Classic Film Review: Citizen Kane

Everyone has heard of Citizen Kane. It is one of those film that if you haven’t seen, you still know about it. It has become renowned the world over for being one of the greatest films of all time. Since its release it has been topping “Greatest Film” lists the world over, but now, is it really worth that acclaim?

Released back in 1941, Citizen Kane was written and directed by Orson Welles. It follows the story of a group of journalists trying to work out what the final words of media mogul, Kane – also Orson Welles – mean. The film details the rise and fall of the notorious millionaire tycoon with his various conquests in the world of media and women.

Citizen KaneHaving never seen this film before, I waited to be astounded but instead, was left disappointed. From the beginning, I felt that the pacing was slow. For me it took too long to get into the crux of the story and by the time it did, I struggled to understand what was actually being said. It may simply be because of the period in which it was made, but for me, the script was near enough completely indecipherable. The speech passed so quickly, that if I did manage to translate Welles’ shouting or the women’s squeaking, there was no time to actually process it. Because of this I probably missed important pieces of speech that would have made the film slightly more enjoyable.

I can fully understand why Citizen Kane is so popular, however. At the time of its release it was probably utterly stunning with such huge set pieces and a seemingly exciting plot. The concept of the story is great, fully deserving of the Oscar it received. Seventy years on however, the film is incredibly dated. Sets look like just that, a set, and because the plot has been parodied a hundred times over, there’s nothing unexpected to come from it. While Welles was nominated for Best Actor in the following years Academy Awards, the acting has now become laughable. It is stereotypically over the top and becomes almost comedic. Such a shame for a film that is supposed to be the greatest of all time.

Citizen KaneFor a film that has had so much attention, it really disappointed me. While Orson Welles can be applauded for taking on the three most important roles in a film, the hype surrounding the film is not worth it. As a film fan I expected to be left with the feeling of “Yes! I am so glad I saw that, it is a truly great piece of cinema”, instead I felt quite empty, thinking “Really? Was that it?”. There are plenty of other pieces of cinema worthy of the “greatest film of all time” title, but Citizen Kane is not one of them. I think it is about time it relinquished its title.

Got a classic film I need to review? Leave me a comment below and it could be next weeks Classic Film Review!

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