Citizen Kane (1941) Blind Spot Review

Citizen Kane (1941)

IMDb Top 250 Rank: 44 out of 250 as of 01/01/2013

Directed by Orson Welles

Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, Ray Collins, George Coulouris, Agnes Moorehead, Paul Stewart, Ruth Warrick, Erskine Sanford, William Alland

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.

My Opinion:

These are the 2018 Blind Spot films I’ve watched so far, from my least favorite to favorite:

5. Atonement
4. Gleaming The Cube
3. The French Connection
2. Citizen Kane
1. Enter The Dragon

Watching Citizen Kane means that I also get to tick another film off the list of the IMDb Top 250 that I hadn’t yet seen when I started this blog. It’s ranked very high (although it has now dropped to 71 out of 250). It’s often considered the greatest film of all time by those smart film critic types. It was pathetic that I’m a so-called “movie blogger” but had never seen one of the most revered classics of all time (which is why I finally put it on my Blind Spot list). Well, I’ve seen it now….

Damn. This is one of those times that I really don’t feel like doing a review. I’m not a film student. Yes, Citizen Kane is a great film and I know that a lot of that will have to do with filmmaking techniques that I know nothing about since I’m an uneducated heathen who likes movies but is usually happier when watching Star Wars instead of On The Waterfront. Speaking of which, I had a hell of a time while trying to “review” that Top 250 classic as well. Actually, I’ve just re-read what I wrote about On The Waterfront and I had more to say than I remembered. Can I just copy & paste that review here as a lot of it applies to Citizen Kane too??

No, that’s not quite true. I liked Citizen Kane much more but I just didn’t quite connect with either film. I’ve discovered with these worthy classics that I far prefer the grand, sweeping epics to the gritty dramas with Oscar-winning acting. Give me a gorgeous Sergio Leone film with a Morricone score instead of Brando & his pigeons. Citizen Kane is somewhere in the middle – it has the gritty drama but it’s also epic in its telling of this character’s life story. I love a story spanning an entire lifetime and I did enjoy this movie. It’s a great film. It’s a classic. But I didn’t connect with it as much as I was hoping I would. I’m sorry! Okay – I’ve actually just taken a break to add images into this post. Wow. They’re stunning. Those are some great shots! They remind me of Fritz Lang’s M, another great film. Is that why this movie is so popular? Huh. Yeah, I admit it – I should probably watch this movie again. Someday. Maybe it’ll grow on me.

I briefly discussed Citizen Kane with a friend and how I really didn’t feel like reviewing it. Believe it or not, I’m a person of few words in real life and, when talking about a movie, I’ll often just say “Yeah, it was good” or “It sucked!”. Citizen Kane got three sentences out of me & my friend pointed out that it worked as a haiku.

So here’s my haiku review of Citizen Kane (complete with the ***BIG HUGE SPOILER*** that everyone knows about this movie by now if they are the slightest bit interested in films):

I was a bit bored.
I have no culture. I knew
it was the damn sled.

Then I added another that works out slightly better in haiku form:

Enter The Dragon
Was a much better Blind Spot
Damn that stupid sled

By the way, Enter The Dragon was f*%king awesome! I’ll review that next month and will maybe put a tiny bit of effort into that post. Maybe. For now, here’s my rating for Citizen Kane. It deserves much higher.

My Rating: 7.5/10

**Okay – since this was one of my worst attempts at a review EVER (although I’ve certainly had worse), here are links to bloggers I follow who have written about Citizen Kane. I couldn’t find many! If you’ve reviewed the movie, let me know and I’ll happily add you to the below list.

100 Films In A Year

Hard Ticket To Home Video

Isaacs Picture Conclusions

Keith & The Movies

MovieRob

Rhyme & Reason

Thomas J

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The Third Man (1949) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Damien of Flashback/Backslide. Thanks for all the reviews, Damien! 🙂 Now let’s see what he thinks of The Third Man, IMDB rank 72 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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The Third Man

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Roger Ebert described film noir as the “most American film genre” but not all the Golden Age classics were American-made. British director Carol Reed created one of the most famous British noirs in 1949. The Third Man stars Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, two stars from Citizen Kane, and highlights some of the differences between British and American noirs. Using old noir guidelines as a map may lead you astray as the film follows its own course. Set in Allied-occupied Vienna, Cotten stars as Holly Martins, an American pulp fiction writer who travels to Vienna to work for his old friend Harry Lime. Soon Martins finds Lime was killed in an accident just a few days prior to his arrival and learns some unflattering facts about his friend. Sensing foul play, Martins begins an investigation along with Lime’s love interest Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli).

At the center of The Third Man‘s plot is a mystery and plot twist that feels very predictable, especially if you look at the roster of cast members before the film begins. But like many American noirs, the film centers on characters; the choices they make and their consequences. Martins struggles to reconcile memories of his friend with the Lime described by Major Calloway (Trevor Howard). Both Martins and Schmidt must choose to support Lime’s racket or aid Calloway’s efforts to undo Lime’s plots. The decisions ultimately feel inevitable but Cottens and Valli’s performances sell the character’s struggles.

