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Understanding Kane

By SocratesGhost in Op-Ed
Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 06:54:52 PM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)

Citizen Kane stands as one of the most celebrated films in the history of cinema. We cannot discuss this film without resorting to phrases like "masterpiece" "tour de force" or some other superlative to describe it. Why does the story of Charles Kane continue to draw viewers? Can a 1940's movie remain relevant?

A Warning

This analysis of Kane talks candidly about the events of the film. My own personal conclusion about the film assumes that you have seen the film and recall it well enough to be comfortable in answering a question: What type of person is Charles Foster Kane? I cannot stress this enough, please see the film before reading this critique; please answer this question to yourself before reading to the conclusion.

Production History

Citizen Kane almost never made it to the screen. Co-writing with Herman Mankiewicz, Orson Welles debuted as a film director by borrowing the life history of newspaper legend William Randolph Hearst to craft this 1941 film. Welles was 25. Hearst, feeling that his reputation was threatened, leveraged his influence with Hollywood and his newspapers in an attempt to prevent the film from completing and from opening. Fortunately, Citizen Kane opened and was nominated for nine Academy Awards. But Hearst had succeeded in branding Welles as a communist and every time the film was named during the awards ceremony the crowd booed. Citizen Kane won only one Oscar--Best Screenplay--and it was the only award that the Academy ever gave to Orson Welles.

How much of Kane is Hearst?

The parallels between Kane and Hearst are plentiful and obvious: both were affluent children, newspaper magnates; builders of enormous castle retreats, political aspirants; adulterers with an entertainer girlfriend. Yet Charles Kane has some qualities that are quite different. Kane was sent away by his mother and raised by someone else, but Hearst was always close to his mother, and traveled with her quite often. Hearst kept his mistress while remaining married to his wife, but Kane does divorce after his infidelity becomes front page news. Kane's retreat Xanadu with its dark empty corridors and foreboding lonesome dreariness cannot be Hearst's Castle in San Simeon frequented by movie stars and where there was always a party.

The similarities abound. The differences should make us take notice. If we assume that Welles is a clever writer (and with people branded as "genius", this is a safe assumption), then Welles wants us to notice the differences between Hearst and Kane. The similarities are easy to spot but the differences hold the payoff. By using a well-known figure, Welles challenges our very assumptions about both men. We know Kane well enough to say, "He is not Hearst" but still we draw the comparisons about the two even until this day. The Hearst/Kane relationship is a rabbit hole; we think we can navigate the maze but the reality is that we have little right to think that way.

I asked it in the beginning and I'll ask it again, what kind of person is Charles Foster Kane?


The film structure never gives the audience immediate access to Kane. Sure, we see his death scene: big fat rubbery lips mouthing out "Rosebud", the drop of a snow globe, and the silhouette of a hand falls off a bed or chair. This portrayal only creates questions and doesn't even guess at the answer of who is Charles Kane.

From this point, Kane is never in the picture except viewed through somebody else's eyes. First comes a newsreel proclaiming his death and detailing his life. The next report comes the diary of the trustee who raised him. We then see Kane through the eyes of his business associate and then the story of his best friend who stopped talking to him. Finally, we hear from his depressed and divorced second wife. Following the stories, we then hear the conclusions of the newspaper reporter searching for the meaning of Rosebud. It's safe to say that none of these are reliable witnesses.

The behaviors of the Kanes often contradict each other. The business associate paints Kane as a spendthrift who respects hard work. This Kane is friendly in business and charitable in reward. He wants to make sure that you're well rewarded and happy. In fact, this Kane is relatively uncontroversial. Compare this to the behavior of the ex-wife's Kane, who forced her to sing opera in spite of the critical animosity of the newspapers. She even needs to attempt suicide to give Charles Kane the message that he's overwhelming her. When she leaves him, she does it to hurt him like he hurt her. While the two experiences are separated by the span of decades in the film, it's more interesting to consider them as separated by the span of the witnesses. It makes sense that the businessman interpreted Kane only through business, reward, and compensation; this was all that the businessman really knows. It makes equal sense that a divorced woman would see her husband in bitter terms, even to the extent that she sees him as the cause of her own suicide attempt.

In the testimonies of the wife and of the businessman, the witnesses are better at describing themselves than in describing Kane. The wife is meek, so Kane overwhelms her to satisfy his own desperate needs. The businessman wants money and Kane makes him wealthy. The wife has an impoverished spirit so she describes Kane as devoid of soul: friends do not visit Xanadu; Kane surrounds himself with statues. The businessman is upbeat, and so Kane is upbeat and positive.

This self-referential description is true in all of the testimonies in the film. Detailing them all would almost be academic, but to really drive the point home, let's look to the story of the best friend who parted ways. When the film introduces the friend in his nursing home, he's a self-centered man, a little bit down on his luck-- he was never very good at anything except failing out of every school that Kane attended. He begs cigars from strangers against hospital recommendations. At this point, we can guess how he represents Kane. Running for office, Kane fails when a scandal reveals that he's having an affair. The failure echoes in the friend and it describes all of his own failures, whether it is drink or cigars or a habit. Kane chose his vice instead of doing the honorable thing, what was best for the people. The friend makes a grandiose request to work at a location away from Kane and during the request he accuses Kane of being capable of only loving on his own terms. This should be a profound insight about himself, but he directs it at Kane. He holds his friendship only on his own terms. As long as Kane succeeds they can be close friends. If Kane shows any human weakness the friend's instinct is to run. Kane lets him work at a different location.

Can we trust the eyewitness testimony? No. Each of them found a way to project their own fears and loves on Kane who reflected it back at them. Each story portrays a Kane that is closer to its own narrator in the telling. While facts may be accurate, the narrator makes clumsy guesses for the motivations and this is all the difference.

Rosebud is Kane

Let me present a montage of seemingly unrelated moments before dashing down a slippery hill on Rosebud. I'll ask you to tie them together since they are more thought provoking than conclusive; but they do help to make my case.

In the credits Charles Foster Kane and Orson Welles are the last entry listed instead of the first.

If we take the time to view the special features, we can see an advertisement for the movie: Orson Welles provides the voice over to the Mercury Theater Players and mentions their part in the movie. We never see Orson Welles, we only hear him.

Orson Welles disliked the device of the sled named Rosebud. He considered it dime store Freudianism, but included it at the insistence of Mankiewicz. That dime of psychology pays huge dividends while we try to understand Kane. In some ways, Rosebud diverts our attention from Kane but it also creates a near perfect parallel story: who was Kane, what was Rosebud?

After a couple hours of watching this movie about a man's life, we are no closer to understanding him than when we first put the DVD in the player. At this point, we should be frustrated. But let's consider what we know: Kane is Hearst, but not. We have a bunch of facts about Kane, but never really understand him. He is a commodity, the fountainhead of people's memories but not much more.

We were never expected to know Kane at all. Quite simply, we don't have enough information; we were never there. Judging by his witnesses, being there doesn't give any special privileges anyway. We know as much about Kane as we do about Rosebud. Kane was a man. He lived. He died. Rosebud was a sled. It belonged to him in childhood. It was incinerated when he died. There is no tragedy in its incineration; Rosebud's value died with Kane.

Rosebud signifies the impossibility of really knowing anyone. It also signifies the foolish recklessness that comes with assigning significance. By forcing significance where it may be unwarranted, we expose more about ourselves than we do about the object. I say this knowing full well the ironic guilt of my own conclusions.

Welles must have been laughing at Hearst's frustrated maneuvers to subvert the movie. Perhaps Welles was presumptive, but Hearst was naked in revealing himself.

That said, what type of person was Charles Foster Kane? If you made up your mind as I recommended at the beginning of the article, you may have just learned something about yourself.


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Understanding Kane | 138 comments (109 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
Kane :::peniz:::Q (2.00 / 12) (#2)
by peniz Q on Tue Aug 19, 2003 at 09:27:07 PM EST

Orson Wells was a drunkard of extraordinary genius, and ego. Although I am just as turned off by ego as the rest of us, it must be said that ego is the driving force behind most innovation and creativity. I enjoy Citizen Kane a great deal, and have enjoyed your analysis. +1 FP

Dangerous content.

been meaning to ask this.... (4.00 / 7) (#3)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Aug 19, 2003 at 09:28:08 PM EST

what's the deal with ending your subjects with ":::peniz:::Q" ?

