A paper on the major subject American Pop Culture and Cinema, with regards to the theme and innovations of the film Citizen Kane, ranked as the "best movie of all time" by the AFI.
Before Citizen Kane, I would have thought that movies such as Casablanca or The Godfather would be #1 on the AFI list of the best movies of all time. However, many innovations in Citizen Kane were considered revolutionary and ground-breaking.
Citizen Kane showed a typical well-meaning citizen "turning evil" in pursuit of power. It showed Charles Foster Kane's story through flashbacks of several people, perhaps indicating that a memory of one man's life must be told from several points of view, to completely (or at least, attempt to) understand why a person would strive to acquire so much more power than he really needs. It is said that 'power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely', and this quote was on my mind throughout the latter part of the movie. No other movie that I have seen captures that saying as well as Citizen Kane, as the movie literally traced back Kane's life from death to childhood to death.
In terms of innovations, I noticed a stark difference between Citizen Kane and all the other classic movies I have seen: Citizen Kane utilized a lot of low and extreme low angles. The viewer is therefore appearing to look 'bottom-up', and the characters look far more imposing. Scenes of 'frame-within-a-frame' are also rampant, especially obvious in scenes such as the adoption, the first interview with Susan Alexander, and in the firing of Jedediah Leland. Artistic shots such as these are fast disappearing in a world filled with computer-generated movies. Also, I noticed that throughout the movie, most objects in any given frame are all in sharp focus; modern movies usually blur objects to highlight in-focus subjects. Citizen Kane relies much in lighting to achieve this instead.
For me, the most telling aspect of Citizen Kane's position as the greatest movie of all time is the symbolism behind the movie's most famous quote ("rosebud"). It was interesting that the movie showed a man who could literally have everything, but instead never forgot his humble beginnings, i.e. childhood ("Rosebud" was Charles Foster Kane's childhood sled, which I was surprised to see he kept!), and yet, unlike movies with 'from rags to riches' theme, Kane did not have a happy ending, losing all - friends, wife, friends, property - to his insatiable megalomania.
© J.Cruz, Bachelor of Arts, International Studies (American)
De La Salle University - Manila
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