July 30, 2008

Kumonosu jô (1957)

Director Akira Kurosawa, without a doubt Japan's most famous director in the Western world, had an enormous influence from English language's best playwright, William Shakespeare, to the extent of making adaptations of Shakespeare's plays. However, unlike most adaptations of the Bard's works, Kurosawa's versions blended the plots with his many other influences resulting in very original stories that while Shakespearean at heart, were also very Japanese. Movies like "Ran" and "Warui Yatsu Hodo Yoku Nemuru" ("The Bad sleep Well") are examples of the results of this mixtures of influences, where the plot is deeply rooted the play, but with the rich Japanese culture filling the screen. Like those two, "Kumonosu Jô" (known in English as "Throne of Blood"), is technically Kurosawa's very own interpretation of "Macbeth", but like the other examples, it is more than a mere adaptation of Shakespeare's play and actually takes the story to a new level by adding elements of Japanese Noh theater.

"Kumonosu Jô" means literally "Cobweb Castle", and that is the place where two brave generals, Taketori Washizu (Toshirô Mifune) and Yoshiteru Miki (Akira Kubo) are heading to after defeating the enemies of their Lord. In their way to the castle, during a dark foggy night, they meet a mysterious old woman (Chieko Naniwa) who presents herself as a powerful spirit. The spirit foresees their future, revealing them that Washizu will be Lord of "Cobweb castle", and that Miki's son will be his successor, but before that, they'll receive great honors from the Castle's current Lord. After they arrive to Cobweb Castle, the first part of the prophecy fulfills as both are highly honored, and this triggers the ambition of Washizu's wife, Lady Asaji (Isuzu Yamada), who in turn convinces Washizu to betray his Lord in order to fulfill the second part of the prophecy. The ambitious Washizu obeys and soon finds himself Lord of Cobweb castle, but fearful of the unfulfilled final part of the prophecy.

While certainly there is more than a little resemblance to "Macbeth" in the plot, the similarities remain only in the basic plot structure, as the story of "Kumonosu Jô" (Written by Kurosawa and his regular collaborators Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryuzo Kikushima and Hideo Oguni) has more changes than the simply translation from Medieval setting to Feudal Japan; in fact, "Kumonosu Jô" works more like a Noh drama put on screen than as a straight forward Shakespeare adaptation. This is not to say that the immortal theme of uncontrolled ambition is lost in the script, but here it takes a very different approach (with Lady Asaji being far more intelligent and cold blooded than Lady Macbeth), and with the element of fate being of bigger importance due to the setting of the story and the cultural differences.

The elements of Noh theater are more prominent in the visual conception of the movie, as director Akira Kurosawa takes the highly stylized atmosphere of Noh drama and translate it to film. This atmosphere includes not only the slow graceful moves of the characters and the equally slow pace of the movie, but also in the gestures, the music and the overall atmosphere of the film. As always, regular collaborator Asakazu Nakai is in charge of the cinematography of the film, creating this atmosphere of desolation and impeding doom with an excellent use of the forest, the birds and the fog. Using Nakai's beautiful work Kurosawa literally creates poetry with his images, and while far from faithful to Shakespeare, he creates one of the most powerful versions of "Macbeth" ever done. The finale, while appropriately different from the play's ending, is simply a glorious example of both Kurosawa, Nakai and Mifune's work.

No review of "Kumonosu Jô" would be complete without talking about the superb acting by Toshirô Mifune and Isuzu Yamada. As Washizu, Mifune shows his vast range as an actor by playing a considerably different character than his previous samurai warriors. Washizu is a man whose ambition is only equaled by his loyalty to his Lord, so the inner conflict in this character after he is finally convinced to fulfill his destiny is what drives the movie. Mifune is simply excellent in his portrayal of a man whose ambition is driven by fate, and consumed by guilt. However, while Mifune definitely gives one of his best performances in his career, Isuzu Yamada is the one who completely steals the movie as Lady Asaji. Her performance is simply breathtaking and of an almost supernatural quality. She is definitely the highlight of the film and it is not a surprise that this is her most celebrated performance on film.

