This Wired Post asks readers to ruminate on why Citizen Kane might still be (wisely) considered the best movie of all time. I thought it fun to think about. here’s my quick rant:
Citizen Kane strikes me as an epic treatise on human potential. I’d bet that on some level, Welles just looked around and said “Who is the most powerful man in modern media? I’d like to make my first foray into the film medium all about THAT man.” This choice gave weight to the still-emerging medium of film, by focusing all it’s tricks on the more highly regarded medium of “the daily written word.”
As far as I can tell, it’s when film came of age as a medium (because Kane focuses on the private core of an older, more respected, medium).
I wish more modern movies would strive for this sort of relevant and risky dissection of entertainment and culture itself. We need more visually stunning dream-like studies of those who control our media outlets. (darkly, I wonder how much the Hearst estate made an example of Welles, so that no one would follow his example. Every time someone pooh poohs Kane, or Welles, I feel like Hearst has won more ground).
Most of the films Orson Welles crafted focused on individuals who achieve a unique greatness. His characters’ lives go far beyond the everyday achievements to which everyman can relate. Watching his films, you realize it’s better to dwell on the crazy heights which one risk taker can reach, rather than dwell in the murk of those safe experiences we all can share. His films were not about simply being human (which derails so many modern films into boring-town) – they were about the weird extremes that a visionary human can achieve. In a way, his films are a titillating expression of the American dream. And this makes them a fascinating powerful use of the whole medium of film, which is so closely linked to the experience of dreaming.
Citizen Kane changed the world’s ideas of what a film could be, and what filmmaker could strive to explore with the medium – and that is what makes it worth remembering. That is why AFI may have been onto something.