I Finally Watched Citizen Kane

[Talking to a friend:] I wrote this as soon as I was done, before I read your note or looked into the rest of the world's opinion on the matter. You will see below that I differ somewhat in my evaluation though not entirely incompatible. You focused very much on the technique and its contribution to subsequent moving pictures, as did I. But, it sounds as though you like it more than I do. I am astonished at the idea of it winning an award for the screenplay. While I understand that the structure was novel for the time, Telling the story from multiple viewpoints is no longer novel. Maybe I would have liked it more if I hadn't see all the crap I've seen that was made after 1941.

Mostly, I was impressed by the technique. I thought the cinematography was fascinating and wonderful. Every shot was art. Sometimes a little heavy handed but, that made it more fun, extravagant. Also, there were a lot of times I noticed the music and sound design and thought it quite adroit.

The thing I kept thinking though is that this archetypal work is so clearly the work of an amateur. At 25, Orsen had no experience doing these things and had little regard for the audience or the experience of watching a movie. Clearly he was shooting for a major thematic point, in the interview with him that started today's exercise, he said it was about acquisitiveness and, I suppose he got it right. 

Structurally, the movie served that point, a person who got the ability to have everything with no contribution becomes frivolous and morally empty in the course of a good handful of acquisitions that he wastes through ego. He wanted Suzy to fight fight fight to win the audience, forced her to do so, but quit the paper, politics and then life itself. I guess I see a point there.

But, I have to say it was dull and, imho, somewhat vapid. Or, better, it was an amazingly good effort for a 25 year old kid making his first movie with no real help from the grownups. In the interview, he talked about how much creative freedom he had. Sure, but the flip side is that he had no editorial help.

The best thing I took away from this, aside from him inventing the visual style that became The Twilight Zone, is that simplistic tropes are just that. All these years I've heard about Rosebud and, though I knew it was the sled, I didn't know that it did not matter to the movie or story or even Charles Foster Kane at all.

In college, I wrote stuff that I thought was clever. Looking back I see how callow I was. I thought so many things I thought were profound but now I see them as simplistic. I realize I was actually me working my way through my cliche period, as young people do on they process the culture through to their own, new insights.

It makes me want to watch his later movies. GPT tells me that The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil are also considered masterpieces. Hopefully, he had a little bit richer understanding of the world by then.