Named the greatest of all films in poll after critics’ poll for the past half-century, Kane might by now seem suitable for viewing not through the glass of the movie projector but under glass, in the museum of outmoded innovations. So, cynics say, Welles had the camera lowered and photographed the ceilings over his actors’ heads… so, the impresario of CBS’ Mercury Theatre On the Air hijacked radio techniques and put them on film… so, he shot scenes nearly in the dark, to save the cost of dressing a set. So what? This crypto-biography of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst worked, fabulously, thanks to the insider’s knowledge and narrative savvy of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, to cinematographer Gregg Toland’s openness to experiment (he virtually created the film-noir style with this film) and, of course, to the boy-genius vigor the 25-year-old Welles brought to his first Hollywood enterprise. The kid who had never made a movie ignored the rules, and remade movies. We don’t need to replace Citizen Kane with another all-time great film—its expansive, epic vitality remains fresh—but we sure could use another Welles.
Next City Lights