Movie Review: 1941 – Citizen Kane

Article Outline:

Continuing the old movie ‘research’ with my daughter, we just completed Citizen Kane – it’s a movie about Donald Trump only more accurate to real life where having affairs and feeding the media with false information derails a campaign for president.

References to this movie abound in places I don’t even remember – excepting for the theme song to Animaniacs. Why is a movie from 1941 that no kid will have seen referenced in the theme song of a kid’s show? No idea.

Unfortunately for me, the ending was ruined by a Dr. Demento song. It is, however, the best part of the movie. It’s genius. I don’t want to ruin it here except to say it’s a movie about a narcissist (based off of William Hearst) who rises to the top. He can buy anything he wants yet has no lasting relationships of any kind.

Though color was certainly available by 1941, the use of a very crisp black and white does the movie better justice. Remembering back to taking pictures with a manual camera where you had to set the F-stop and developing the pictures myself in a dark room in summer camp (I went to Camp Nerd, okay?) … black and white was and is substantially always more crisp than color.

Beautiful Use of Light and Dark In Citizen Kane

Orson Welles is also a far better director than his counterpart director of Gone With the Wind, made only two years prior. However where Gone With the Wind excelled at color and was often abhorrent with lighting, Citizen Kane excels at the use of dark and light. A questioner is often in a black shadow with the interviewee being very well lit akin to many modern movie interrogation scenes and cartoon spoofs … such as found in Animaniacs.

In terms of treatment of women and minorities, well, they’re sparse in this movie excepting for an accountant named “Bernstein” some female dancers scantly clad (as seems to be a requirement in any movie of the era just as a love/sex scene is required in any modern movie. The modern version is, in my view, not better and often clearly there just to excite the audience like the dancing girls are in old movies. The only large role for a woman is … an opera singer who is scantly clad and leaves her abusive husband. Phantom of the Opera subplot with stronger woman or weaker man? It’s, at least, far above Singing in the Rain with pushovers of woman. Here, however, the less weak woman doesn’t experience any growth. She’s just a tool to show the fall of her man.

The Only Minority Represenation: Mr. Bernstein the Accountant 🙂

Another “film first” often repeated in movies like Momento (to a much greater extent) is showing the end first followed by scenes where past and present are alternated. This is brilliant if only because an otherwise long and a boring movie becomes greater. Watch a chronological order version of Momento or The Usual Suspects and you’ll see what I mean. Or, watch Passengers and see how a mediocre movie could have been great if it was non-chronological.

The ending, which I mentioned near the beginning in the style of the movie, is brilliant. The whole movie comes together in a scene which explains a man who no one was able to understand. It explains how he became such a narcissist, unloved as a child, who wanted to be loved but had none to give, only to die lonely as he began. Everything but the first ~5 minutes and last ~1 minute are exposition, in my view.

Rating: Well, I have to admit that when I watch a movie alone I typically watch it on fast forward, returning to regular speed every so often to see different important points of the movie. I’d of watched this movie the same way. Watch the beginning, watch a few middle scenes, watch the end – you’re good.


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