"Kumonosu Jô", or "Throne of Blood", is a remarkable achievement by Kurosawa, and one of the best Japanese dramas of the 50s. However, its fame as a "Macbeth" adaptation may give the false impression that it's a faithful translation. People expecting an exact Japanese "Macbeth" will be sorely disappointed, as while the stories are similar, the explored themes are a bit too different for purists. In the same vein, fans expecting another samurai epic like "Shichinin no samurai" (done 3 years earlier) will definitely be disappointed as the movie is more drama than samurai action. The Noh drama style of the film may be probably hard to get at first, as its stylish method of storytelling may look a bit too slow to modern audiences. However, once the movie starts it's easy to get used to it and personally, I don't see a better way to tell Washizu's story than this.

In his country, Kurosawa was often criticized for being "too Western" for Japanese audiences after the worldwide success of "Rashômon" and "Shichinin no samurai"; however, "Kumonosu Jô" is an example of Kurosawa making a very Japanese film that despite having its roots in an English play, it's very accurate in its portrait of the Japanese Feudal culture. "Throne of Blood" is definitely a must-see and a remarkable classic.


Buy "Kumonosu jô" (1957)

July 26, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)

Ever since its creation in 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, the character of Batman became one of the most popular comic book superheroes ever created and, along Superman, the medium' biggest icon (to the point that he can be recognized merely by his silhouette). Naturally, Batman transcended the comic books and is now a major figure of modern pop culture, with multiple adaptations of his adventures to radio, TV and of course film. 45 years after Batman's debut on film (in a serial by Columbia Pictures), Batman returned to the silver screen in Tim Burton's "Batman". The film spawned three sequels, in which the tone set by Burton changed as the director's seat went to Joel Schumacher. Since the series seemed to go nowhere, a reboot of the franchise took place in 2005 with "Batman Begins", starring Christian Bale as Batman and Christopher Nolan directing the film. 3 years later, Nolan and his Batman are back, this time to introduce Batman's eternal enemy to the franchise: the Joker.

In this sequel, millionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) continues his crusade against Gotham city's crime lords under the identity of the masked vigilante Batman. Now, a mysterious man who wears clown makeup and calls himself The Joker (Heath Ledger) begins a series of crimes through the city, but while at first Batman dismisses the newly arrived criminal, he soon changes his mind when the Joker wins the trust of the local mobsters and begins to terrorize Gotham. The psychotic clown soon proves to be more than a normal bank robber, taking everyone by surprise, including the city's new District Attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who sees in the Joker a threat to his attempt of stopping the mobster's activity. With this common goal, Dent and Batman begin an uneasy alliance, which gets far more complicated as Dent has been dating Wayne's old flame, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). The conflict between Dent, Batman and The Joker will have serious consequences in the Dark Knight's life.

Based on a story by David S. Goyer and director Christopher Nolan, the screenplay (by Nolan himself and his brother Jonathan) is definitely one of the strongest elements of the movie, as "The Dark Knight" takes Batman back to its crime fiction roots in a carefully constructed story that showcases not only the epic physical and psychological showdown between Batman and the Joker, but also the tortuous and destructive state of unrest that the murderous clown brings to those decided to capture him, specially its crucial effects in Harvey Dent's life. While still a comic book film filled with explosive action scenes, "The Dark Knight" is more a character study than a tale of adventures, as it explores the psychology of its characters like few films of its kind have done in the past. Filled with constant twists and turns as Batman tries to figure out the Joker's next move, "The Dark Knight" is a story truly captures the essence of Batman by being a police procedural movie taken to the extreme.

And as a director, Christopher Nolan also follows that crime thriller route as well and so, instead of delivering a typical action film he keeps things subtle and lets the screenplay flow as its complex characters take over the scene. This is not to say that there isn't action scenes in the film, there are a couple that really show Nolan has finally learned how to craft visually engaging action scenes (something "Batman Begins" lacked, in my opinion), but while there are several amazing scenes, he never lets action to overrule the characters and the focus is always on the psychological side of the things. With cinematographer Wally Pfister and composers James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer by his side, Nolan creates a gritty portrait of Gotham city that while probably lacking the visual majesty of previous incarnations, the city feels like another character that perfectly reflects the psychology of its inhabitants and the anarchic state of terror that the Joker's actions and crime as a whole have created.

