IFFBOSTON SCREENING SERIES
SIGHT AND SOUND SUMMER VACATION
SIGHT AND SOUND on CITIZEN KANE:
The 26-year-old Orson Welles, already renowned for his work in radio and theatre, used the unprecedented artistic license offered to him by RKO to create a fictionalised portrait of one of America’s most powerful men—press baron William Randolph Hearst. Charting the rise of Charles Foster Kane (played by Welles himself)—who decides to start a newspaper with his inherited fortune—Welles’ film is a classic story of the corrupting effects of power.
The use of deep-focus photography (keeping both foreground and background in focus) and abstracted camera angles, the non-chronological narrative structure and overlapping dialogue, were just some of the myriad formal innovations that Welles brought together for his groundbreaking debut. Such novelty and controversy proved a curse for Welles, whose career never enjoyed such indulgence again.
Citizen Kane remains the ultimate commentary on American culture since the early 20th century. It conveys America’s inherent polarities (individualism vs collective impulses; libertarianism vs puritanism; innocence vs corruption; the underdog mentality to rebel against oppression vs the impulse to rule over the masses through duping strategies) via a deft synergy of form and content. It has never been more rewarding to screen and talk about this film than in our current political moment.