CITIZEN KANE, Orson Welles, 1941, running for governor

Have you ever wondered what is considered a “classic” film? I have. So, I decided to create a new section on SFR called ESTA’S ECLECTIC CLASSICAL CORNER. Movies that have stood the test of time throughout past decades and made a difference in my life. Films that I could watch over and over and still love as much as the first viewing. They are like “comfort food” for me. I have been influenced, inspired, and enraptured. Each week I will review a classic that I have loved, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you.

Please note, that there will be some spoilers in these reviews. I will have to share some of my favorite scenes and dialogue to back up my personal reflections. Since I am 73, I have much to say. I hope you enjoy the ride down memory lane. I am who l am because of theatre and movies.

For this first week, I started with three beloved and controversial films. What do I think of them in 2022? 

On any classic movie list, you will find CITIZEN KANE as number one or two. It is an amazing, creative film that has influenced many directors and producers since 1941 when it premiered. CITIZEN KANE was Orson Welles’ movie from start to finish. He was only twenty-four when this movie was made, yet he would not let RKO RADIO PICTURES change his vision. His genius and magic are in every scene. CITIZEN KANE is still discussed, pulled apart, and argued over in most film schools today. It is a masterpiece of cinematography and the sharing of an epic tale. 

CITIZEN KANE is a story about Charles Foster Kane, an enigmatic “king” of a huge business empire which included the newspaper world. Charles (Orson Welles) had his hand in every aspect of society and politics, but he never was able to win any of his multiple political elections. Charles has just died alone in his massive estate. A reporter wants to know the real story behind the legend. Why was his last, dying words, “Rosebud?” He begins a quest to interview every man or woman in Charles’ life. What does Rosebud mean?  

Charles was always looking for love, but only on his terms. He had no idea how to stop collecting “things” and live his life. He was cruel, overbearing, and never could apologize for his mistakes. His work was his entire world, even though he had two marriages and children. He was, in the end, alone with no friends or family. Orson Welles showed this through his techniques… light and dark. Shadows and smoke. Camera shots and angles that no one had used before blurring out faces and parts of the scene. Montages that spanned years of his life and make-up that aged Orson over fifty years. The film reflected Charles’ sins and aggressions. His life was a constant, combative journey. The interview questions allowed the viewer to understand this man, and in the end, what was it all for? I will never reveal what Rosebud means. You will have to watch it all the way to the final moments to know the answer. It was truly the “missing piece” to the story. The word Rosebud is still referenced in many tv shows and movies eighty-one years later. Even SNL has done a comedy skit on the search for Rosebud.

CITIZEN KANE was one of the first classic movies I watched with my mom as a young, impressionistic child. The starkness and lack of love or caring emotions made an imprint on me. I remember feeling so much sadness for Charles and then later in the film, I felt nothing for him but pity. I wanted to scream at him to be a “mensch” and be kinder to those around him. I didn’t like Charles then or now, but I understand him better today. He is a victim of his past and could never rise above his issues. This a film that nails many business and political leaders in 2022. 

CITIZEN KANE is as relevant today as it was in 1941. It is sheer brilliance. It paints a bleak future for society then and now. Will we ever learn, or will humanity “die” a lonely, selfish death? Today as a senior citizen, I am more optimistic. We have no other choice. 

Citizen KANE is available to stream on TCM. 

Esta Rosevear

Esta Rosevear has been a Theatre Arts teacher and director for 35+ years, published Children’s author of the Rebecca series, and is passionate about playing her violin, walking, gardening, and reading murder mysteries.

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