The Nolans' screenplay is truly a gem filled with great and complex characters, and fortunately the cast took great advantage of this in their performances, as most are of excellent quality. Heath Ledger's much touted performance as the Joker is certainly wonderful and truly lives up to its hype, mixing all the previous incarnations of the psychotic character (from comics, film and TV) into one and becoming what's probably the ultimate portrait of the Joker in any medium. However, I feel the true star of the show is Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, whose character faces the most development in the film and Eckhart shines as Dent at both his best times and his harsh times, and I must say it's awesome what he does considering his character lacks the visual flair that both Batman and the Joker have. Speaking of Batman, Christian Bale offers a more mature dark knight this time, although now he faces the same problem that Michael Keaton had: his hero is easily overshadowed by the villains.

This last thing is something that was heavily criticized in the Burton films, the fact that Batman wasn't as interesting as his villains, but I guess it's something difficult to avoid with characters like the Joker. The rest of the cast is also remarkable, with Michael Caine stealing every scene he is in, Morgan Freeman being quite effective as Lucius Fox, and Gary Oldman delivering a subtle, yet quite moving performance as Lt. Gordon. Maggie Gyllenhaal takes the role Katie Holmes played in "Batman Begins" and gives it a presence that Holmes lacked in the first movie. Overall the cast is remarkable, and is the icing of the cake in a movie that literally has everything to become a classic of its genre in the future, because while "The Dark Knight" may lack that visual grandiosity of other superhero films, it has an engaging story that's clever, intriguing and showcases its characters in a way that only comics had been done in the past, and to better yet, it's a movie that everyone (not only comic book fans) can enjoy.

Among the many superheroes of comic book history, Batman has been one who has suffered the most diverse interpretations through the years (from Noir fiction to camp classic to Gothic nightmare and back), and that's because the characters persona and myths really work well for writers wanting to pose exciting and interesting ideas through him. Christopher Nolan's vision is no exception, as there are quite a lot of good themes explored in it. Powerful, brutal, and insanely clever, "The Dark Knight" is a wonderful experience that's easily one of the best crime thrillers done in the decade. It truly is what Batman was supposed to be.


July 23, 2008

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

"Notre-Dame De Paris", known in English as "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", is definitely one of the most popular French novels of all time. Written by Victor Hugo, this Gothic tragedy explores many of his favorite themes, including social injustices and romantic idealism. However, the element that is nowadays the most famous trait of the novel, is without a doubt the character of Quasimodo, and the mistreatment he suffers due to his horrible deformities. While Hugo didn't intend this to be the main theme of the novel, the enormous appealing of Quasimodo quickly turned him into the iconic representation of good nature under a monstrous face, and so it is not a surprise that this is also the angle taken by the film adaptations of the novel. In this the first movie version of the immortal novel, the classic role of Quasimodo is performed in film for the first time by another legend, "The Man of a Thousand Faces", Lon Chaney Sr.

Set in the 15th Century, the movie starts as just another day in the simple life of Quasimodo (Lon Chaney), the bell-ringer of the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris who has spend most of his life inside the Cathedral because most people fear his gruesome deformity. Under the care of archdeacon Claude Frollo (Nigel De Brulier), Quasimodo has lived a good, albeit lonely life; however, this is about to change when the archdeacon's brother Jehad (Brandon Hurst), orders Quasimodo to help him to kidnap a young gypsy girl named Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller) that he wants for himself. Jehad's plan fails as Phoebus (Norman Kerry), Captain of the Guards, rescues Esmeralda and takes Quasimodo to prison, however, this will be only the beginning of the tragedy that will unfold under the shadow of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Adapted by Edward T. Lowe Jr. and Perley Poore Sheehan, the story is really a good adaptation that remains true to the novel's themes of human tragedy despite the fact that the story was significantly simplified. While the focus is certainly on Quasimodo (and he is indeed made a more prominent and sympathetic figure), the screenplay remains an epic tragedy about life and death in Paris, and takes its time to introduce and develop every character, surprisingly including many of the novel's subplots that became forgotten in subsequent versions of the story. The story unfolds nicely and with a good pace, slowly introducing us to the universe of this characters and carefully setting the basis for the climatic finale of the tragedy. Interestingly, despite the changes done to the story, the movie keeps the dark depressing tone of Hugo's Gothic classic.

Wallace Worsley may not be a director known for his personal style (the fact that most of his work is lost doesn't help), but he takes on this monumental project with courage and makes this epic tale work nicely. While Worsley was not the first choice to direct the movie, he already had directed Chaney in four movies before this one (including the classic "The Penalty"), so being already familiar with Chaney's method of work, Worsley could let him do his thing while he focused on the difficult organization of the complex project. With a cast of thousands and enormous sets, Worsley makes 15th Century Paris to come alive once again and, just like Victor Hugo would wanted, the Cathedral of Notre Dame is made another character of the story thanks to the beautiful cinematography that gives an ominous atmosphere to the building.

