Monday, March 23, 2009


It has been sitting on my desk in an envelope for past three months: Citizen Kane. In truth, it has been sitting on the back shelf of my to-do list for the past 10 years. Any time discussion has turned to this movie, I have endeavored to silently but perceptively nod my head, lest my carefully crafted veneer of intellectualism be pierced.

Well, I have finally watched this movie, heralded by some as the greatest movie ever made. To which I say . . . meh.

Which is kind of what I expected from what I have heard from everyone else all of these years. I also turn to what I expected would be my explanation for why Citizen Kane is such a big deal, which is, that like many genre-defining works, it did what no one else had done up to that point. In truth, I can see how Citizen Kane has pretty much defined modern film-making. It's editing style, narrative/cinematic devices, and complex themes are still employed in movies today.

My beef with Citizen Kane is that, well, at certain points it seemed like a wonderfully crafted, artistic film and, for the most part, it seemed like a popular movie. The over-the-top music and some of the acting really contributed to this.

I will say that it did leave me thinking. Because one of the prevailing themes is that Kane lived his life basically striving to force others to love him on his terms. After the movie was over, and Shane and I sat in the dark, I wondered why this was true for this character.

A big part of the movie is the mystery of Rosebud, and at the end we realize it was the name of his childhood sled and are reminded of his beginnings being torn away from his parents (which was kind of no-duh. I mean, the dude was holding a snow globe at the end of his life and then at a very emotional turning point. You gotta figure it had to do with that fateful snowy day. I figured it was all about that from the get-go).

In thinking about this life-defining moment in Kane's life, it makes perfect sense that he would always want to make people love him on his terms. Torn away from his parents and "raised" by a banker, he would, of course, yearn for love, using that as a measure of self-worth. What is perhaps interesting is that he would never again want to enter into a relationship where he wasn't running the show. As a child, he implicitly trusted the love and acceptance of his parents (even if it was a less-than-ideal home). Why would he ever trust that again? They were the ones he gave him up.

By being the one in control, determining the measures of a successful relationship on his own, being always in the position of the benefactor without making meaningful, emotionally-vulnerable sacrifices, he ensures that he will never again be in a position of potential abandonment.

What interests me more is how this is generalizable to many more people. Perhaps men more than women, but nonetheless a dynamic I believe I have perceived in many relationships.

Anyway, I can now return the damned thing and cancel my Blockbuster Online account (their version of Netflix) and quit paying $10 a month to have a movie sit on my desk.

*inspired by a convo with Noemi on truly awful copy-writing.

1 comment:

Billy Reano said...

awesome critique of the movie. I have been wanting to watch that for culture's sake, but not willing to sacrifice the time to sit down and watch the thing...