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
He thinks he's funny. (4.54 / 11) (#8)
by kitten on Tue Aug 19, 2003 at 10:09:31 PM EST

And/or clever, and I'm sure the reasoning behind it is far too subtle for us mere mortals to comprehend.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
or (5.00 / 2) (#131)
by Battle Troll on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 04:13:12 PM EST

To facilitate searches by means of off-site search engines.
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Bah (3.77 / 9) (#4)
by spacejack on Tue Aug 19, 2003 at 09:35:12 PM EST

Citizen Kane was great because it was the first film to flawlessly implement just about all of the special effects and visual storytelling tricks that are still used in films to this day.

Personally I preferred A Touch of Evil, but that could just be due to all the hype surrounding Kane.

OW (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by bob6 on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 03:07:29 AM EST

is the epitome of The Bad Guy in A touch of evil. Since the bas guy is the most important part of any kind of narration, the movie was quite splendid.

[ Parent ]
I TOOK THE PAIN TO KANE (3.78 / 23) (#5)
by Tex Bigballs on Tue Aug 19, 2003 at 09:36:06 PM EST

He thought all the tiberium was his. Well GDI ain't playin that game. A beam from my orbital ion cannon split his wig right down the middle. Then I sent my engineers in and stole his construction yard. Save that drama fo yo mama.

oh great, another one of these (1.25 / 28) (#10)
by DJ Glock on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 01:45:02 AM EST

look here bitch. nobody gives a fuck how you interpret movies. citizen kane was about as deep as the matrix. you are not a philosopher and you are not deep. you are a typical nerd, and when i say typical, i mean that you are a pseudo-intellectual pedant. if you actually wanted to analyse the story, you would have read the book, which is far better than the movie.


So grand the irony (4.00 / 4) (#15)
by bob6 on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 03:13:05 AM EST

you are a pseudo-intellectual pedant
and then
you would have read the book, which is far better
Do you realize there is no contrast between your accusations and your attitude?

[ Parent ]
hey dipshit (2.20 / 10) (#16)
by DJ Glock on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 03:32:17 AM EST

do you realize that you just commited the ridiculous logical fallacy of comparing attitudes to actions?

[ Parent ]

FYI, (3.50 / 2) (#35)
by tkatchev on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 12:12:58 PM EST

What's so pseudo about reading a book?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Because (4.66 / 3) (#56)
by it certainly is on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 07:57:59 PM EST

if you believe that books occupy an intellectual or moral position above film, TV, stage, radio, and other forms of story-telling, then you too are a pseud.

If you fit the stereotype, you may also consider all classical architecture styles superior to art deco, piano concertos superior to trance music, and otherwise consider old stuff better just because it's old and all the crap from that time-period has already been consigned to the dustbin of history. The future classics of the modern age pass you by, because you are incapable of seperating the wheat from the chaff by yourself.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

That said... (4.00 / 3) (#68)
by Canar on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 03:32:04 AM EST

It is far easier to find good, intellectually rewarding literature than it is to find nearly any other medium. Books are low-cost to produce, so they can be aimed at smaller markets.

The problem is that as the medium grows increasingly complex and time consuming, it also grows increasinly expensive, and thus must appeal to more to generate revenue. Damn this capitalistic society which prohibits my unlimited intellectual growth!

[ Parent ]

Basically, yes. (5.00 / 1) (#75)
by tkatchev on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 06:55:48 AM EST

Very true.

Also, books can convey information in a much more cost-effective way.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Stereotypical pseud behaviour #2 (5.00 / 1) (#77)
by it certainly is on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 07:50:06 AM EST

Pseuds consider anything vaguely populist to be beneath contempt. They prefer "the underground" to "the mainstream". The more obscure, the less accessable, the more they like it. Hence the popularity of Tracey Emin.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Uh no. (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by tkatchev on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 09:18:24 AM EST

It's all about choice and getting what you want.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

You're full of non-sequiturs today, aren't you? (5.00 / 1) (#81)
by it certainly is on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 09:45:08 AM EST

I want an ice-cream.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

I should make myself clear. (5.00 / 1) (#101)
by tkatchev on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 02:34:26 PM EST

The book market is one of the few forms of entertainment out there that isn't mass-produced and isn't tied to Fortune 500 buisiness structures. (For, as we all know, Fortune 500 is the world's last bastion of totalitarian communism.)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Simply not true. (5.00 / 1) (#102)
by it certainly is on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 03:29:38 PM EST

Harper Collins for one. There's big business book publishing as well as small independents, just like all the forms of entertainment.

If you think books are immune from being mass produced, over-hyped crap, read a famous chef cookbook/celebrity biography/miracle diet/Harry Potter/Discworld/Catherine Cookson novel some time.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Uh no. (4.00 / 1) (#107)
by tkatchev on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 06:31:41 PM EST

To write a book, you need two things: a pen, and the ability to write. And with the advent of the Internet, distributing the thing all over the world becomes practically free.

Now compare that with the initial investments you need to produce, manufacture and distribute a feature-length film...

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Hmm. (5.00 / 1) (#110)
by it certainly is on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 08:59:10 PM EST

You make book writing sound easy. It isn't, and it is very difficult to convince anyone to read your 400 page masterpiece on a VDU. Even more difficult than it is to get someone to listen to your band or look at your website or movie clips.

Anyway, many governments' film foundations (Canada, Australia, etc.) and many private corporations (Channel 4, Canal+, etc) sponsor up-and-coming film makers and lend them equipment and professional staff, if they are impressed by the screenplay. So the cost dramatically falls if you're any good.

Hollywood blockbusters? Well, they're what you get to do after you've established yourself as a success. It's much the same with books. It's virtually impossible to get published (other than self-publishing), but if you're a runaway success on your debut, publishers rush to your feet, even though most first-time novelists fail dismally on their second novel.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

But still, (5.00 / 1) (#115)
by tkatchev on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 08:36:23 AM EST

Writing a good book depends purely on your talent.

Producing a good movie depends purely on your relationship with your boss. (Unless you are already a multi-billionaire, that is.)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

You have a very strange view of movies. (5.00 / 1) (#122)
by it certainly is on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 05:43:17 PM EST

You seem to think the only good ones cost millions to make. You have been infected by Hollywood lies. Sorry.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

OMFG! (5.00 / 1) (#123)
by Canar on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 11:57:21 PM EST

I actually started one of those threads that goes off over to the edge of your browser window and slowly squishes itself to death... I've never done that before. Thanks guys. :)

[ Parent ]
re: (5.00 / 1) (#130)
by Battle Troll on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 04:11:25 PM EST

I don't consider piano concert pieces by Gottschalk to be intrinsically superior to trance music. Beethoven is another story. Almost all of the music with a place in the classical repertoire is among very best music of its period.
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Thank you for understanding. (4.50 / 2) (#134)
by it certainly is on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 09:30:10 AM EST

Almost all of the music with a place in the classical repertoire is among very best music of its period.

Thank you for making my point. As time marches forward, lesser works are forgotton. This is as true in music as it is in the arts, in celebrity and the movies. Many lesser things live on in personal nostalgia, but soon these will be snuffed out.

To say that "things were better in the past" is simply a reflection of the fact you can't escape the turgid works of the present, like you have escaped the banal of the past. 99% of anything is crap.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

well yeah (5.00 / 2) (#135)
by Battle Troll on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 09:43:04 AM EST

I wasn't disagreeing, I just wanted to be sure that everyone understood that not all piano concertos are great, let alone good, music.
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
What is pseudo (5.00 / 1) (#78)
by bob6 on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 09:13:41 AM EST

Not reading a book and then pretending to.

[ Parent ]
No. (5.00 / 1) (#80)
by tkatchev on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 09:26:44 AM EST

It is not.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

So true. (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by tkatchev on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 12:11:20 PM EST

Nothing could be more shallow or idiotic than "libral arts" academia.

I mean, if these people knew their ass from a hole in the ground, they would have gotten a real job, not the equavalent of a disability pension for rich people.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Being of the Astrological Sign Libra (3.25 / 4) (#54)
by jefu on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 07:45:08 PM EST

At least thats what I must assume "libral" means.

That bit of unnecessary flamage being done, I tend to agree that liberal arts education in the US is pretty shallow and idiotic. But I don't think its entirely the fault of the academics. Instead I think its very much the fault of the students who see education as a thing to be endured so that they'll have the right bits of paper to get a job. That the students have been indoctrinated into such a view is not entirely their fault - but that they continue to accept it and go along with the nonsense over the course of their education certainly is.

In particular, if your education (liberal arts or technical or whatever) was a waste of time, its not the fault of the institution, of academia, or of the instructors - its your own fault for being lazy, somnolent, uncritical and generally in participating about as much as a mossy log.

[ Parent ]

Personally, (3.50 / 2) (#74)
by tkatchev on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 06:54:43 AM EST

When all is said and done, a "liberal arts" education still remains much less useful in the "real world" than a technical one.