Lon Chaney is without a doubt the star and highlight of the movie, delivering one of the best performances as Quasimodo (second only to Charles Laughton), and creating one of his most amazing works of make-up. Proving why he is called "The Man of a Thousand Faces", Chaney makes a gruesome, yet very expressive "monster" that truly conveys the nature of the almost silent character. Patsy Ruth Miller is very effective as Esmeralda, and nicely avoids exaggerated gestures in her dramatic scenes; something that sadly can't be said about Norman Kerry as Phoebus, although being fair, his character is not as developed as the rest. Brandon Hurst is simply amazing, and sometimes even manages to overshadow the enormous Chaney, with a remarkably wicked portrayal of evil in his performance as Jehad. Truly another of the film's highlights.

"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was Universal's most successful film of 1923, and honestly, it's not hard to tell why. Not only Lon Chaney's magnificent performance as Chaney (as well as his outstanding work of make-up) is a true highlight of the film, the lavish sets built for the movie are definitely one of the most amazing works done in silent films, with the reconstruction of Notre Dame's Western facade being extremely detailed and actually very accurate. One would think that given the attention payed to the technical aspects of the film, the performances of the actors were unimportant, but thankfully this is not the case, as Chaney and company proved to be up to the challenge in this movie. As a side note, among the many assistant directors who helped Worsley in this project, there was a young man named William Wyler receiving his first work in the movie industry.

Depsite its flaws, this first version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" remains as one of the best movies of the silent era, and one of the best versions of Victor Hugo's classic. It's probably a bit dated by now, but it still retains the beauty and monumental power of its initial release. Inaugurating the horror genre for Universal Films, this epic tragedy proudly ranks as a classic of the genre and of cinema in general.


Buy "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" (1923) - Remastered Edition

Watch "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" (1923) - Public domain edition

July 13, 2008

The Stranger (1946)

At the young age of 27 years old, filmmaker Orson Welles had already directed a masterpiece (1941's "Citizen Kane"), and was on his way to bigger things. Unfortunately, his luck wasn't meant to last forever, and Welles' rising star would face the dark side of working for a major studio. First there was the troubled birth of Welles' second film, "The Magnificent Ambersons", which went over budget at a time when RKO Studios was in serious problems. To make things worse, Welles left production and headed to South America to shoot a documentary. His departure made RKO to take over the film and make it fit their demands, meaning the editing of over 40 minutes and a drastic change in the ending. So, disenchanted with the results of studio's interference (although his own stubbornness played a big role in this debacle), Welles wouldn't direct another film until 1946, where he returned to the director's chair with "The Stranger". But the shadow of studio's interference wasn't really out of the picture.

In "The Stranger", Edward G. Robinson plays Mr. Wilson, an investigator from the War Crimes Commission hunting for Franz Kindler (Orson Welles), an elusive Nazi fugitive. In order to find him, Wilson releases one of Kindler's former comrade Meinike (Konstantin Shayne) hoping that the weakened Meinike will lead them to their prey. To Wilson's surprise, Meinike's path takes him to Harper, Connecticut, where Kindler has effectively assumed a new identity as professor Charles Rankin, teaching at the local University and married to Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young), daughter of Supreme Court justice Judge Adam Longstreet. However, Wilson's mission won't be easy, as not only Kindler is perfectly hidden as a respectable member of Harper's society, but also kills Meininke before being identified and is willing to anything in order to keep his identity a secret. Now the only one who can help Wilson to unmask Kindler is the person that loves the former Nazi the most: Mary.

Based on a story by Victor Trivas, "The Stranger"'s screenplay was written by Anthony Veiller, and further rewritten (uncredited) by John Huston and Orson Welles himself, who tried to make the story to be more than a typical thriller. Because at its core, that's what "The Stranger" is, a conventional thriller with glimpses of film noir that lifts several ideas from Alfred Hitchcock's 1943's, "Shadow of a Doubt" (mainly the theme of a great evil hidden in a small town) and imbues them with that feeling of paranoia and suspicion that began to flourish during the Great War in a less subtle way than before. However, despite being kind of typical, "The Stranger" is not merely a distilled version of Hitchcock's classic, as the writers make a very conscious effort in making a complex portrait of the film's villain, carefully playing with the audience's sympathies, as even when his real motifs and personality are obvious since the beginning, this monster at times manages to be as charming as the "good guys".

