43. Citizen Kane

In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon, the title characters, cousins making comic books together in 1940s Manhattan, see Citizen Kane. Chabon’s description of its inspirational affect is the great movie review that isn’t actually a movie review. Here’s the kicker:

Without the brooding shadows and bold adventurings of the camera, without the theatrical lighting and queasy angles, it would have been merely a clever movie about a rich bastard. It was more, much more, than any movie really needed to be. In this one crucial regard — its inextricable braiding of image and narrative — Citizen Kane was like a comic book. 

Kane’s technique, from composition of shots to the structure of its screenplay, was unique in its time and endures as the masterclass for how film tells a story.

But I like the rich bastard stuff.

The first line is “Rosebud,” spoken by Charles Kane before he dies. The movie follows a reporter digging into Kane’s life to find what Rosebud means. Through flashbacks, an epic story unfolds. As a young man he became a media mogul who manipulated the news. As an older man he ran for high office and was toppled by scandal. He craves ever more throughout his life, until dying alone in a castle surrounded by billions in accumulated artwork, wild animals, and all manner of expensive junk.

Spoiler alert, so stop reading if you haven’t seen this 1941 blockbuster everyone’s heard of.

Rosebud was his sled, a toy from before his impoverished parents gave him away to be raised by a rich man. Kane accumulates fortune and treasures beyond anyone’s dreams, but his sled is the meaning of life. It makes me think he regrets.

I live in a golden age of evil men running media and government, and I do not understand. Why don’t The Koch Brothers care about other people’s children? Is Dick Cheney haunted by the deaths he hath wrought? Does Trump equate success with lying?

Follow the money, but Citizen Kane says they’re missing something, and they know it, and they’ll die lonely and sad. It inspires me to hope.

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