Citizen Kane in a Century
The film most likely to be seen and reviewed one hundred years from now is Citizen Kane. The reason Citizen Kane will most likely withstand the next century above the others is the timelessness the concept of the film carries. Based on the media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, the film conveys the sense that the media is controlled by the few with the most money and the most power, a concept that lends itself especially well to film in terms of plot development and tension. Plot and tension garner a large audience that might not otherwise be united on what makes a successful film.
For instance, Welles’ use of then-innovative might be the wedge between an average movie-goer and a film critic, but the use of these techniques added dimension to the plot and tension in ways that previously been unexplored. Now seen as part of the cinematic canon, low camera angles make Kane’s character appear larger-than-life, adding to the dramatic tension. Facial close-ups also added to film’s mood, as the audience became enmeshed in the complexity of the characters and what happened to them.
The use of flashbacks was also innovative, telling a story onscreen in a then-unconventional way, adding layers and giving the audience cues into the nature of Kane’s rise to the top of the journalism field, the power and wealth it allowed him, and the crushing fall the fickleness of the media to which he was pushed. Citizen Kane will survive the coming century because it broke ground in narrative technique as well as cinematic creativity, paving the way for all the other films viewed this semester. Martha Stewart: The New Kane?
Citizen Kane updated for the times would ambitiously look at the rise, fall, and subsequent rise of home-decorating mogul Martha Stewart. The star would be Cate Blanchett, as she would fit the role physically as well as act the role remarkably. Hilary Swank would play Stewart’s daughter, Alexis, and her husband, Andy, would be Robert Downey Jr. Extensive research would be done, of course, to make the parallels between the real life person on which the film is based and the fictional character representing that person.
The title character would be Ruth Helen Kane so as to keep the original film title in tact, to keep the parallel somewhat acute (Stewart’s middle name is Helen), and to play on the word ruthless. The film would be shot using the same cinematic techniques in the same way as Welles used in his original film—heavy use of flashbacks, facial close ups, low camera angles, extended and uninterrupted scenes, subjective use of lighting, and focus shots. The difference would be that the film would not end with the character in jail, but would follow the steady rise back into her original position of power.
Martha Stewart as subject would testify to the short attention p of the public today, as well as insinuate that power and wealth make everyone forget the past, alluding to the 1984 Orwell ominously warned us about. This remake of the 1941 classic film would stay true to the original in the exploration of power and corruption but resonate with audiences today because of the obsession with celebrities and a desire to see them disgraced. Personality and Character
Woody Allen is a personality star because he never breaks away from the same persona—an eccentric, extremely intelligent, inherently nervous New York Jew. His performance in Annie Hall cements his status as the eccentric, intelligent, nervous New York Jew because he says so throughout the film and throughout the others he writes, directs, and stars in. William Holden is a character star because he plays a believable Max Schumacher, and watching the film I see Max, the character, not Bill, the leading man.
Compared to Annie Hall, where I see Woody, the writer/director/actor, rather than Alvie, the character, Holden’s performance makes me see the character, not the actor. Dustin Hoffman is another character star. His Ben Braddock recalls a vivid sense of youth that anyone can relate to, and Hoffman plays him so well that it would be easy to see Hoffman as Braddock in subsequent films were Hoffman not an excellent actor. Billy Bob Thornton is yet another character star, delivering one of the best performances of all the films this semester.
The seeming detachment from emotion Karl breathes is conveyed in a clean, authentic manner, making Thornton more of a vessel for the character rather than a messenger. Robert Duvall is a character actor through and through. His characters in Apocalypse Now, Network and even in The Conversation are different from each other, and his long list of credits reveal that Duvall remains a diverse actor in a variety of roles. He does not come off as pigeon-holed into an actor playing the same character in different roles.
Narrative in Annie Hall and Citizen Kane Annie Hall begins at the end of the relationship, with Alvie talking directly to the audience about his relationship with the title character, Annie Hall. The story is told through the use of flashbacks of Alvie’s previous relationships and his childhood, told often as if he is himself telling Annie these flashbacks. Such a scene occurs specifically when he and Annie go to Coney Island with Alvie’s friend and Alvie is telling Annie about his mother and father and family.
The present Annie and Alvie walk in to the past Alvie’s home to look in on past Alvie’s parents and family and house. The scene cuts through the narrative barrier in flashback and brings the presents visibly into the past rather than separating the two. Allen uses the flashback in this way to show how people are forever bound to the past and carry it with them as if they always lived in it. Citizen Kane also relies heavily on flashback to tell its story and begins much the same way Annie Hall does, at the end of the story, Kane’s death.
The audience sees Kane die, learns that he has in fact died via newspaper media, and then systematically learns about the road to his death. The reporter sent to investigate the man behind the mogul uncovers the life of Kane, told via the people who were closest to him. The use of flashback works especially well in learning how Kane came under guardianship of Thatcher, and the flashback is revealed via Thatcher’s memoirs rather than Thatcher himself. Such use of flashback reveals how much information is attained when first-hand sources are unavailable.