As written above, Welles wasn't in the best position when he accepted to direct this film, and basically did it as a hired gun. Despite this (and the fact that Welles' final cut was also edited by the studio), there are many traces of Welles' vision in the film, as even when it wasn't his own material, he did put a lot of his creativity in the movie. While the most noticeable element of Welles' vision is probably in the script (in Kindler's complex persona), "The Stranger" also showcases Welles' film-making talent and style at several points, starting with the dynamic cinematography (by Russell Metty) employed to capture that small town atmosphere in a very natural, haunting way. Metty does add a lot of beauty to many scenes, making Welles' inventive set pieces (like the final confrontation) to shine and elevate the film from being a mere thriller. As expected from Welles, his directing of his cast is remarkable, and he manages to bring the best out of practically everyone in the cast.

As Kindler, Welles is simply outstanding, being frighteningly believable in both of his character's identities: as the charming and respectable History professor and as the zealous, borderline fanatical, ideologist of the Nazi regime. The remarkable thing, in my opinion, is how Welles makes so easy to feel sympathy for his character, with the same ease as the former Nazi convinces the townspeople that he is just a nice fellow American. As the cunning Mr. Wilson, Edward G. Robinson is equally superb in his performance as the man decided to do the impossible to uncover the identity of the man responsible of many heinous war crimes. Robinson owns his role with ease, and in fact his performance may had been the inspiration for several other famous lawmen in film. Loretta Young is very good as Kindler's unsuspecting wife, although to tell the truth, she is kind of overshadowed by both Welles and Robinson. A young Richard Long appears as her brother and truly manages to steal several scenes.

Like most of Welles' work after "Citizen Kane", "The Stranger" also suffered from the interference of studios unhappy with Welles' vision. This time such interference resulted in lengthy cuts done to the film, however, I must say that while the film feels kind of typical and too simple for a movie by Orson Welles, the cuts may had been beneficial, as the story is well, rather simple. While I'm sure that Welles attempted to make it better with lengthy back story, the complexity he added to Kindler was enough for the film to be more than a common thriller, and probably the added scenes would have interfered with the fast pace the story has. I guess that at this point in history, Welles' reputation may be "The Stranger"'s worst enemy, as one may expect something more original, or complex, but I think that even when "The Stranger" is far from being one of Welles' masterpieces (and if I'm not mistaken, this one was his least favorite among his films), there's a lot in its simplicity to like.

While "The Stranger" had very good results at the box office (Welles' only film to do that well), the legendary filmmaker was disenchanted with his work as a hired gun for a studio, and decided to keep fighting for his right for creative control. However, despite being a "minor work" and not completely "his film", the movie has a lot of Welles in it and it's quite an effective and enjoyable thriller. It's easy to watch "The Stranger" expecting another "Citizen Kane" or at least a "Touch of Evil", but that would lead to a disappointment, it's better to just sit back and enjoy watching the master doing his thing, which he does masterfully, despite not being really happy at doing it.


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Watch "The Stranger" (1946)

July 05, 2008

Citizen Kane (1941)

During one Sunday night in October back in 1938, a young actor and theater director named Orson Welles caused nationwide panic in the United States with the broadcast of his inventive radio play adaptation of H. G. Wells's "The War of the Worlds". His play, done in a documentary style mimicking a newscast bulletin, fooled people into thinking that a real alien invasion was taking place and earned Welles a place in the history of radio thanks to his innovative format. But this wouldn't be the only time the young prodigy would enter the history books, as thanks to the fame and notoriety he won with his radio play, Welles received an offer from RKO Pictures with what could be considered as "the Holy Grial" of all contracts: complete artistic control. The result of this offer would be an achievement as important and influential as his infamous radio play, as it was what is now considered as one of the most innovative works in the history of cinema: 1941's "Citizen Kane".

