Film is an illusion. It is a trick of light, a carefully constructed facade to give the appearance of reality. It is a dream that is real in the moment, but unravels after it is over. Some films we dislike, some films we love, some films we forget, some films never leave us. The power of cinema has always been in the illusion of the moment, striking the chords of our emotions like a classically trained guitarist. We accept the illusion because we want to feel, we want to invest, we want the emotions to burst through us.
Citizen Kane may be one of the greatest facades ever crafted in American film's history. So convincing is its illusion, so sophisticated is its play with shadow and light, that we find ourselves convinced we watched something far deeper and meaningful than we actually did. Citizen Kane's intention is not art, it is entertainment and spectacle, but done with such skill and sophistication that it becomes art in its own unique way. Someone tells Charles Foster Kane that he wants love on his own terms. The character of Kane never achieves this, but the film has.
There has never been anything like Citizen Kane before it, there has never been anything like it since. It's a great movie to meticulously analyze, to pour over every detail in each frame. It's also a great movie to watch drunk, as it is wildly entertaining.
In 1939, Orson Welles was a superstar. By the time of Citizen Kane's released in 1941, he would be a pariah in the film industry. Welles' relationship with film would be a dysfunctional relationship. In movie making, Welles found the greatest magic kit he had ever gotten his hands on. Hollywood did not return the love. He would have to hustle and scam and battle to finance and release his other films such as 1958's Touch of Evil.
Orson Welles was a genius, yes. But there was something uniquely American about his genius. He was just as much of a huckster and carnival showman as well as auteur. His start was in theater, where his visions of Shakespeare were known for their spectacle and inventiveness. He then moved into radio, where he spellbound half of America with a broadcast so famous, that there are myths circulated about it today. That of course being, his world wide sensation, an adaption of H.G Wells' War of the Worlds.
What is Citizen Kane, and why was it considered the Ric Flair of movies for so many decades? Why does the old trope of "Citizen Kane of video games" gets pulled out and yet, we never see the "Gone with the Wind of video games," or the "Passion of Joan of Arc of video games," or the "Commando of video games?" Doesn't the "Commando of video games" sound much more fun than the "Seventh Seal of video games?" You know what, I'd love a "Felllini's 8 1/2 of video games." The dream sequence with the wives and the bullwhip would cause Anita Sarkeesian to rip her own hair out and Jonathon McIntosh's fingers would bleed from all of the tweeting of bullshit he would have to do.
Toxic masculinity, women as sexual objects. Expect a Fellini vs Women video series from Feminist Frequency coming soon. Well, I say soon but more realistically it'll be one video every decade and a half or so. Of course the dream sequence is a hard look into the psychology and anxieties of the main character but we can't let little things like art get in the way of bullshit, can we?
It's a hell of a question that has a long answer that will eventually get around to Mike Tyson's Punch Out. But in order to get to that answer, we have to take a long look into Citizen Kane itself. When I first started this series, it was more humorous in intent but the more I think about it and look at Kane, there is something there that is defiantly worth exploring. As a matter of fact, this series will be more about Citizen Kane than about Mike Tyson's Punch Out. At least, that's the way it's looking right now.
The first thing we need to do is go into the film itself. Take a long look at the facade and see if it actually has anything to say, or if it's just all smoke and mirrors. We'll also have to dissect why Citizen Kane was the Ric Flair of movies before Vertigo stole its big gold belt. Then we have to look at why video game critics and journalists insist on a "Citizen Kane of video games" and just what they are expecting from such a statement. We'll have to look at if there is anything actually useful in comparing an apple to a grapefruit. Believe it or not, there is and why Kane is unique in that regard above the rest of film cannon.
Next up, grab a shovel because we're digging into the floor to get just the right angle for a look at the facade and genius of Citizen Kane.