CITIZEN KANE: AHEAD OF ITS TIME
Citizen Kane is always near the top of any list of best American movies. This 1941 film, in which Orson Welles produced, directed, wrote, and acted, was nominated for nine Academy Awards, but only won for Best Screenplay. William Randolph Hearst almost killed the release because it was reported to be a movie about him and his then mistress, Marion Davies. The movie was not flattering to either of them. After its poor Academy Awards showing, R.K.O. put it in the vault and it didn’t become popular again until 1958 when a 35mm version was released. (the Battle over citizen kane) It wasn’t until the early 60’s that it started to appear consistently on “best films” lists, first appearing in 1962 as best film in Sight and Sound, a British film magazine, and again in 1972, 1982, and 1992. It was No. 1 in AFI’s original 1998 list of Top 100 Movies and again in 2007. In 1997 the readers of Los Angeles Daily News voted it No. 2 and Time voted it the top movie of its decade.
Despite its lackluster original release, Citizen Kane was groundbreaking for its narrative form and for its use of the camera. Until Kane, movies had basically followed the Classical Hollywood narration style where the flow of the story is simple, clear, and efficient. Kane’s story is told in flashbacks through interviews of the people who knew him. Occasional flashbacks were used in other films before Kane--The Power and the Glory (1933) with Spencer Tracey A Man to Remember (1938), but these were not typical of the classical Hollywood style. Much like the non-linear style of Mulholland Drive, Memento and Adaptation, in Kane the audience must construct the narrative. John Belton calls these movies modernist. Modernism rejects “the principles of order, regularity and invisibility that dominate representation in its classical, romantic, and realist forms.“ (Belton, 41). Citizen Kane can be called modernist for several reasons.
Citizen Kane rejects...