This means that people who have talent and direction in life tend to all get technical degrees, while "liberal arts diploma" basically means "certified deadbeat".

(Yes, I know all about the dangers of generalizations; but still...)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

feeling personally slighted (4.75 / 4) (#82)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 10:16:43 AM EST

I try not to respond to personal attacks, especially when they are dead wrong. The trolling is obvious. But you seem reasonable enough so I'll bite.

I am a philosopher. I have the Bachelors and the Masters degrees to prove it (both from UCSD where I studied under Paul Churchland, a former scientist who now is a world class thinker). If you look at the state of modern philosophy you probably wouldn't believe what you saw, it tends to draw the best from all disciplines of the sciences and the humanities. Gone are the speculative days of angels on the heads of pins. Eliminitive materialism is hip and dangerous and you may even subscribe to it though you may have no idea what it means.

Do I live off a disability pension? Am I a deadbeat? Most people would say no. I work as a consultant to Fortune 500 tech companies, helping them find ways to innovate and streamline R&D, cutting costs but not cutting quality. I consider myself equally tech-minded as I do phil-minded. For what I do, it's essential. Frankly, most techs that I know are decent people but they really don't see the big picture. There's places for that kind of thinking, but let's say you're... oh, I don't know... merging Compaq and HP together, that's not really going to work. There's no RFC on it. You have to think artistically.

Some of my work has saved HP/Compaq 100's of thousands of dollars. Not many people can say that. As a result, I get paid somewhere in six figures at the tender age of 31. Not bad for someone whose education has no place in the real world, as you say, but I say that I owe it all to philosophy. Interestingly enough, having the degrees is as much of a sales tool for me as the knowledge and insights I've gained in acquiring them. A friend of mine once said that intelligence is intimidation; you'd be surprised at how intimidated people are of philosophy, but having the degrees makes me seem smarter than I really am.

I applaud people who want to study tech, tech, and only tech. They make the world go round. But you're being terribly thick headed and short sighted not to see the value of a different point of view. That's why the left hook is so devastating, it hits where you're not looking and that's what gets the job done. Most philosophers that I knew from college have all gone on to do good work, either to advanced degrees in cognitive science, law school, and yes, some have stayed in the pure areas of the happy science philosophy. All of them work for a living. Even Kant had to work; one time he wrote a manual for the military on fortifications just to get a paycheck. That just illustrates to me that, bang for the buck, you'll have a much more broad and generally useful knowledge base through the study of philosophy. It's a cliche, but philosophy really is the study of living.

Thinking philosophically is like tending a zen garden for me. That's true for most tech people I know but in a different way: they see a problem and they explore it until it's exposed. Perhaps this isn't the same for you, and that's cool. But let's make a deal: let's not talk about what we don't understand, 'mkay? Of course, I think Wittgenstein said it more eloquently...

So, yes, generalizations are dangerous. In this case, it's inaccurate and short sighted, right up there with Bill Gates saying that 640K is all the RAM anyone will ever need.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
phil-minded (5.00 / 1) (#95)
by aprentic on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 01:20:38 PM EST

I wish more of the women I knew where more phil-minded :) Sorry, I couldn't resist.

[ Parent ]
Yes, but that's not the point. (1.50 / 2) (#99)
by tkatchev on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 02:30:31 PM EST

You don't need a philosophy degree to have a "different point of view".

The size of your knowledge base is dependent solely on your own ability to motivate yourself, not on attending a certain set of classes. A "tech" degree is in no way preventing you from reading Wittgenstein.

A study of "living" is very nice and dandy, but, ultimately, it is something that every other memeber of the human race is doing. If you're attending a college, you might as well get a something practically useful out of it.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

more than the knowledgebase (5.00 / 1) (#103)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 04:39:37 PM EST

We're pretty far off topic, but Philosophy isn't just about book learnin'. It's about strategies for understanding. Like I said, when there's no RFC's around, how do you go about getting results? They don't teach you that in college. Sure, anyone with enough motivation can figure things out but this is where philosophy really excels because its students have been subjected to so many different strategies in so many different disciplines.

It's like Miyamoto's Hon No Go Rin (Book of Five Rings). All that he ever studied was sword fighting and as a result he was one of Japan's most accomplished samurai. At the end of his life, he wrote his book on how to win in battle. But he wrote it in such a way that it became the blueprints for the Japanese way of doing business and economics.

That's philosophy: distilling the principles that you know in one area and finding the universal that can apply in other areas. You can spend your life studying the sword and figure out the universals over the course of your entire life, or you can start with the universals and then figure out how to apply them. I like starting from the abstract and working toward the concrete. It's been very rewarding for me, too, both spiritually and financially. It's not for everyone, but it's definitely not useless.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
That's exactly my point. (5.00 / 1) (#106)
by tkatchev on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 06:29:12 PM EST

You say: We're pretty far off topic, but Philosophy isn't just about book learnin'. It's about strategies for understanding.

Exactly. And if it isn't about book learning, then why bother with a philosophy degree? You'd be better off with something that is book learning.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

at 450K per year (5.00 / 1) (#109)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 08:10:41 PM EST

I'll take philosophy, thank you.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
Point is, (5.00 / 1) (#114)
by tkatchev on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 07:39:31 AM EST

are you sure you wouldn't have made the same without one?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

don't know (5.00 / 1) (#117)
by SocratesGhost on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 12:41:34 PM EST

let's look at all my friends with tech degrees.

Nope, none of them are close.

If the degree matters as much as you seem to think (some are worthless, some are not) then you'd think that I'd have hobbled myself somehow or that I'm an extraordinary person to have overcome the handicap of my education. It's possible, but I rather doubt it. I might be kinda smart, but I'm no genius. I fall back on my philosophy training all the time even in technical matters.

Heck, I can pick up a programming language rather easily because of the 2+ years of training in logic and not because I studied compilers like my tech cohorts have done. Not too shabby for someone who got away with taking Chemistry for Poets in college.

But I don't think I'm convincing you. I'd like for you to keep a more open mind about it, because, well, I think you limit yourself by thinking the way you do.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
Logic. (none / 0) (#118)
by tkatchev on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 01:12:07 PM EST

Formal logic is a "technical" discipline, not a "liberal arts" one.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Logic is always in the philosophy dept. (none / 0) (#119)
by SocratesGhost on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 01:27:57 PM EST

So I think you need to rethink what "liberal arts" means.

But like I said, philosophy employs strategies from a variety of disciplines: literature, computer science, psychology, neuroscience, poetry, mathematics, religion, law, metaphysics, economics, ethics, political science, logic, etc.

There's a place for everyone, those who are generalists and those who are specialists. That's all I'm saying.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
No. (none / 0) (#120)
by tkatchev on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 04:16:15 PM EST

Formal logic is always in the computer science department.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

FWIW (none / 0) (#129)
by Battle Troll on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 04:09:56 PM EST

I took it in philosophy.
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
on the subject of degrees (none / 0) (#133)
by Battle Troll on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 04:22:24 PM EST

Only about 1/5th of engineers work in design. Most jobs require little abstract technical training. That's why Indian CS technical schools are stripping the US of programming jobs (well, that and the shitty standards of American education in general.) Many coding jobs don't require the capacity to do research (which Americans have only erratically anyhow) or an understanding of math (the S in CS.)

In America, you might as well get a liberal arts degree, as the technical education is likely to be spotty anyway, unless you are directly involved with the work very active researchers.
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Might I recommend... (none / 0) (#121)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 05:28:13 PM EST

I try not to respond to personal attacks, especially when they are dead wrong. The trolling is obvious. But you seem reasonable enough so I'll bite.

...that you re-examine your initial premise? There's a very good reason nearly every single thread that tkatchev is involved in quickly deteriorates into little more than hurling insults.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

[ Parent ]
first principles please :) (none / 0) (#111)
by hbiki on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 09:14:08 PM EST

When all is said and done, a "liberal arts" education still remains much less useful in the "real world" than a technical one

First principles please:

  1. Define 'useful'.
  2. Define 'real world'.
  3. Define what constitutes a 'liberal arts' education.
  4. Define what consistutes a 'technical' education.
Its well worth reading ars technica's discussion on Science v Humanities.

I take all knowledge to be my province.
- Francis Bacon
[ Parent ]
Nice analysis. (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by Kadin2048 on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 02:39:45 AM EST

I had to read through your article twice before I really understood what you were getting at (it's late, I definitely shouldn't be doing anything this serious) but when I did, it really struck me.

I'm not sure I totally agree, I have to think on it some more when I'm awake, but it's definitely a unique criticism of the film, at least to my limited knowledge.

