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Citizen Kane

Director: Orson Welles

1941. Black and white. 119 mins.


The original working title for Orson Welles’ amazing debut film 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. 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, his best friend, his second wife and his butler. Each presents a different picture, so that the truth might be in the sum of what is said or somewhere else entirely. 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. Paradoxically, although the film aches with the title character’s sense of frustrated achievement, it also radiates with the youth, audacity and prodigiously precocious talents of its creators, many 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.

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