"Citizen Kane" is the story of media tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles himself), as told by the people who knew him and worked by his side. It all starts when Kane dies alone in Xanadu, his extravagant private estate, and an obituary newsreel is prepared about his public life. However, there is a mystery surrounding the last word Kane spoke, "Rosebud", as nobody can understand what was the importance of that word. Reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) is put on charge of an investigation about Kane's private life, hoping to discover what is the meaning of "Rosebud" in Kane's life and why was that word the last thing the richest and most powerful man in the United States thought in his lifetime. With this mission, Thompson decides to interview Kane's second wife Susan (Dorothy Comingore), but without much success, so the young reporter begins to dig deeper, looking for Kane's former employees and friends, and discovers the rise and fall of citizen Charles Foster Kane.

The brainchild of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, "Citizen Kane" evolved into Mankiewicz's personal revenge against media tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Welles liked the original concept of the script, but wanted something more than a mere exposé, so he collaborated with Mankiewicz and developed the idea into a complex, dense tale about the mystery of a man's life. And this deconstruction of a man's life is what made "Citizen Kane"'s story so powerful, as Kane may initially appear as the caricature of a tycoon, a parody of a wealthy evil man (as Mankiewicz intended), but through the flashbacks we discover the many sides of Kane, the very different Kanes that struggle inside this man's (and well, inside us too) persona and what ultimately are what make him a person. The loving Kane, the idealist one, the ambitious one, the greedy one; in "Citizen Kane" Welles and Mankiewicz created a character that, like real people, may be a hero to some, a devil to others, and an enigma to just everyone.

Now, not only there was an innovative screenplay at hand, what truly makes "Citizen Kane" an achievement is how innovative it is in terms of film-making. Director Orson Welles' creative use of cinematography (a beautiful work by the legendary Gregg Toland), music (by Bernard Herrmann in his first work for cinema), editing (by Robert Wise) and other technical aspects results in what's essentially, a new film-making style. It's not that Welles had "invented" a new way of making a movie, but that he combined all previous styles into a definitive style for the sound era. Every scene feels perfect, powerful, as if their emotional impact had been carefully calculated, with every frame, every sound in perfect harmony with the whole thing. In my personal opinion, all the experimentation and discovery that took place through the 30s (the first decade of sound in film) finds its conclusion in "Citizen Kane", where all those innovations collide and result in "modern" cinema as we know it.

And of course, the cast is also instrumental part of this monumental miracle named "Citizen Kane", with most of Orson Welles' company of The Mercury Theatre debuting on cinema in this film. Welles' acting as Kane is one of those larger than life performances where an actor truly shows his best. But well, despite what it may seem, it's not all about Welles, as the rest of the cast truly make an awesome job too. As Jed Leland, Kane's best friend, Joseph Cotten is remarkable, making the best of many key scenes and giving a moving performance when his character is found at an old age. However, Agnes Moorehead may be the film's highlight as Kane's first wife, a role in which her delivers a powerful performance that manages to overshadow Welles at some points. Her expression is powerful, and sometimes she says more with her eyes than with words. As Kane's second wife, Dorothy Comingore is effective, fresh, and also fun (a trait her young and naive character requires), although somewhat struggles at some of the most dramatic scenes in the film.

What could be said about "Citizen Kane" that had not been said before? It has an enormous reputation as "cinema's best film" and tends to appear at the top of countless polls and lists of favorites. Well, for starters this is truly a case where the film lives up to its hype, as while probably nowadays it doesn't feel as innovative and original as when released, it still is a powerful and moving movie where everything is just in the right place to create a masterpiece. Certainly, the film may have lost a bit of its impact because of its own influence and reputation, because, as written above, being an influential movie its impact can only be seen in comparison with the movies of before its own time, as now that cinema follows the language reinvented in "Citizen Kane", it hardly feels like something modern audiences had not seen before. However, put in context, "Citizen Kane" is a landmark of film-making and a movie that can serve as a pattern of how to tell a good story, as despite its many technical innovations, the important thing in "Citizen Kane" has always been its storytelling.

Being a movie that has been studied and analyzed for years (and will definitely still be studied and analyzed in the future), it may be difficult to approach "Citizen Kane" without being overwhelmed by the movie's reputation. But that's the beauty of masterpieces like this, that they are not only huge artistic and technical achievements, but that they can also be what movies are all about: entertaining good stories. Sadly, "Citizen Kane" was the only time Orson Welles had complete control of a movie, as he constantly suffered from studio interference through the rest of his career, but fortunately, that one chance where a group of débutantes got a blank check from RKO Pictures was enough for those young artists to create a masterpiece.


Buy "Citizen Kane" (1941)