+1, both for posting this in the face of what I'm sure will be withering trolling, and for making an interesting point about a film I thought was critiqued-out.

Citizen Kane's lasting impression (3.50 / 8) (#31)
by pb on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 11:36:24 AM EST

Citizen Kane stands as one of the most watched films in the history of cinema. We cannot discuss this film without resorting to phrases like "Citizen Kane AGAIN?", "that damn film I had to watch for class", or some other superlative to describe it. Why does Kane have such a strong hold over academia today? Is there a better way to get today's youth to revile a 60+ year old movie?

Sometimes people in academia make up horrible excuses to attempt to explain away the harm they inflict on today's young minds, shifting the blame, avoiding the guilt, etc., etc. But there can be no excuse for their shameless pushing of movies like Citizen Kane. It's analogous to how the big TV and radio conglomorates spend all their time pushing a few shows, a few ideas, a few songs--to the almost total exclusion of everything else. It stifles creativity, suppresses knowledge, slowly rewrites history, and turns off vast numbers of people to 'the classics'.

For example, let's look at Orson Welles. Citizen Kane was one of his first films, but in his career, he was in over 100 films, and as recently as 1987 (or 1999, if you count archive footage). Pretty impressive, for a man who died in 1985! So clearly if you're interested in Orson Welles, then I suggest you go watch Transformers:The Movie, and pay close attention to Unicron, The Monster Planet--played by Orson Welles--and possessed of a striking resemblance to the man himself, IMHO. As a bonus, I'd say that the character played by Unicron isn't too different from what Charles Foster Kane becomes, either, although there is no "Unicron--The Early Years" in Transformers.

On the other hand, if educators are trying to provide a survey of the 1940's, then they are doing their students a grave disservice by only showing Citizen Kane. And the irrelevant assignments don't help with understanding the period, or anything else. Why, your teacher could ask you to compare and contrast absolutely anything to Citizen Kane; in our class, it was paintings by Edward Hopper. I suppose it could have been worse; at least my teacher was somewhat honest with us about the whole thing. We knew we were learning how to BS for college, when we'd eventually get a similar assignment and possibly have to watch and write about Citizen Kane yet again.

So there you have it; sure, it was a great movie, critically acclaimed, I'm glad you liked it. Now go watch something else. Watching Citizen Kane is like listening to the valedictory speech at a university. Now you know that much more about one dork who managed to miss most of the things that were going on around campus. Watching Citizen Kane for class is like having your mother tell you you have to sit through your hated older brother's graduation. If there's a better way to make people hate Citizen Kane and simultaneously not learn anything, I haven't found it yet--but maybe academia will.
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

"Greatest movie of all time" (4.00 / 2) (#39)
by JahToasted on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 03:15:39 PM EST

So the critics say.

I just watched this last year, and while I thought it was a good movie, I didn't really get the hype. But then again I don't know what movie I'd rate as the greatest (or even if such a thing were possible).

It is an interesting movie, and better than any movie released this year (thats not saying very much though). But I don't feel the need to see it again.
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]

more like #7 -- or lower. (3.50 / 2) (#46)
by pb on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 04:34:48 PM EST

Rating movies is a very subjective venture; that having been said, I like the IMDB's rankings; at least it gives you a good idea of the aggregate opinions of some real people, which should make it far less arbitrary than the ingrown, circle-jerking culture of "profesisonal" critics.
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
Pu-leaze! (4.33 / 3) (#65)
by enkidu on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 02:31:59 AM EST

Memento better than Vertigo? Lord of the Rings: FoTR better than Casablanca? Fight Club better than Chinatown? GoodFellas ahead of Raging Bull? Christ, that list is massively skewed to modern movies and hardly bears mentioning. At least those "circle jerking professionals" have seen most of the movies on the list. Most of the people who rated the two Lord of the Rings movies "10" haven't seen even 20% of the other movies in the top 50. Bah!

[ Parent ]
it's all a matter of opinion. :) (5.00 / 1) (#83)
by pb on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 10:36:08 AM EST

I have noticed that the IMDB's top movies does tend to distort the ratings of recently released movies. They attempt to compensate for this somewhat by only allowing votes from their more established members to affect the positions of the movies in the top 250. Nevertheless, soon after its release, "American Beauty" was #1 on the list. It has since fallen to #28.

Interestingly, this is chiefly for the top movies, not for all movies--I looked into the average rankings of all movies for each year, and it tends to stay around 6.0-6.3, sometimes seeming to fluctuate between the two every other year (!).

So you could attempt to add in a fudge factor to adjust for recently released top movies, or you could just wait a while, and let them settle down by themselves. In any case, I think it accurately reflects their "User Favorites", so your griping appears to just be elitism. Maybe you'd prefer a subset of users who have seen more of the movies that you appear to prefer.
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

one more possible bias (5.00 / 1) (#86)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 11:00:46 AM EST

These viewers want their movies to be good. They paid to see it, after all. Will something like Amelie drop down over time when the people who watch it already enjoy foreign films? Those who don't like foreign films have no obligation to see it and so they may not "correct" the poll by their negative vote. I know of a few people that will never watch a black and white movie. Ever. As a result, they never vote on any of the older material. Critics watch movies whether they want to or not so in some ways they do have a unique vantage point.

Tough to say, really, which is the better method: using experts only or using layman only. I'd prefer if they dropped the ranking system and just say give the top 250 movies in alphabetic order. If it makes it in that list, it's probably a worthwhile movie.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
All of these lists are worthless (none / 0) (#93)
by JahToasted on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 01:00:23 PM EST

How do you compare a great sci-fi movie to a great comedy? You can't. And even if you look at on genre, say comedy, there are so many different variations. Maybe you find Irony to be hilarious, but you don't care for slapstick.

The lists tell you nothing about the movies listed, they only tell you about the people who made the list.
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]

IMDB needs a "Top -- Old Movies" (none / 0) (#91)
by jefu on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 12:18:13 PM EST

The bias toward newer works is not just evident in movies (like the IMDB list) but also occurs in books, music - pretty much everything that people might like to rate.

Therefore I would personally like to see an IMDB best-of list that only counted films over some numbe r of years old. I suspect that 10 or 25 years would be good numbers for films (books might require 50 years as there's more history).

[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#88)
by thaths on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 11:35:35 AM EST

During the worst excesses a few years ago The Titanic was ranked number 1 in IMDB's rankings.  Awful.  I took an oath (and have since kept it) never to look at that damn listing.


[ Parent ]

as I've said, (none / 0) (#94)
by pb on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 01:09:53 PM EST

The ratings tend to settle down after a while.

Titanic: User Rating: 6.9/10 (69,669 votes) <-- nowhere near the Top 250  :)
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

Again? (none / 0) (#55)
by jefu on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 07:53:10 PM EST

If you get a chance to see it again, take it. You just might find that, unlike so many films, "Citizen Kane" will grow on you.

I've seen the film a number of times and find that it usually draws me in anew. Unlike many films that become quickly popular and as quickly become (justly) forgotten, "Kane" has real depth. As the article notes, "Kane" is about CFK in some ways, but is also about the witnesses who bring us the story, witnesses that we see not only through their own eyes, but also through the eyes of the others involved. Like "Rashomon" (and similar) the film offers us different viewpoints - but since the film leaves so many questions open, further viewing lets us put another piece into place as we go.

[ Parent ]

Well... (5.00 / 1) (#92)
by JahToasted on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 12:53:43 PM EST

I won't refuse to watch it if I was with some people who wanted to see it. I'm just saying that I wouldn't run out and buy the DVD and force all my friends to watch it. It was a good movie, and I'm glad I watched it, but I'm in no rush to see it again.

There are so many other great movies out there I haven't seen yet, so I'd rather invest my time into seeing something I never seen before.
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]

Don't get me started... (4.50 / 2) (#62)
by shigelojoe on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 01:43:38 AM EST

I agree; "Citizen Kane" has been pushed too hard by critics as, if I shall indulge in a little artistic license, "t3h b3st m00vi3 3v4r."

I had a teacher in high school who was totally obsessed about "Citizen Kane". In fact, at the end of the year, we were forced to write a paper critiquing the movie and rating it on a 5-star scale (anyone rating it below a 4 being forced to explain, to the class, why it was wasn't the best movie ever). I wouldn't watch the movie now unless I was paid at least fifty bucks.

Why we watched "Citizen Kane" instead of other great movies from the period such as "12 Angry Men" or "From Here to Eternity" always confused me. If I were to ever end up as a high school teacher and had to choose a movie to have my class view, I would most definitely choose "12 Angry Men" and avoid "Citizen Kane" like the plague.

