Saturday Editor’s Pick: Citizen Kane (1941)

by on October 17, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

1:05, 5;05, 9:05 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
*Double feature with Jane Eyre (1943, Robert Stevenson)


I was in middle-school when the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Movies” program was broadcast on network TV. This clips fest counting down the 100 greatest American movies culminated in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, and I think it was the very next day that I went to the local library and checked out the VHS, preparing myself to be blown away by the greatest movie ever made!


I was, of course, totally underwhelmed and slightly confused. I thought it was alright and everything–but this was as good as it gets? Though I was obviously too young to fully appreciate a lot of things, I had also been set up for disappointment. The AFI pick created a dynamic not unlike the expectations game political campaigns play before a big debate; the symbolic weight of that #1 status raised the bar too high too quickly, such that it couldn’t possibly live up. The official affirmation had the unintended consequence of diminishing the film.


There has probably been more critical writing about Kane than any other film not directed by Hitchock. An initial survey might start with Welles’ ballsy broadside against all of Hollywood in the months before Kane‘s debut, then proceed to the contemporary raves from Time and from Bosley Crowther at the New York Times; the curios penned by Borges and the director Erich von Stroheim; Andre Bazin’s landmark essay “The Evolution of Cinema” and his book on Welles; the back and forth between Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris; Peter Bogdanovich’s book-length interview; Richard T. Jameson’s 1971 program notes; the two books on Welles by Joseph McBride and one by Peter Cowie; Jonathan Rosenbaum’s collected Wellesiana; Robert Carringer’s making of and James Naremore’s magic world; David Thomson’s biographical riff on the wunderkind mythology; and, for a laugh, this Gore Vidal book review in the NYRB.


But since we don’t want to get your hopes up too much, we’ll just say that Citizen Kane really isn’t that boring, considering it’s black and white and unforgivably boobless.



-Compiled by P.B.

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