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CITIZEN KANE

Director: ORSON WELLES

U.S.A. • 1941 • BLACK AND WHITE • 35MM • 119 MIN


ORSON WELLES’ 1941 MASTERPIECE IS RE-RELEASED IN NEW 35MM PRINT.

The film’s working title was American and Kane is a quintessentially American hero, embodying that country’s potentialities and contradictions. He is alternately dynamic and dangerous, compassionate and callous. He has the instincts of a democrat but the arrogance of an imperialist. Following his death, Kane’s life is investigated by a reporter. He consults the diaries of Kane’s banker and guardian, who loathed him. He interviews his business manager who idolised him; his best friend, who rejected him; his second wife, who left him; and his butler, who patronised him. Each presents a different picture, so that the truth might be in the sum of what is said or somewhere else entirely. Could the clue to his character be his dying word, ‘Rosebud’? The reporter never discovers its meaning but we do and it prompts us to ponder afresh Kane’s implied yearning for the lost innocence of childhood.

Citizen Kane is a film of echo and shadow, dominated by a gigantic but hollow man whose life trails into a shadow of what it might have become. Kane is always making promises, but they remain unfulfilled, like his own promise. Paradoxically, although the film aches with the character’s sense of frustrated achievement, it also radiates with the youth, audacity and prodigiously precocious talents of its flamboyant creators, most of whom were new to the cinema. When Welles was asked if he knew at the time he was making an important film, he replied with the swagger of Kane himself: ‘I never doubted it for a single instant.’ Time has proved him right. Citizen Kane remains the Great American Film against which all contenders must be measured. — Neil Sinyard.

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