The American Film Institute has twice named Citizen Kane the greatest movie of all time. Gawd, pressure movie-lovers much lately?! What do you tell people if you DON’T like Citizen Kane? You’re gonna sound as lame as Susan Alexander singing opera. Lucky for me, I dig this movie much. It’s definitely in my own Top 10 (not #1, but it’s certainly in a place of honour) and part of the reason I enjoy it is because it ISN’T the hard work you might expect when it’s the “best movie evarrr”.
What this movie does best is tell a story of a rich man who wanted everything he didn’t have. Since he had everything except bonafide love, he truly wasn’t—unlike Jimmy Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life— the richest man in town. He filled his sled-less life with statues, newspapers, giant houses, and a marriage to an untalented dimwit. But we’ve all made those mistakes. Most of us just don’t act like megalomaniacs of Rupert Murdochian proportions along the way. And we tend to avoid cryptic words like “Rosebud” with our dying breath. Most of us would just admit, “I miss my sled.”
Orson Welles wrote, directed, produced and stars in Citizen Kane, making the single greatest debut in cinema history. His cast (comprised mostly of New York theatre buddies) matches him step for step and Welles’ collaborators behind the camera are wonderful too. Was there a better cameraman in old Hollywood than Gregg Toland? None of that would matter, however, if the script by Welles and Herman Mankiewicz wasn’t so fantabulous. In summary, as the pull quote on the original poster says, “it’s terrific!”