Citizen Kane ★★½

Well, it's no Citizen Kane...

As it turns out, not even Citizen Kane is a Citizen Kane.

You know, I've seen my fair share of movies. I've appreciated silent movies from the 20s, early talkies from the 30s, subtitled ones from Asia, Germany and France alike, artsy ones with deep emotional power, blockbusters from Hollywood that doesn't strain your brain at all, martial art movies from Hong Kong, rom-coms and epic dramas from Hollywood as well as subtitled ones, animated ones from Pixar, Studio Ghilbi and even a few from Dreamworks, Disney and a few other less known, comedies both dark, screwy and a few shades between and so on and so forth...

While my particular tastes could be narrowed down and dissected with a few of my lists, I'd have to say I think I'm pretty open to accept and take in movies on their own terms, whatever their origin or genres might be. And yes, years and years of watching movies have still developed my taste and made me into some kind of a snob still. I do prefer my Kieslowski's rather then the Aronofsky's, the Hong Kong Woo's rather than the Bay's, and the Rohmer's, the Leconte's, the Melville's, the Gorman Bechard's, the Wong Kar-Wai's and the Satoshi Kon's rather than the Peter Jackson's, the Danny Boyle's, the Soderbergh's, the Eastwood's... Heck, most of the time names like Spielberg, Scorsese and Fincher doesn't even make me expect anything....

Then there's those old movies considered masterpieces. Movies that are universally acclaimed, praised as the best of the best. Of these I could mention movies like M, Persona, Rear Window, Sunset Blvd., and City Lights. Movies I absolutely adore and love. Movies that repeatedly makes the top 50 of They Shoot Pictures, Don't They's annual top 1000 list as voted from critics and film-makers and whatnot.

But then there's those selected few that are spoken about as the best ones ever made, and those almost as acclaimed ones... Those that mere mention gives you an anticipation just by their reputations, despite what you might want going into them. Movies that barely ever can live up to the hype... Movies that are doomed to disappoint, almost so even if they knock your socks off, as the bar is set so inhumanly high. Movies like The Searchers, Ladri di biciclette, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and--more than anyone--Vertigo and Citizen Kane. The two latter fighting their yearly fight over which gets the number one and which the number two spot at TSPDT's list.

Personally I've yet to see a few of Hitchcock's most acclaimed ones, and I still don't find Vertigo among his best.... And you've already seen my Letterboxd star-rating for Citizen Kane long before reading as far as these lines...

It baffles me how these two titles can be so universally acclaimed, but I'm not gonna spend time on Vertigo here. I can see why Citizen Kane have earned a certain respect from film-makers and critics with its technical achievements, but it really baffles me how almost 200.000 voters on IMDB have managed to give more than 70.000 max ratings and a IMDB-rating of 8.5. There should really be some kind of deep study over people's rating of this movie, for I can't for the life of me figure how the usually easily manipulated everyday Joe that so by-the-figure hands out their 10's to the likes of The Shawshank Remption and Forrest Gump, also sees Citizen Kane as the second coming... I could have understood 30.000 voters getting there with those numbers, but 200.000?

Technically Citizen Kane is impressive, ahead of its time and exciting, but not every choice is a good one. There's quite a few scenes I personally felt their choices harmed their vision more than it gained by their courage. I applaud the vision, but--just like Hitchcock--some times their taste for the extravagant backfires. There's still a lot more positive than negative to be said about the cinematographic, but they are also still just tools for the main aspect of the movie as this is no show-case for film-making.

And for about two and a half minutes of the movie all the hype and its reputation seem to be justified. Sadly enough, another forty-two minutes or so into the movie I'm checking my watch for the first time of many. By then my patience was long gone, and the story unfolding had lost its last grasp.

For all its acclaim, the story of Charles Foster Kane is not fascinating at all. It's a study of the man digging deep to grasp him, and at the same time too shallow a study to intrigue me. I don't wish him well and pity his end, and I don't despise him nor look forward to the end he might deserve. I just don't care enough for either to apply, and indifferent is probably the last thing any film-maker want me about his studied character. That's the part of this movie that stings. For the last half I'm all too well willing to let his decay unfold without evoking anything from me.

Citizen Kane was an amateur feast from Mercury to Orson Welles, and as such introducing a lot of actors and actresses from other working environments. At times Welles didn't trust his crew enough to let the cinematography and photography take care of the message. Ironic, as the same photography and cinematography choices boldly taken to exploit the medium is so present in everything else. And as such some of the acting performed are more suited for stage plays than movies, and--in my view--hurts the overall quality of the movie. Compared to the boredom I got from the story it's a minor obstacle, but it's another reason I'm baffled by the praise it has received--and still is.

I recognize there's a lot to take in from the behind-the-scene work, and a lot of it probably deserves both two and three re-watches to appreciate according to its quality. It might well be those are enough to jump a few notches on my rating-scale, and maybe I won't even be bored at all if I ever re-watch this. After all I have myself seen quite a few movies that have made huge impacts on subsequent viewings, but--still--something tells me Citizen Kane will never be all that in my eyes. It also means I'm just not sure I'll make two more hours available to find out in the next decade.

To make a long story short. Yes, it's an interesting movie from historical reasons, its reputation, its pioneer work and so on, and as such a movie all film buffs, movie-geek, cinephile and whatnot should watch. I just don't think it should be praised all that highly as a movie....

I guess I might as well find my own movie to use for that particular general term my opening line hints at...

Citizen Kane was watched as my 23rd TOTGA-movie.

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