Unlike the more detective-based American noirs, The Third Man does not involve on-screen characters outmaneuvering each other. The characters with all the answers to the film’s mystery are secondary with limited screen time, leaving the main cast confused and off-balance. This makes for a “softer” protagonist, more lost and confused than the hard-boiled leads of American films. What the film does have in common with other noir classics is the dark atmosphere and visual techniques of the genre. Dutch angles and harsh lighting are used throughout, almost too often. These techniques helps create uneasiness and tension but their use can feel artificial. At times we watch a character enter a cafe in a standard angle then take a seat at a booth. The camera adjusts to show the sitting character and suddenly a Dutch angle is used. Sudden shifts like this happen throughout and do more to draw attention to the camera-work than set a tone. To the film’s credit, these transitions may have been more novel in 1949, although some contemporary reviews chastised the dizzying views. Others were more appreciative. A New York Times review written in 1950 celebrated the camerawork:

For into this strangely off-beat story of a young American visitor’s attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery of a friend’s dubious “death” in Vienna’s streets, Mr. Reed has brilliantly packaged the whole bag of his cinematic tricks, his whole range of inventive genius for making the camera expound. His eminent gifts for compressing a wealth of suggestion in single shots, for building up agonized tension and popping surprises are fully exercised. His devilishly mischievous humor also runs lightly through the film, touching the darker depressions with little glints of the gay or macabre.

-Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, February 3, 1950.

I’m making a note to myself to include “glints of the gay or macabre” in a future review. Crowther goes on to compliment the film’s music which features a zither “pulsing” in the background. I must admit, the music of the film grew tiresome quickly. Again this may be due to my modern ears reacting against a 60-year-old stylistic choice but the repetitive score underpinning moments big and small added more distraction than suspense or melancholy.

Ultimately, my appreciation for the film is dulled by my more modern eyes and ears yet the film still tells a captivating story brought to life by effective acting. Watching Orson Welles in his earlier years is always a treat and his brief scenes alone make the film worth a view. The film’s finale in the sewers of Vienna are also particularly effective. Rewatching the film with an eye for camera technique and Reed’s style might make for a more worthwhile viewing.

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Rating: 9/10

Classic Film Scale Rating: 7/10

Bottomline: A well-crafted yet dated mystery, The Third Man‘s well-developed characters, “bag of [noir] cinematic tricks”, and elaborate sewer finale make the film worthy of the praise it has received over the decades.

Thanks for reading!

Flashback/Backslide

Tajna Nikole Tesle (1980) Guest Review

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This guest review for the John Hughes Blogathon comes from John of 501 Must-See Movies Project. Thanks for joining in on this, John! Let’s hear his thoughts on Tajna Nikole Tesle. 🙂

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Tajna Nikole Tesle (1980) (The Secret Of Nikola Tesla)

Director: Krsto Papic
Starring: Petar Bozovic, Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Strother Martin, and Dennis Patrick
Writers: Ivo Bresan, Ivan Kusan, and Krsto Papic Co-Writers: John English, John Hughes

Plot Summary: (IMDB) Life and times of Nikola Tesla, famous scientist whose inventions were stolen, but whose greatest contribution to mankind remain a mystery to this day.

Tanja Nikole Tesle explores the life of Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla (Bozovic) from his immigration to the United States in 1884 to his death in 1943. The film primarily focuses on his competition with Thomas Edison (Patrick), collaboration with George Westinghouse (Martin), and JP Morgan’s (Welles) sabotage of Tesla’s plans for limitless worldwide free energy.

A week ago I had no idea who Nikola Tesla was nor his extensive contributions to science. Though I’m sure this film took some liberties in portraying his life, a lot of what I’ve read and researched suggests this film gives a pretty accurate portrayal of Tesla.

Petar Bozovic does a nice job in portraying Tesla. His character is both brilliant and intimidated by the likes of Thomas Edison and JP Morgan. I enjoyed his determination and sureness in asserting alternative current (AC) as a superior way of transmitting electricity compared to Edison’s inferior direct current (DC) method. Bozovic balanced out Dennis Patrick, Strother Martin, and Orson Welles throughout the film.

JP Morgan speculates at the end of the film that if free energy were available to all, it would put someone like him out of business, and that was a major reason why he didn’t continue to finance Tesla’s research. Welles does a great job in portraying the concern Morgan had if this sort of technology became accessible to everyone and the effects it would have on his financial interests.

Tanja Nikole Tesle definitely lacks good audio and video quality. There were a number of times when the sound didn’t match up properly, and it had a low-budget look to it. That can be expected though, since this is more of a biographical film that seeks to inform rather than entertain. The opening and transition background music was more creepy than anything else, perhaps giving the film a more mysterious sci-fi-esque feel to it.

I can only speculate as to John Hughes’ involvement as a co-writer for Tanja Nikole Tesle. Since this film was made in Yugoslavia, he and John English may have been more involved in making this film accessible to an English-speaking audience.

Though lacking in cinematic quality, Tanja Nikole Tesle explores a much lesser-known scientist whose contributions have had a significant impact in a range of electrical-related fields. I won’t watch this one again, however, I’m glad I know a little bit more about Nikola Tesla. The movie is available on YouTube, I watched it on Netflix. It’s one I would recommend if you want to know more about Tesla.

My Rating: 4/5 stars.