Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten
Charles Foster Kane: You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.
As a young boy, Charles Foster Kane’s parents put him in the custody of a very rich man because they think he’ll be able to give him a better life than they will. Plus, his mother wants him as far away from his father who she deems too strong a disciplinarian. Kane spends the rest of his life making money and trying to get everyone he can to love him. On his death bed, he mutters just one last word, “Rosebud”. As reporters race around interviewing all who knew Kane, they start to uncover the history of this rich, but lonely, man.
This is another hard movie to judge by just how I felt about it. It’s widely considered as one of the greatest movies of all time, but frankly, I did not have that reaction to it.
I can appreciate that there is inventive camera work by Welles which has been copied by filmmakers ever since, and I can appreciate that some of the dialogue is snappy and natural. My problem lies with the story. I didn’t think it was made as compelling as it could have been. Kane is not a likable guy, so it’s hard to sympathize with his loneliness. Really, the only characters I did think were likable were his two wives, Emily and Susan. They just tried to love him and, in return, Kane just barked at them and intimidated them. It just wasn’t a very pleasant story to watch play out.
Not all of the dialogue is snappy, though. Some of the comedic moments in the beginning are way too slapstick and just not funny. They felt out of place to me. But, I did like the general way that characters spoke in a little more realistic manner, sometimes talking over each other and not always knowing just what to say.
My other main criticism is probably more of a personal one. I don’t find the newspaper world, or banking, or money-making as a very interesting backdrop for a dramatic story. I was very bored by the first half of the movie, watching all this newspaper talk as Kane’s stock rose in the world. It got a little more interesting when there was more about his personal relationships, but not a whole lot more.
Again, it’s hard to judge a film over 60 years after it was first released, though, it was a flop in 1941, so maybe my review isn’t too harsh after all.
10 – 2.5 for the newspaper/politics setting – 1 for those bad comedic moments + .3 for inventive camera work = 6.8