The Best Film of All Time?

October 8, 2007

kaneEven though most of the students at EHHS haven’t actually seen Citizen Kane (yet), I’m sure all of them have heard of it and its monolithic reputation as one of the best movies ever. Why is that? Why so highly regarded, so reverently spoken of, so ubiquitously mentioned in lists of top ten whatevers? Well, we here in Film History class are in the process of finding out.

I know when I first saw this film, I thought, “What’s the big deal about that? It was kinda boring. Not like The Shining. Now that’s a great movie.” But actually, when you think about it, there are more than a few similarities to The Shining and Citizen Kane. Both have a huge emphasis on setting and tone. Both show the process of a man destroying himself and everything that’s important to him. Both show someone getting killed by an axe in the chest. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if it weren’t for Orson Welles and Citizen Kane, Stanley Kubrick would have instead never even gotten interested in film. Instead he would’ve studied chemical engineering, and then gone into teaching, inspiring hundreds of teenagers to dive into the mysteries and beauties of science. He would’ve used his talents for good instead of evil. But thanks to Orson Welles, a young Kubrick bought his first movie camera, pulled off his first dolly shot, and went on to inspire countless youths to ride their bigwheels inside the house, to hit their siblings with a giant bone, to wear their underwear on the outside and assault their elders… Why? Why, Mr. Kubrick, why? I wish you were still alive so I could come visit you in England and punch you in the throat.

Wait… sorry… back to Citizen Kane. kane2

Here’s some things to think about while writing your response:
1. So is it just coincidence that we watched this right after The Grapes of Wrath? (No, it’s not. I planned it that way. But it’s up to you to figure out why.)
2. We know Welles was a huge admirer of John Ford. We also know that he used the same cinematographer, Gregg Toland (who he admired so much, he put Tolan’s name on the same title card as his own, sharing the spotlight as it were). How does the cinematography compare in both films? How was it used symbolically?
3. I know those of you in Mr. Thomas’ english class have been talking up this whole American Dream thing. What does Citizen Kane have to say about that? How does it compare to Grapes of Wrath? Or your own version of that dream?
4. What’s the big deal about this film? Why such a high reputation?
5. What’s up with rosebud?

plenty of things here to keep your minds and pens busy for a page or two.


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