A (Nearly) Complete History of the Greatest Movie Ever Made, Orson Welles' 'Citizen Kane'
Citizen Kane: the #1 favorite film of 100% of freshman film school students and young lovers of cinema. (Remember Michael Scott's nephew, Luke? Case in point.) Though the title of "greatest movie ever" is impossible to possess, Citizen Kane's praises have become so commonplace that, unfortunately, some tend to take its cinematic command for granted -- even though the film proved Orson Welles and famed cinematographer Gregg Toland to be real pioneers of the craft. Take a look at these incredibly insightful documentaries about the making of Welles' masterpiece, and renew your appreciation for a truly groundbreaking piece of cinema.
Every filmmaker has their dream career path: Get offered a hands-off two-picture deal with a major studio, have the greatest cinematographer approach you to make your film, go down in history as the maker of the greatest film in history. Oh, also, you do all of this at 25 -- on your very first picture. Sounds dreamy, huh? Well, for Orson Welles, it was his reality. (Is it possible to feel envy and reverence at the same time?)
Welles wasn't interested in being a filmmaker; he was already a talented and accomplished thespian working with his independent repertory theater company, The Mercury Players. In fact, he made quite a name for himself after his radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, such a name RKO wanted to sign him to a two-picture contract. After a few hits, misses, and pulled plugs, Welles made Citizen Kane, and the rest is cinematic history.
There are so many reasons to appreciate Citizen Kane. Toland's deep focus shots and beautiful lighting; Welles' and Herman J. Mankiewicz's story structure, the costuming, the makeup, the music -- even the sheer fact that a young nobody in the cinema world was able to make such a powerful film that has stood the test of time is worth the most focused and studious parts of our brains.
The documentaries below explain everything there is to know about the film, breaking down its production, budget, and artistic approach. The first, hosted by Barry Norman, was originally included on the Region 2 version of the film's supplemental material DVD.
And here's the second, very exhaustive, documentary entitled The Complete Citizen Kane, created as an Arena Special.
If you've never seen Citizen Kane, stop what you're doing immediately and watch it. And whether or not it makes it (publicly) into your mental list of favorite films, it still has the potential to open you up to just how influential one film can be to cinema.
Is Citizen Kane your favorite movie? (You can be honest.) What about the film and/or its production inspires you and your work? Let us know in the comments below.