[ Parent ]

Most students are too young to learn (4.00 / 3) (#64)
by enkidu on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 02:14:54 AM EST

Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Just because Citizen Kane has caused pain for untold thousands of disinterested students doesn't diminish its cinematic greatness, just as the pain caused by Hamlet does nothing to weaken its position in literature. From my experience, most student's who possess attitudes like you describe are simply too young and are thus, totally disinterested in assimilating the material being taught. They are simply intent on regurgitating enough to satisfy their ego or their parents. Note that for some that amount is nothing at all. In the end, the loss is the student's and not the teacher's (or the writer or director's for that matter).

Ultimately, true learning is something done not with memory and intellect, but with emotion and feeling. If you aren't willing to plunge in with Hamlet and take the ride of conflict and cowardice, then you aren't going to get much appreciation for the greatness of Hamlet. If you don't yet appreciate that you have regrets, you won't understand Charles Foster Kane and the journey of Mr. Thompson's futile attempt to comprehend the ungraspable regrets we all accumulate in life.

For me at least, that is what the movie is all about; Charles Foster Kane's material success, but emotional regrets in life as seen the prism of all who knew him and ultimately as witnessed by Kane himself with his last words, a last grasp at the last time he had no regrets, when he was who he really wanted to be.

In parting, I give you a quote from an oft overlooked movie, The Big Kahuna, which was beautifully delivered by Danny DeVito

I'm saying you've already done plenty of things to regret, you just don't know what they are. It's when you discover them, when you see the folly in something you've done, and you wish that you had it do over, but you know you can't, because it's too late. So you pick that thing up, and carry it with you to remind you that life goes on, the world will spin without you, you really don't matter in the end. Then you will gain character, because honesty will reach out from inside and tattoo itself across your face.

[ Parent ]

too young to learn? (4.00 / 2) (#84)
by pb on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 10:45:51 AM EST

Wouldn't it be the fault of the teacher for attempting to teach a subject to children when they're "too young to learn"? I'd argue that in a scenario like that, everyone loses out, making the entire exercise a huge waste of time.

To complicate matters, many people don't have positive emotional investments in the films they are required to watch for school. For that you'd have to really get into the movie, and I'd say that barrier is raised by the facts that you're in an academic setting, and not watching the movie strictly because you want to see it.

And I agree with your analysis, that's what I got out of it too; looking back in the past when things were simple, and he was innocent and carefree, to recapture those days, and that feeling.

Hey, I didn't see The Big Kahuna; do you think it deserves a 6.7/10?  ;)
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

The Big Kahuna (none / 0) (#124)
by enkidu on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 02:21:35 AM EST

It definitely deserves it. If you liked movies like "Glengarry Glen Ross" you'll probably like "The Big Kahuna" also. Danny DeVito gets a rare leading role in a non-comedy and does a great job. Kevin Spacey and Peter Facinelli round out a cast of very talented actors working with good material (although the middle of the movie drags just a bit).

[ Parent ]
I fucking hated this movie (1.83 / 6) (#33)
by debacle on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 12:09:46 PM EST

And I now hate you.

+0, no matter how well you cut it, unless you can actually make me care about the movie.

It tastes sweet.

Finally (3.20 / 5) (#37)
by CFK on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 12:34:34 PM EST

It's about time someone wrote an article about me.

I have printed a copy of this story... (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by Fon2d2 on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 12:40:34 PM EST

in case it doesn't make it past the voting queue. Also to have it to refer to offline at my leasure after I have rented and watched the movie. I think I saw the movie once, although probably not in its entirity. I remember my mom renting it, and I remember myself tuning into various parts of it and being rather impressed by what I saw.

My exposure to it (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by kableh on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 05:48:00 PM EST

Was "cinematography" in high school. I qualify that with quotes, but it probably was one of the most enjoyable classes I had in my high school career and I must say that my love of movies skyrocketed after that.

But yea, it was a slow paced movie, and we had to spread it across a couple of days, so the pace was a bit slow. And being the apathetic high school kid that I was I didn't pay much attention anyways. But now when I'm watching a movie and catch a neat bit of camera work I'm reminded of Citizen Kane and how creative it was. I was learning something at the time and I didn't even know it!

This happened recently while watching Dr. Strangelove on DVD (what a brilliant fucking movie =D)

[ Parent ]
Hey, SocratesGhost ... (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by Theranthrope on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 04:15:40 PM EST

Next time why don't you do a review of Orson wells's finest performance in the role he was born to play.

"Turmeric applied as a suppository will increase intelligence." -- HidingMyName

The definition of tragedy (4.50 / 2) (#59)
by SocratesGhost on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 10:40:03 PM EST

"Of all Hollywood's sins (and I retain in memory a cross-indexed catalogue of them), the fact that even when Welles started getting "lifetime achievement" accolades, he still couldn't get any financing for his movie projects, on which he worked until his last days, leaves the bitterest taste in my mouth. There must be certain people destined to the lowest rungs of hell -- or at least purgatory -- for creating a world in which Orson Welles' last paid acting role was as the voice of the evil planet in a "Transformers" movie." - Amazon Book Review for "This is Orson Welles"

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
Kane (4.20 / 5) (#45)
by Timo Laine on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 04:33:29 PM EST

You are arguing that we don't know who Charles Foster Kane really is. But what does it really mean to know who a character in a movie is? Do we really know the protagonist of, say, Zakrojshchik iz Torzhka (or any other movie, really)? We are given clues about him, sure, and we get to follow him in his everyday chores. But is that enough?

The movie viewer never knows everything. He isn't an omniscient god, but has to look through the camera lens to get information about the characters. Often the right choice is just to believe what you are told - maybe there just isn't anything else to understanding the intentions of the director and the writer? And maybe Kane is not any presentation of an idea, but instead, like real people he has many sides, each just as correct?

Kane was a man. He lived. He died.
How much else can you say of any real person? A human life is much more than just a story you can tell in a couple of hours. Omitting the "unimportant" details may not be possible, because we never really know what the unimportant bits are. We know someone lives and dies, but beyond that, there are many secret ideas and fantasies in his head that we can never know about.

Rosebud is Kane's soul. (4.87 / 8) (#48)
by localroger on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 05:36:59 PM EST

What Kane is realizing he has lost when he gasps "Rosebud" is not just the sled, but the child who rode it, the man who once had ideals, the person who loved and was loved. Just as Rosebud is buried among the detritus in a storage room Kane has shelved his soul, and in death he realizes what he has forfeited.

It's a fine point to portray through film, and nothing quite like it had ever been done.

There is also the sense of loss that the journalist, who wants desperately to know Kane, can never know him now because he waited until he was dead to remember to know himself. This is what the incineration of the sled symbolizes and it's a powerful image.

Also, you should have explained for all the "overrateds" why this film is so important; yes, by modern standards it's primitive but it is light years ahead of anything contemporary with it. Welles literally invented much of modern cinematographic technique in order to make this film. In order to appreciate it properly you need to not only watch Citizen Kane, you need to watch some other popular movie from the same era. The difference is amazing.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min

Welles' technical achievements (5.00 / 5) (#52)
by SocratesGhost on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 06:50:28 PM EST

You're not the only one who wanted the article to mention the technical achievements, but I think that may be why some people do think CK is over rated. It's hard to be impressed by a long continuous pan that is really three shots blended into a seamless one. Putting a camera in the floor and shooting toward the ceiling may have been innovative, but do we need to suffer through a bad film in order to appreciate it? Of course not. As a result, I'm not selling Welles' cinematography; I'm selling a story worthy of the craftsmanship. Welles and Kurosawa should have collaborated.

Welles didn't give us a safe Birth of a Nation. He provided artful narration with evocative dramatic moments, including the scenes you described. Moreover, Citizen Kane stays relevant by continuing to speak to us today in many different ways. In 2003, we can still appreciate this movie without even considering his technical breakthroughs. I even presume to have found a new way of watching the movie which is the point of this article. You're right, it is light years ahead of its time. As a movie, it's still light years ahead of even our time. I've never seen a movie that was as insightful and powerful as Citizen Kane. I got the "creeps" just now thinking about it.

Still, once a person makes up their mind about a thing, there's little that anyone can say to change their mind about it. They'll probably still think it's overrated and others will still think I should have mentioned its technical achievements, although I think that detracts from the point of my criticism. And, really, isn't the article long enough? ;)

It's ironic when you consider it only received the Oscar for Best Screenplay and at the same time was as technically ground breaking as you described.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
re: Rosebud is Kane's soul (none / 0) (#116)
by rizzo242 on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 10:38:28 AM EST

Actually, if you watch the featurette on the DVD, you'll learn that "rosebud" was rumored to be William Hearst's pet name for his mistress' genitals, hence it being written in to this thinly-veiled unauthorized biography of media mogul Hearst, just to piss him off more.
"So I went out to the bar and ordered a beer.  I felt like I was rizzo242 on one of his jaunts.  It was surreal." --Parent ]
Were her genitals shaped like a sled? [n/t] (none / 0) (#125)
by skim123 on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 02:24:35 AM EST

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
Good but.... (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 06:32:26 PM EST

... incomplete.

