developed by Welles. However, to say that Citizen Kane is the greatest movie ever, and to say this because it pioneered a bunch of film-making techniques is bullshit. The truth is that everyone loves this movie because of the homosexual subtext. Where else can you see such a powerful story of failed love between two men? Nowhere. That’s the reason this movie is so beloved. It should be held high as an anthem for the gays of the world. Citizen Kane, the struggle of two gay men in a world that would not allow for their forbidden love.
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