Regarded as the greatest film and essential viewing for anyone interested in the art of film making, I remain to be convinced because for me it has always lacked the level of emotional engagement which such a status requires.
However having assembled a list of films I needed to view again it had to be included. I believed I knew why, but I wanted to be reassured. Although it was not high on the agenda it arrived via the mail order subscription earlier than anticipated and provided a good antidote for feeling much better about everything than I should be over recent days.
I have to concur that the film is brilliantly made structured with wondrous photo shots and editing but I was quickly reminded that I liked no one.
To be truly great a work needs to engage emotionally, intellectually, it has to inspire. I did not watch the film in one sitting. I broke off to watch Liverpool play Barcelona. There is something wondrous about Anfield in full song. Liverpool lost but won because of two away goals against the one scored by Barcelona. It was not as magical as when they won the championship league cup against all the odds, or that Johnny Wilkinson dropped goal which won the world cup or I was there at Healingly Botham's Ashes, but it was a good night, and I was even pleased that Chelsea came back to win through against Porto.
The opening scene of Kane is justly legendary with the mysterious final comment of Rosebud, what is this?
The film then adopts the techniques of early newsreel to present the life and significance of Charles Foster Kane. Commencing with opulence and gigantic nature of his artificially created mountain top palace with it world collection of art, and animals. This was built because of the growth of his power through newspapers, oil wells, mines, real estate, travel, etc a power built through knowing the right people and marriage often supporting and then opposing figures, and considered a communist and a fascist. Everything went well until scandal and economic depression he retreated behind the walls of his palace where he died alone, apart form his chief man servant estate organiser and large staff. But this was always a man alone even during his marriage, or when on the crests of waves, or surrounded by those who knew better than to challenge or question.
The very paper that made him a personality sets forth to answer the question about Rosebud. What was the significance of that final word? The film then uses this to retrace his life.
I am reminded of watching the film Reds on a sunny afternoon in Paris and which uses the same technique of on screen interviews in attempt to reveal the person in the context of his life.
The first witness is his former general manager Bernstein and the second is the The Thatcher Autobiography /biography. This Thatcher is the former bank manger who under an agreement with his mother against the wishes of his father takes charge of the boy's upbringing when he inherits one the worlds great financial estates based on oil, mining, real estate, shipping. We are given the impression that because of his lack of a any kind of natural parental social framework he has a typical too much money childhood and young man lifestyle so that by 25 he both rejects the idea of money making, but uses the same wealth to create his collection of toys and trophies which include people as well as objects.
The only indication of what he might have been without the money is through the acquisition of a minor paper the Enquirer which he turns into a crusading vehicle making up the truth as he goes along, buying in the greatest journalist only too willing to write the bosses line, where have we heard that one before, eventually turning to politics.
There is no indication that he married for love or even passion, but a niece of the President was useful, and who having acquired he continues as before with his life making no adjustment to his new situation or to having a son and heir.
Devoid of affection, he becomes attached to a young singer of little talent because she does not know who he is and appreciates his interest and kindness. She becomes his solace alongside his wife until he sets out to take the governorship from an unscrupulous man who uses the knowledge of the infidelity to threaten exposure unless he withdraws. He does not consequently losing the election, and his wife and on marrying the singer tries to turn her into an international opera singer, building the Chicago opera house for her, and then forcing her to go on a tour using his papers to create the illusion of someone who is good,
Another witness is a long standing friend Leland played by Joseph Cotton who he brings to the Enquirer as drama critic, and who writes an honest review about the opening night of his second wife. He has already fallen out with Cotton/Leland by this time and now sacks him. They will perform again together in The Third Man another film which attracted mass audience, I know I was also there, but where is was the Zither and the Harry Lime theme which was the real star of the film.
In Kane Wells shows that he was a first rate character actor only 24 he transforms his facial feature into an old man as does Cotton.
There is no surprise when the second wife leaves him. There is a haunting image towards the end of the film when the executors are attempting to crate the tens of thousand of possessions for disposal and burning anything which has no sale value. I was painfully reminded of the situation I found myself in when I moved home and was overwhelmed by what I brought with me and how the move was carried out and also when I disposed of the possession of my mother and aunt that I could not use myself, knowing at the time of the intention to downsize. There was the sense failure knowing that so little would have any monetary value, unlike the possessions of Kane, but also emphasising that we cannot take with us what we have accumulated when die although there is satisfaction if it can be enjoyed or be of use to others. It ceases to have any value if it was accumulated for self and not with some purpose. I feel that about my work. The fear that it will end incinerated like my flesh and bone. But this dos not matter as long as I enjoy and value what I do. It would be of great value if others were to do so too. Similarly in the end it did not really matter what he meant by Rosebud. Yes a great film but without a soul. I might not create any work which can be considered of merit, but my life has always had soul. I cling to that. Even in the darkest moments I have not felt alone, well not for over four decades