The cinematographic technical merits created a completely new language for the nascent art.

Many things that we now take for granted in movies was invented by Wells on CK.

CK is as momentous as "Rite of Spring" in music, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" in painting or "Ulyses" in literature.

Unfortunately a great deal of the greatness is of a technical nature, which can't be appreciated by most people unless guided by a kind soul.

Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?

One reason it is so haunting (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by jd on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 07:14:37 PM EST

Is that we recognise that many of the ideas and concepts expressed are still beyond our ability to fully grasp, or apply in our own lives.

Can we honestly say we'd rather lose tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, over integrity?

Can we honestly say we've outgrown our need for obsession? Whatever direction it is in?

Do we honestly know how to live, rather than just let our life happen to us?

Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" is powerful, because we are as much ensnared by our own "rings of power" as Gollum ever was. As such, we feel the pull. LOTR would be a nice piece of fiction and a superb piece of architectured writing - totally contradictory to the styles of the time or the styles since - but nothing more, if we didn't have any part in the story ourselves.

I prefer The Magnificent Ambersons anyway (5.00 / 3) (#57)
by demi on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 08:05:17 PM EST

The best way to appreciate Citizen Kane is, as others have mentioned, to compare it to what was considered the highest achievements of the art around the same time. Watch Renoir's La Regle Du Jeu, or Gone With The Wind, then watch Kane. The difference is in how well Welles was able to innovate his way out of so many dead-tired stage conventions that persist today only in amateur pornography and senior year videos. This is what Pauline Kael wrote about the film in 1971, and realize that this was after the time of the French New Wave, Fellini, and the dawn of the Bonnie and Clyde age:
Citizen Kane is perhaps the one American talking picture that seems as fresh now as the day it opened. It may seem even fresher.
And yes the movie was praised at its release, but it wasn't really until the sixties that Citizen Kane regularly started topping best movies lists, thanks in part to some prominent French cinéastes like Truffaut and Godard. By this time, Orson Welles was considered a washed up failure in Hollywood, so his accomplishments were simply written off by most everyone outside of academic film critics. Consider that in 1957, when Touch of Evil was released, it was the second half of a double bill with The Female Animal.

In 1940 he was thought of as more of a show-off crank or an attention-hungry prankster. Sure, Hearst did his best to squash the film, but these reports of labelling Welles as a communist exaggerates the issue. Think instead of Mike Figgis trying to make a similar movie about Rupert Murdoch - there would be acrimony no matter what. No one can reasonably say that Charles F. Kane is a fair portrayal of Hearst, or that it was a good story that happened to be inspired by his life. Sorry, but it was justifiably viewed as a hit-piece. It just turned out to be an incredibly well made hit-piece...

Welles made big waves with his freshman effort but he also swamped his own boat. The first time I saw Citizen Kane, I was shocked to learn that he had written, directed, and starred in such a film at age 25. Like Ed Wood, I tried to use that as some kind of career benchmark for a while, but ultimately I fell very far short of Welles.

I agree - Ambersons better (none / 0) (#98)
by 8ctavIan on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 02:28:29 PM EST

I agree with you that The Magnificent Ambersons is better than Kane. And that's taking into account that RKO edited the film to their liking while Welles was away in Rio. The scene where Tim Holt and Ray Collins are bickering in the bathroom is probably my favorite scene in any movie ever made.

Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken
[ Parent ]

How Green was my Valley (5.00 / 1) (#126)
by rusty on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 10:01:05 AM EST

If you want a really good comparison movie, see How Green Was My Valley, which was the movie that won the Best Picture in '41 instead of Kane. It's about a Welsh mining town, and it isn't bad, but it also didn't break any new ground, and is packed with all the dead-tired stage conventions you could ever want.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Welles and Ford (none / 0) (#136)
by Miscellany on Thu Aug 28, 2003 at 09:32:26 AM EST

I think you're right in saying that How Green Was My Valley is not as good as Kane, though saying it breaks no ground it a dubious claim. Ford pioneered many of the film techniques Welles deployed in Kane (see Welles famed comment about the film Stagecoach) and many of them are on display in How Green Was My Valley (deep focus, proto-noir lighting & heavy shadows, mobile cameras, subjective POVs). The real difference, I suppose, is in narrative structure, and there Kane is definitely more inventive.

I think an interesting comparison can be made between Welles and Ford as directors. In Hollywood it seems there are two ways a truly talented director can go. You can claim you're an artist, and shelve workmanship in favor of acting like the great artiste. Or, you can claim you're simply a craftsman, and slide in your art under the radar. Welles took the former route, Ford the later. Welles made only handful of flicks of widely varying quality. Ford, on the other hand, had a career that stretched from the silent era to the 60's, and (while he does have some real bombs) has nearly as many masterpieces as Welles has films.

[ Parent ]

The Sound and the Fury (5.00 / 2) (#58)
by CoolName on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 08:48:30 PM EST

What should have been a relatively trivial boyhood memory was the memory Kane brought forward right before death. The sound and fury of Kane's life was of no import. Kane was completely clueless as to what a meaningful life might consist of even at death's door. The film gives the viewer no answers as to what might provide a meaningful life either. Here the film is silent. That riches and fame can fail to deliver a meaningful life is, of course, an old theme in literature. The real strength of the film is technical rather than the conveying of some deep message about human character. And by the way Wells could have cut out the 'Rosebud' statement at the end. Basically by the time the film was finished Welles had more or less shafted the other screenwriter. Wells could have had Kane say whatever Wells pleased. 'Rosebud' makes the film. The viewer is left clueless as how to lead life however with an attractive but deadly option ruled out. The viewer is left with only the hope of a small boy. This is actually quite a lot.

"What does your conscience say? -- 'You shall become the person you are.'" Friedrich Nietzsche

as if (3.66 / 3) (#60)
by turmeric on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 11:49:23 PM EST

as if we dont understand, most americans, exactly who kane was. he is --US--

A similar situation (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by inerte on Wed Aug 20, 2003 at 11:52:06 PM EST

About witnesses and their perception of a person is Dom Casmurro, by Machado de Assis. You can always search for more information. It's one of the greatest classic of brazilian literature, and I highly recommend it to anyone.

I've never really understood why Citizen Kane was considered a great movie, and this article has introduced me to some of the reasons. I remembered Dom Casmurro because I've felt the same way when I read the first reviews and analysis of the book. I read it when I was very young, but only realized its impact on the brazilian literature and the why others consider it a masterpiece when someone explained to me.

I admit :)

A good and short review of what Dom Casmurro is can be seen here.

Basically, it's the kind of situation where none can fully judge properly a person because we're told about this person by other people, therefore containing bias and prejudices, among other fellings.

Grab a copy if you can :) :) :)

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.

Citizen Kane (4.85 / 7) (#63)
by gbd on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 01:48:28 AM EST

There's a scene in Citizen Kane just after Kane has essentially lost his empire and has been forced to shut down several of his newspapers and sell off many of his assets. Kane appears in an office, and in the background there are a couple of windows that, upon initial inspection, appear to be perfectly normal; the bottom of the windows appear to be about waist-high. But after Kane signs the necessary paperwork, he walks towards the windows and you see that this is actually an optical illusion. Welles shot this scene in an office with large windows that were set very high in the wall. By the time that Kane actually reaches the wall, you see that it is much further back than it appears and the bottom of the windows is actually higher than Kane's head.

In this shot, Kane appears diminutive compared to the windows and the people in the foreground. The symbolism is hard to miss; a once-powerful man has become a shadow of his former self and has lost much of what he struggled to attain. Welles filled the entire movie with this kind of stuff. Citizen Kane is a film that has something interesting to note about almost every shot. It was a special effects tour-de-force (for its time) and there has been much talk about the things that it pioneered, such as the much-discussed "deep focus" technique.

But at a more fundamental level, the cinematography and basic composition of the film offer something to study and marvel at, no matter how many times you see it. The famous montage of Kane and his first wife which shows them progressing from intimate breakfasts to gradually-increasing arguments, culminating in a shot which shows them sitting at opposite sides of a very long table, gives me the chills every time I see it. Kane is literally stuffed with filmmaking techniques and devices which continue to be used to this day.

