Citizen Kane: What’s in a name?

Citizen Kane is over 70 years old as of last week. There’s around the average life of a human being, isn’t that scary? Isn’t it more scary in the fact that I need to somehow find criticism for the greatest film ever made? Not in my opinion, don’t get me wrong it’s a fabulous film but it’s not along my line of what I want, but it’s still considered by some people the finest film ever made. Roger Ebert says it’s the most important too, although he hates video-games so he doesn’t exist in my opinion. Citizen Kane is a fine, fine film and a great story of the classic ‘no one man should have all that power‘.

I love how it’s so refreshing by modern standards. Shaky cam and big heavy visual tones are the artistic flavours of today, don’t get me wrong other techniques are at play, but it’s refreshing to see inventive filmmaking at its finest. I’ve long argued storytelling should come first in any medium and story second. Video-games are, at their very basics, a narrative medium given the procedurally generated story that comes about. Although if you want to hear me prattle on about games, you know where game critique corner is.

What is my problem with Citizen Kane then? Is it the acting or the plot or insert tiresome criticism here? Of course not. For one reason it’s because I’m a science-fiction nut and those stories, to me, go further than Kane’s POWER CORRUPTS! message and into the age-old question of what it means to be human. Power is one of those elements, definitely, but the film doesn’t go the whole hog. It’s a fantastic exploration of power and it stands on The Social Network‘s shoulders in terms of showing that in a visual way. What it misses out on is something quite simple.

Kane’s name throughout the film goes from Charles to Charlie to Mr Kane to Charlie to Charles again if I recall correctly. He goes from being powerless to powerful to angrily powerless. I like this subtle little drop, I love it that I’ve spent the last ten minutes Googling and it appears I’m the first one to notice this. In your face film graduates! What I realize now is the fact that this is a perfect reflection of the films main point, given that spoilers it’s about being oh so powerful but material wealth becoming meaningless. That being happy isn’t about people or things but it’s about just… being happy. A time when Kane was happy was Rosebud.

Citizen Kane as a film title is imposing of just the everyday man and the power he could have. It isn’t Charles Foster Kane but Citizen Kane which somehow makes me think of the commentary of Communism that Mr Welles was putting across. The film does an excellent job of displaying Kane as any ordinary person and how easily corruptible we all are, except for the fact that Kane inherited a short fortune first and turned it into a media empire. Although you could argue that given the size of what he inherited he could’ve done it from scratch anyway.

As a name, Citizen Kane fails to perhaps capture some essence of what the film is about. Yes, this is clutching at the shortest of straws, but never shoot down any criticism unless it’s without reason. Consider Of Mice and Men and the way it references an age old Scottish poet and captures the main plot elements at play. Consider 2001: A Space Odyssey and how it so aptly portrays the future as something to be afraid of. Even The Social Network does this given it’s about the power, the idea, and the idea being Facebook. Citizen Kane is just about a man.

Conversely you could argue that there’s no disruption and that this is supposed to be all subtle. Although it’s hard to play around with when Kane is never said to be an ordinary citizen and his rise to power is essentially from a modest background. It’s somewhat similar with The Social Network in that Zuckerberg had financial backing but I doubt a Harvard student wouldn’t be able to find the money anywhere. Perhaps it’s just a trap that these films somewhat fall into. Brilliant people who got a privilege and then a chance, not citizens who got a chance.

Does Kane fail then? Of course not because what’s in a name? A name can strike fear, re-write the night and end wars in a blink of a word. The film is so powerful in demonstrating that power corrupts given it shows Kane with good intentions at first, as we all would, before becoming corrupted and eventually leading to self-destruction. My only argument is that this doesn’t reflect the name of the film, given he is a citizen but citizen is typically used to describe the everyman. The average Joe, Joe the plumber and not John McCain. Know what I mean?

I supported McCain ’08 by the way. Not Palin, hell no, but I preferred his realism to Obama’s over-promising idealism. Both suck really, lesser of two evils.

Anyway. Citizen Kane is a fine, fine film and it’s hard to find a fault. I found out something in the names of Kane and then in the title of the film, one was great and the other was picky. It’s hard to criticise a film that’s 70 years old and is considered faultless when, on every level and without that title, it pretty much is. There’s some differing acting and people staring into the camera, shouting and breaking the 4th wall but it never pushes you off the of edge. I’m grasping at little straws and I doubt this will mean anything to anyone, I don’t really care to be honest, given it sparks debate and people watch the films. Speaking of which, go watch Kane, it is slightly overrated but damn deserves it.

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