Citizen Kane is one of the films I hold in the same group as Hitchcock’s Vertigo, George Cukor’s Gaslight, and to a lesser extent All About Eve, that I come back to every year and a half or so and view once more because it is comforting to return to something I know well, and also because I think it keeps me sharp as a movie viewer. The problem is, now that I have started this blog it is very difficult to know what to write about these films that have literally had volumes written about them. And Citizen Kane is the most written about of all.
Yes, it is all true. Everything every written or said about Citizen Kane in every book and every Film 101 class is true. It is the greatest American film ever made. It is the greatest film ever made. It was the first to successfully bring together all of the elements of cinematic storytelling up to that point, and also invented scores of new techniques. But behind all of the expressionistic camera angles, bravado montages and clever editing transitions, there is a deeply sad and lonely story. It is impossible to watch some of the scenes, such as Kane destroying the bedroom of his second wife who has left him all alone, without feeling sad. The technical brilliance is still something that impresses me, and I find watching Citizen Kane a real emotional workout every time I come back to it. The same is not really true of All About Eve or Gaslight. Vertigo is another story altogether, and I consider it my favorite film of all time while at the same time agreeing with the claim that Citizen Kane is the greatest film ever made.