It's not realistic to expect Kane to appeal to the average Joe Moviegoer, who judges the quality of a movie on the basis of how many explosions it contains or how many Matchbox 20 songs the soundtrack includes. But I'll guarantee you this: In 100 years, people will still be watching Citizen Kane (a film that won a lone Oscar), and you'll be hard-pressed to find anybody who's even seen Gladiator (a film whose critical success I find very hard to explain.)

Gunter glieben glauchen globen.

RE: Citizen Kane (5.00 / 2) (#66)
by cht on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 03:13:41 AM EST

If CFK was alone at the time of his death, how could anyone know what his last word was?

"Rosebud" was Hearst's pet name for the clitoris of his mistress, the appallingly bad actress Marion Davies.
Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!

She wasn't that bad (5.00 / 1) (#96)
by epepke on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 01:28:29 PM EST

She was quite good as a comic character actress in silent films. However, Hearst wanted her to be the star in Important Productions, and she was not cut out for this.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Just watched it for the first time rather recently (3.00 / 1) (#67)
by proles on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 03:18:31 AM EST

And it was good.  I'm not going to post a standard "boo, overrated" rant.

That said, I will say that I'm a tad bothered by those who insist on ranking films and arguing that this (or any) particular film is somehow the "best".  Such elitism is pointless and, well, elitist, snobbish, whatever.

I guess I'm just generally bothered by any of those lists though that come from "experts" who claim to know what "the best" is.
If there is hope, it lies in the proles.

You don't have to be an expert... (none / 0) (#90)
by silent on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 11:43:47 AM EST

...to understand why Kane is great. You should have some understanding of film as an artistic medium however.
--- silence is poetry
[ Parent ]
Not the issue (none / 0) (#105)
by proles on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 06:14:07 PM EST

I'm not talking about "understanding why Kane is great". I myself said that I think it's a fine film. I'm just expressing my general dissatisfaction with those who insist on ranking and ordering these sorts of things. I'm talking about the self-professed film aficionados (read: snobs) who try and rank the apparent "best films" ever. I have no problem with those who rank their "favorites" (I tend to avoid doing that myself but don't see anything wrong with it), but those who preachily rank what the absolute "best" is, yeah...
If there is hope, it lies in the proles.
[ Parent ]
Like nearly everything (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by the sixth replicant on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 03:38:06 AM EST

it's important to also see when this film was made and realise how revolutionary it was. Even when people do say the same things about films like Easy Rider or Chinatown there were films of the same style and complexity around then, but Citizen Kane was like if someone one from Omicron Persei 8 made it and gave it to the world.

I know it's hard to label it but hey, we label everything in this world, and the label "best film ever" might as well be given to Citzen Kane. Would you prefer Gone with the Wind??


PS I remember watching the movie for the first time when I was 12 and thinking it was a modern movie. I even liked the song and dance numbers!

Would've voted -1, poor title (3.00 / 1) (#70)
by Mister Smith on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 04:10:13 AM EST

I may very well be the only one who thought this, but just looking at the title, I thought this was gonna be some tongue-in-cheek psuedo-psycho-analysis of Kane, the professional wrestler. Or maybe the psychology of Brian Gerwitz, who's probably the one that stuck Glenn "Kane" Jacobs with this horrible excuse for a gimmick.

Ha, ha! Learning about myself. . . (5.00 / 2) (#71)
by Fantastic Lad on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 05:37:59 AM EST

That said, what type of person was Charles Foster Kane? If you made up your mind as I recommended at the beginning of the article, you may have just learned something about yourself.

I had to go back and read your opening question because I skipped past it when I saw the word, "Warning," and the beginnings of a spoiler disclaimer. --Skipped past that and went for the meat.

So. . . Patience is a virtue? Or is my personal insight that I've grown over-exposed and jaded by the reading of too many tens of hundreds of news articles, essays and internet postings that 95% of it all appears to me now as mostly just repeating pattern?

I project myself upon your essay! I will never know you truly! Bah, I say!

Interesting analysis, though, all in all. --I never really thought much about Citizen Kane, reacting, (again) as I often do, with suspicion to what the Authorities of any medium tell me are the prescribed classics. Mind you, the problem isn't nearly so bad in film as it is in literature, but I do find that the Authorities often turn out to be twits and blo-hards who want to bore me to death. --Either with heavy-handed metaphoric psychology, or by contrast, big, directionless epics with only the flimsiest of purposes.

Now, to be fair, I'd always nodded in respect to Welles in that he was only 25 when he pulled that trick out of the hat. --Though I'd always felt Citizen Kane did indeed have a bit too much of that 'dime store psychology' which young artists often invest in so heavily. (The young are always so dramatic!) It was cool to learn that the sled thing wasn't his first choice.

Still. . . I really do think that much of the excitment and respect surrounding the film stemmed from the culture and the times during which it was made. --And that this respect simply carried forward as the views of estemed critics dominoed over the years through film schools and critical literature until today, when the point is mostly lost, being maintained primarily by those who meekly offer tribute at the feet of Orthodox Cultural Authority, and pretend to know what the hell they're talking about.

(Hey. Give me a break. I said I was jaded!)

I think we could all get a clear picture of just how cool Citizen Kane was at the time if, A) Over-Dramatic was still 'In', and B) If Welles were to make the film about Bill Gates, C) Make it as well as he made Kane, and D) if Gates were to act like an ass and pull all his muscle in trying to shut it down as Hearst did.

Now THAT would be some serious entertainment! --And if I were a critic, seeing the director punished by idiots chanting 'Commie' at the Oscars, I'd also go out of my way to raise the creator high on words of praise!


Oh yeah. Forgot to mention. . . (none / 0) (#73)
by Fantastic Lad on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 06:05:08 AM EST

E) If cinema was still so young that you could invent a bunch of visual and effects techniques to the thundering accolades of film people everywhere.

As with all aging mediums, the excitement of new terrirory fades as you run out of it. The best we get are little jolts like digital dinos in Jurassic Park, and 'fifty' cameras shooting Neo in the Matrix. --Not insignificant, but not exactly Star Wars.


[ Parent ]

Well, where did my comment go? (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by Metatone on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 05:59:45 AM EST

I posted an enormous comment earlier, but it seems to have been swallowed by a black hole. Damn the MySQL I say. <sob> My well reasoned comments on "Sgt. Pepper syndrome" lost. Ah well, no time to reproduce it. Hence, a short post only follows...

On to Citizen Kane, everyone convinced about it's technical innovation needs to view more Murnau, Lang, Pabst, Jean Renoir, John Ford (The Long Journey Home in particular), Vertov and early Hitchcock. Kane is a _great_ movie, but the revolutionary nature of it's technique is overestimated. If you want to make a case for it as #1 of all time, you have to make a case for the storyline too. Kudos to SocratesGhost for creating this discussion.

P.S. Mentioning Pauline Rael without mentioning her central thesis (Welles wasn't the genius) is a bit of a crime.

P.P.S. For a short list of obviously misattributed innovations click here.

Hitchcock vs. Welles (4.00 / 3) (#89)
by silent on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 11:40:13 AM EST

While I would personally put Hitchcock above Welles in terms of his cinematic skill, I don't think we should discount Orson too quickly. Welles and Hitchcock were great competitors. There was very much a "Whatever you can do, I can do better" mentality there. Compare sequences from many of their movies. The opening scene of "Touch of Evil" versus the stairwell scene in "Notorious", for example. These two fed off of eachother.
--- silence is poetry
[ Parent ]
I certainly don't mean to write off Welles (none / 0) (#113)
by Metatone on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 05:26:35 AM EST

As in my other reply, I'm just wary of over-deification of him. In fact my post was meant to be all about the influence between filmmakers. Welles deserves great credit for creating Kane, but it's wrong of us to ignore those who came before him (or his contemporaries). I've seen too many people claim "the technical innovations alone make Kane #1." You can only say that if you ignore those who influenced Welles.

