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46. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Citizen Kane

July 10, 2018

Director: Orson Welles
Screenplay: Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles
Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, Ray Collins, George Coulouris, Agnes Moorehead, Paul Stewart, Ruth Warrick, Erskine Sanford, William Alland
Runtime: 119 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1941

 

★★★★★

 

Orson Welles’ masterpiece, probably the greatest debut feature of all time, Citizen Kane acts as a parable for many things; the power of print, the virtues of art in political idealism, the danger and corruption of power. But most of all it’s a story of one’s nostalgic yearning for the past, and one of innocence and morals lost in the sea of overarching ambition.

 

Welles and Mankiewicz's screenplay is an incredible, sprawling character study. Charles Foster Kane is the perfect archetype of his represented image, and its story and character focus towards its leading man remain at the surface of its introductory newsreel for the entire runtime. We never truly get under the skin or reason of how and why this man who had everything lost it just as quickly, leading to a punch line that’s just as confoundedly brilliant and compelling today as it ever was. Welles’ limitless resources courtesy of RKO granted him unimaginable power over the production.

 

Gregg Toland’s deep focus photography is remarkable in its method of special awareness, indicative lighting and visual storytelling in its basest format, staged perfectly in frame to encompass everything within narrative function. Its construction and editing composition are faultlessly executed marvels that wrap you up in the stories multilayered tendrils of intrigue. The difference between faith and image/reality brought to the forefront of its montages, passage of time.

 

Welles’ performance as the titular Kane is astonishingly well pitched, granting an abundance of charm, malevolence and humour into his role, as does the work of his support co-stars as well as the films overall tone and atmosphere, it’s never a struggle to watch. Openly evoking mystery and the gothic through its soft fades and dark tones, there are reasons beyond its significant production that it has remained as successful to this day.

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