thelistislife42’s review published on Letterboxd:
Note: For my top three best films, I am attempting to go in depth in my review. This is #1.
The first two times I watched this, I completely loved it. The third time, I showed it to some friends, who were unsurprisingly bored. It was on this occasion that I felt a bit bored by the film. However, I still find it highly enjoyable, and I have watched it yearly since my first viewing of it in the summer of 2015.
Okay, okay. This is the best-directed film of all time. It more than proves that Orson Welles was a true genius and an undeniable artist. Every choice he makes it meticulously planned out, and it is his vision that makes the film that masterpiece that it is.
Orson Welles proves to be nearly as good of an actor as he is director as he plays the titular character, elevating the role to monumental heights and making him perhaps the greatest character in film history. He delivers every line perfectly, and his facial expressions seem to show so much. The supporting performances pale in comparison, but are very good, and hold their own. Joseph Cotten in particular is excellent in his role.
This film is wonderfully written. From the upbeat and at times funny dialogue of Kane's early days to the emotionally complex words of his later years, Welles wrote this film very well. It is not necessarily among the very, very best written films inherently, but it is how well and clearly his vision for the script comes across in the final product that makes it so memorable. And who could forget "Rosebud"? I mean, it is probably the most important word in cinematic history. Some of the writing may sound unnatural to today's audiences, but this is largely because it is not realistic. In real life, people talk normally and loosely. In this film, however, every single line has a purpose within the story. Welles did not write the dialogue to be realistic, he wrote it to be impactful, and it works.
This film is definitely among the most visually stunning films ever made. It uses light and dark excellently. It also uses a number of unique camera angles that create an epic atmosphere and prove that Welles had full control over his work.
This is perhaps the most overlooked and underrated aspect of the film. Bernard Herrmann created one of the best scores in cinematic history. It is haunting, beautiful, and impactful (much like his later work on Vertigo).
Now, this is going to be difficult to talk about. If there is a single film with the most technical prowess in every respect, it is likely this film. I consider its cinematography and editing the highest tier of those aspects of cinematic storytelling. From its geniusly angled and beautifully crafted shots to its unique transitions (that one screaming bird), it is virtually the greatest achievement in the world of visual art. The editing would likely have been a confusing process, as it was the first film to employ an almost completely nonlinear storyline.
You've all been told it, and I'm sure you know by now. Citizen Kane is the probably most influential film ever made. After Orson Welles' iconic radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, he was given the chance to create his own film without studio interference. That was rare then, and is still so nowadays. He didn't want to make a small film to start off his career, and then make better and bolder films are his name got bigger. He wanted to create the biggest film right from the start, and he did exactly that. At the time, the film was not seen as the masterpiece is is known to be today, but, over time, it came into the eyes of a number of critics and filmmakers who saw it for what it truly was: a masterpiece. Slowly, it became the most critically beloved film in history. It employed groundbreaking techniques and a unique and unheard-of structure, with truly gamechanging cinematography and editing. It has become the benchmark for all cinematic storytelling.
Despite its undeniable technical achievements, the story still stands as the film's best aspect. The most obvious point to make here is that the film created the flashback (in the cinematic world). No film before was structured in such a unique and truly compelling way, and few films since have even come close, with Rahsomon and Memento being two of the strongest competitors. Another greatly important aspect of the film was the titular character's arc. The film revolutionized the rise and fall. With its central character, it made a powerful and important story even more so. Orson Welles knew that, in order to make a great film, he had to make a great character. Based on William Randolph Heast, Charles Foster Kane is a complex and interesting character, and is perhaps the most complex and most interesting in any film. Welles illustrates Kane's life so excellently that it seems to transcend film as an art form. He paints the picture of a man on a search for the love that he gives only to himself. He paints the picture of a life as what it truly is: an epic journey, with ups and downs, wins and losses, and people going in and out of it. Welles created perhaps the very first anti-hero. Kane is complex and ambiguous, and Welles does not try to put him in a world of black and white, but instead in a endlessly complex world containing every shade of grey.
I can honestly say that this film is flawless. The only flaws related to it are acutally, with more thought, just flaws in the societal perception. Many find it dull, but this is only from their action movie extravaganza perspective, and these critics don't take into account the fact that any other pace would not serve the film. Also, I hate to say this, but it might just be called the best movie too often.
Of course, there is no single film that is objectively, 100%, the greatest film of all time. But, I and many others believe that the closest film to this title is, and perhaps always will be, the masterpiece, the highest cinematic achievement, Citizen Kane.