And that's just wrong I tell ya! ;)

[ Parent ]

Citizen Kane's Borrowings. (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by hbiki on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 06:50:39 PM EST

Citizen Kane was technically innovative. The article you allude to does not dispute that although it tries. For one, it attacks (apparent) narrative invention. The thing with narrative technique is that it goes in cycle. The biggest myth of post-modernism is that post-modernism is new. Most 'avante garde' narrative techniques have been around for centuries - they just weren't popular. Besides, narrative technique isn't technical technique. Secondly, technical innovation usually builds on previous technical innovation. Its not a case of 'wham' here's deep focus, and you've never seen it before. In fact, deep focus has been around for a long long time, due to the technical limitations of early cinema. Thirdly, Citizen Kane's greatest feat was that it tried and achieved so much in the -one- film. The importance of that should not be underestimated. Talk to an actual cinematographer, and they'll discuss how much Toland and Welles pushed the envelope. Hell, I'm going to be a bitch and quote in full a message by David Mullen a working director of photography from CML:
The deep focus photography was made more achievable just before "Citizen Kane" by the introduction of faster b&w stocks in 1938. The previous stock being used was 40 ASA but Kodak introduced Plus-X (80 ASA) and Super-XX (160 ASA) that year. Plus-X became the most commonly used b&w stock in Hollywood for decades to come but Toland jumped for the Super-XX, even pushing it for a few scenes in "Citizen Kane" (like the projection room scene.)

This, combined with Dupont's (I think) lens coating technology in 1937 and Technicolor & Mole Richardson's development of Du-Arcs for 3-strip Technicolor photography gave Toland further tools. He experimented with deep focus in his earlier films, most notably "The Long Voyage Home" for John Ford, and convinced Welles that this was the way to go for "Citizen Kane" . Toland saw Welles as someone he could mold and collaborate with. There is a story that when some crew person told Welles that some particular shot idea wouldn't work and wasn't how things were done in Hollywood, Toland later chewed him out privately because he said that he didn't want Welles doing things the way they were done before or being told something wasn't possible. He appreciated Welles' lack of experience with moviemaking because he gave him more room to experiment visually.

Many shots were photographed on a 25mm lens around an f/8 to f/11, some shots at f/16, and beyond that, some shots involved special effects to achieve even more extreme focus tricks.

The copyright is entirely Davids.

I take all knowledge to be my province.
- Francis Bacon
[ Parent ]
Damn, it's happened again (none / 1) (#112)
by Metatone on Fri Aug 22, 2003 at 05:14:35 AM EST

Must be a problem with my web browser, I wrote a polite response to your comment, quite long and on submit it disappeared. Oh well, here's another quick reply, since I have to be getting along...


I didn't put my original point across well, because I had lost my long original post. My original point was that comments like "Kane was totally new and original at the time, like something given to us from another planet." are deeply worrying and point to the idea that we've over-deified Kane (and perhaps Welles as well.)

I referenced the article simply to provide a few examples and indeed I don't believe the article sets out to demolish Kane's reputation for innovation, just to point out that many critics have overdone the attributions to Kane.

Yes, the fact that technical innovation doesn't come out of nowhere is precisely my point. Far too many commentators have pretended that it does, to the detriment of the early history of film. Kane is a special work, but it does come out of earlier work, not just the previous work of Toland, but also the work of the directors I mentioned.

As for "tried and acheived so much in one film" that is unquestioned, but the importance of that shouldn't be overestimated either. Welles and Toland unquestionably deserve credit for their acheivements, especially in a Hollywood setting, but the technique still doesn't make Kane "#1 film of all time" all by itself.

Finally, to address your sneering, I'm not a post-modernist, although having read Tristam Shandy I'm aware of the cycles of narrative invention. Likewise, the list of cinematographers I know and discuss with is probably neither as long nor as distinguished as yours, but it's still enough for me to believe your tone is a little overdone.

[ Parent ]

Apologies (none / 0) (#138)
by hbiki on Sat Oct 25, 2003 at 01:38:57 AM EST

[quote]Likewise, the list of cinematographers I know and discuss with is probably neither as long nor as distinguished as yours, but it's still enough for me to believe your tone is a little overdone.[/quote] Reading my message again, I'd agree with that assessment. Very much a case of 'hey, i know more than you cause I know person X'. It just steams from my issues with the divide between film theory and film practice... a divide which shouldn't exist, practice and theory should go hand in hand.

I take all knowledge to be my province.
- Francis Bacon
[ Parent ]
Rosebud was a sled? (3.00 / 2) (#76)
by EvilGwyn on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 07:10:12 AM EST

Yeah right, next thing you are going to try and tell me Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father or something

Superlative (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by 20030821 on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 10:49:34 AM EST

We cannot discuss this film without resorting to phrases like "masterpiece" "tour de force" or some other superlative to describe it.

Tour de force must be the masterpiecest superlative ever.

what about (2.00 / 2) (#97)
by werner on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 02:24:43 PM EST


[ Parent ]
Eh. (none / 0) (#100)
by tkatchev on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 02:31:53 PM EST

Two thumbs up. The best post ever.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Opening Scene (none / 0) (#87)
by silent on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 11:24:55 AM EST

If you remember the opening seen, we're blantantly displayed a "No Trespassing" sign. Someone obviously doesn't want us there, doesn't want us to know what's going on inside. We're not going to learn a thing about Kane. Sure, we here about his life's successes and defeats but we never know who Kane is on the inside.
--- silence is poetry
Welles' infamous frozen food ad outakes (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by cakemedia on Thu Aug 21, 2003 at 04:51:36 PM EST

It's sad that towards the end of his career, Welles' was better known (in the UK at least) for voiceovers and adverts for frozen peas and sherry: to the extent that when he died, a UK tabloid newspaper ran the headline "Sherry man dies" above news of his death. Reminds me of that saying: You're only as good as your last gig. Anyway, here's Orson on fine form getting irritable whilst attempting to read some (shoddy) copy for a Findus advert; you get the feeling that he realises how far he's fallen.

citizen kane is a futuristic anti-utopia (none / 0) (#127)
by Rainy on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 11:55:46 AM EST

Kane grows up in a society where everyone is watched by hidden cameras. NKVD tracks down people who behave out of line. When Kane starts a personal diary in a spot he thinks consealed from the camera by pure chance, the local KGB agents break down his door and he narrowly escapes through the bathroom window. He gets in touch with a renegade CIA agent and together they try to track down the source of the laws for society they live in. Following the path they go up the ladders of power and then, unexpectedly, down, all the way to an obscure janitor who writes up new laws as he sees fit and puts them into the government computer. They live happily ever after.

That's what I *thought* the movie is like. Now you tell me it's about some magnate. Why 'citizen' Kane? Oh well, I guess I have to see the movie now. I saw the magnificent ambersons, though, long ago. I thought it was good but now I don't remember much of it.

Thanks for the story.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day

A few comments (none / 0) (#128)
by starX on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 06:13:41 AM EST

1) "Kane does divorce after his infidelity becomes front page news"  Kane never has an affair.  In fact they go to pains to avoid hinting at one (the landlady requires his "mistress" to keep the door open when she receives gentleman callers).  That tidbit gives what we need to know that, even if Kane wants to have an affair, he's not going to get the chance (and I would argue he isn't looking).  

2) What is rosebud?  Remember the question that the Shadows ask; "What do you want?"  Recall the beginning of the movie when young Kane violently resists being taken away from his mother.  Those sleds have sharp blades, and young Kane makes a rather violent thrust at the trustee who has come to take him away.  Rosebud is Kane's only defence against a world that swallowed him up, and made him something that he did not want to be.  In the end, his only defense is his only hope; having lived his life as others directed him to (and trying to do the same to others in turn), Kane's last dream is for the chance to do it over again and live the life of any other boy.

Of course, as with all fo the First One's questions, contemplation is more important that answering.  Our young reporter wants to give meaning to a great monument that has been left by a long gone civilization.  The life of Kane is too frought with largesse for him to fully understand.  The wealth, the bid for governor, the media conglomerate, the scandals and failed marriages, and the anachronistic pleasure palace where he retreated to die defy the comprehension of a modern mind, just as Kane's mind is incapable of dealing with the new realities of the modern world (recall his prediction on the second world war).  Mistakenly thinking rosebud is a Rosetta Stone, the reporter tries to dfeine Kane, and explain him, but Kane defies logic.  Only pathos can connect the legend of a man with the modern world (in the end, he has the pity of the reporter, his second wife, and arguably the audience).  

You are absolutely right though; we see Kane through the eyes of others throughout, and because of this we can never really define Kane objectively.  We see the contradictions that others provide us, but the only thing we have to link them all is Rosebud.

And ironically enough, Rosebud is the one thing in the movie that is quantifiable.  What is it?  A sled; a sled that was a fovored childhood toy of Kane.  What did Kane REALLY want when he was asking for it?  Well THAT is what is open for debate.  

"I like you starX, you disagree without sounding like a fanatic from a rock-solid point of view. Highfive." --WonderJoust

Orson Welles did get another Academy Award (none / 0) (#137)
by hugues on Fri Sep 05, 2003 at 12:16:26 AM EST

For `superlative artistry and versatility in the creation of motion pictures', i.e lifetime achievement in 1971, see IMDB

Understanding Kane | 138 comments (109 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
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