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Citizen Kane

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A/A-/A-

Directed by: Orson Welles
Written by: Orson Welles and Herman J. Mackiewicz
Produced by: Orson Welles
Starring: Orson Welles, Dorothy Comingore, Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloane, Ruth Warrick
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!

Has a film ever been more praised and loved by film critics than Citizen Kane? Some people will say The Godfather or Casablanca hold that title, but I think it's Citizen Kane. The praise is certainly deserved, because this is certainly is one of the greatest motion pictures of all-time. Much more fascinating is the fact that it was almost never released and close to be destoryed. Welles had already created controversy with his "War of the Worlds" broadcast that shocked America, but that was nothing compared to what erupt thanks to Citizen Kane. Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst believed that the film painted an unflattering image of him and was determined to bury the film, along with Welles. Due to Hearst's power of the press and radio waves, the film was barely advertised and flopped on its initial release. It would also lose the Best Picture Oscar to John Ford's sentimental How Green Was My Valley (considered by many to be the Academy's biggest mistake ever). Kane would disappear and only after both the careers of Hearst and Welles fell did it start to gain an audience upon numerous re-releases from the 1950's onward. It was praised by critics as a masterpiece and Welles was put alongside Chaplin and Ford as one of cinema's greatest artists. More and more acclaim is given to Citizen Kane each day and rightfully so.

Millionaire tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) dies one night in his bed at his giant castle, Xanadu with his very last word, "Rosebud." A reporter (William Alland) working on a news reel about Kane is soon asked by his boss to investigate the importance of the word. So, he begins to interview previous colleagues of the newspaper runner, which leads to various flashbacks of his life. After his mother becomes rich, she sends Charles away with a bank owner and he soon grows into a prosperous man, who decides that "it would be fun to run a newspaper." He gains control of The Inquirer, which soon blossoms into a major enterprise. He soon marries the president's daughter and runs for senator. After that breaks off, he meets a young woman who he wants to become a successful singer, but she is not able to hold a tune. Yet, through all of this, does the reporter ever find out what "Rosebud" means?

Citizen Kane has been looked into and analysed by many critics (including one providing a commentary for the DVD) and almost everybody has a different interpretation. I, for one, view it as a story of a man who despite gaining a lot of money, never really became happy and that one word is Kane realising that his death is probably the best thing to have ever happened to him. Kane becomes so insanely wealthy and successful, that he forgets what life is all about, which explains why he just melts away in Xanadu for all the years after his second wife's divorce. Kane may not be the kindest gentleman, but he certainly is fascinating, which is probably what adds to the everlasting appeal of Citizen Kane. Orson Welles set out to tell the story of one man and made a masterpiece and a classic motion picture history. His performance, direction and screenplay are all perfect in every way. His supporting players, which he brought to Hollywood with him from the Mercury Theatre are all impressive as well. Gregg Toland, the cinematographer, also deserves heaps of praise for his brilliant camera work and lighting effects. Thankfully, Warner Brothers has beautifully restored the picture and sound quality so much, that it looks like it was filmed today. Kane, Toland, Herman Mackiewicz and pretty much everybody else involved with this film created a brilliant experience and I thank Warner for doing such a magnificient job with the DVD.

Most of the DVD supplements appear on the first disc, beginning with two audio commentary tracks. The first one comes from Roger Ebert, who does a wonderfully informative track for Citizen Kane. He gives an amazing amount of information and facts on the making of the film and the controversy surrounding as well as analysing certain scenes and of course, "Rosebud." The second track is from director/Welles biographer Peter Bogdanovich, who also provides a nice amount of info and analysis of the production and while he does repeat some of Ebert's points, it's still good to hear more than one perspective on Kane. There are still frames and cast/crew info on Disc One as well as text information. The remaining film footage comes from an uninteresting archive footage of the film's New York premiere and the very enjoyable theatrical trailer.

The lone extra on Disc Two is an hour long documentary called The Battle Over Citizen Kane. Later remade as an excellent made-for-TV production for HBO and starring Liev Schreiber as Welles, this originally aired on PBS and was honoured with an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature. However, Battle looks more on the controversy of its release than the making of the film. Since Ebert and Bogdanovich talk a lot about that in their commentary tracks, it's not a big loss. This piece also details the lives of Welles and Hearst before Kane was even announced. It talks about the rise of both to power and their fall after the film's release. It's a fascinating look at two men who would clash together, just because of a piece of celluloid (although a brilliant one at that). Warner Brothers has provided a sensational presentation and a great batch of supplementary material for this masterpiece of a film to make this a must for any film lover's collection.

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