Saturday, July 7, 2007

Citizen Kane - Framing The Possibilities


Ever since I got a copy of the film, I’ve watched it for over five times and even memorize several lines. A number of them have something to do with media. From the start of the film until the end, Kane’s life has been presented as if he’s the front cover of a news magazine, researched and written by Mr. Thompson. Each time I watch Citizen Kane, I always arrive at the same conclusion. That is, ever since the media penetrated the lives of the people, it has been, it is and I believe will always be a great influence.

The film itself is a portrayal of how influential the media is, specifically the newspaper. The alleged Mr. Charles Foster Kane, William Randolph Hearst, campaigned using his newspapers against Citizen Kane, demanded for it to be banned, prohibited any form of advertisement and after some time, refused to mention the film at all. As a result, the public was made to believe that it was not a good film. Moreover, Orson Welles, writer, director and actor of the film, was blacklisted from Hollywood because no studio would want to work with him.


Onto the film, even at the start, the media is utilized in different ways to show its influence. In the newsreel, Kane is portrayed as a rich, powerful and a prominent figure for several reasons. He’s a newspaper magnate, owner of radio networks, mines, statues and a lot more. He influenced or made big decisions for his country such as joining and opposing a war, won elections for a president, spoke for millions of the underprivileged, loved and hated by the people, and even married the president’s niece He, himself, is a big piece of news. Certainly, “Newspaper owners became powerful figures.” (Hague and Harrop, 2004 p. 106)

Second, newspaper is described as “engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal wishes and personal desires of [their owners]…What the proprietorships of these papers is aiming at is power and power without responsibility...” (Curran and Seaton, 2003 p. 64, as cited in Hague and Harrop) Owners of media, be it a newspaper, television or radio, have a mandate on what will they show to the public. For an instance, when Kane fight against Public Transit Company, he chose to promote the interests of the underprivileged as the owner of the newspaper not as one of the major stockholders of the company. Another was when he disregarded his principles and told his wife, that people will think what he tells them to think. Also, when he said, “I’m an authority on what people will think. The newspapers for example, I run several newspapers between here and San Francisco.” His intense desire to make his second wife, Susan Alexander, famous, recognized and loved by the people, urged him to manipulate the reviews written about her wife’s opera performances.

Third, “people make political choices […] based on the issues and policy positions on offer […] widens the media’s political influence […] through which information about issues and policies, and therefore political choices, is presented to the public.” (Heywood, 2004 p. 203) The public depends greatly on mass media for information. It is through this information that the public makes their decisions or choices, individually and collectively. In the film, political campaigns and advertisements provide political choices for the public. Kane used his newspapers to publish cartoons with Gettys wearing a convict suit, in a way, projecting to the public a bad image of his rival. The scandal about Kane’s affair with Susan was a compelling one. It ended his first marriage with Emily and his short-lived political career. To save face from the public, his newspaper decided to print, “Fraud at Polls”.


Alongside with being filthy rich and influential, he acquired power. By means of this power, he could almost do everything and have anything in a snap of a finger. But then again, “power tends to corrupt and, absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton, as cited in Heywood). He wants to do things only based on his terms. Just like what Susan said, “Everything was his idea.” Even the love his longing for, he wants the people around him to love him on his terms. In the end, he had EVERYTHING and NOTHING at the same time. He even said, “… If I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.” His life is characterized by lost of innocence, filled with regret, broken marriages and friendships, and failed political ambitions. He found himself alone and miserable. Until the end, all he yearned for was love. Undeniably, wealth and power are not the ones that could make a person feel complete, loved and cared for. There’s more to life than being a man of great influence.

As a conclusion, I believe that the film, Citizen Kane, is effective enough to convey not only political messages but also life’s lessons. It portrayed the media, particularly the newspaper, as an agent of political socialization, the perks and risks involved
with having power, the limitations of being influential and the significance of family and friends. The film was able to provide the means for my mind, as a viewer, to think, to work, to draw conclusions and meanings, to theorize, to anticipate events and to relate it to my own life. Though I do not consider Citizen Kane as the best film I have seen, I wont deny that it is indeed a great one. I’m not an avid viewer of films, be it fiction or non-fiction. I only watch if it’s required, somebody ask me out and lucky enough to get free movie passes, not as a hobby or past time. We all have our distinct sets of criteria, and different levels of exposure and knowledge about films, to judge. Anyone, be it a stranger or a friend, can say that a film is great or even the greatest.

- J. Bartolome



Citizen Kane is about the life of a wealthy newspaper man who hungers for love. Famous for its intriguing line “Rosebud”, CK has dominated the world of cinema. Orson Welles who happens to be the director and Mr. Charles Foster Kane, himself, was considered a genius for making this revolutionary film. At the age of 25, he has made a significant change both in the technical and story-telling aspects of the film industry. He was actually a radio man when he was offered by the RKO Radio Pictures to do a movie that he wanted. Thus, he employed most of his colleagues in the radio industry to make this particular movie.

CK was considered a revolutionary one because of its use of a unique cinematography. The film used deep focus photography, or simply put – this pertains to shots where everything was in focus, from the front to the back; so that the composition and movement determined where the eye looked first. Moreover, CK also used a circular structure which adds more depth in the story. It is not the usual linear structure which is very prominent in those days (1941). The use of the circular structure created an emotional chronology set free from time making the film more elusive or mysterious by flashing through the eyes of many witnesses.

Though the main conflict of the film is the search for the mystery of the Kane’s last word – “Rosebud”, Mr. Thompson, the reporter assigned to the puzzle of Kane’s dying word, said that “Anyway, it wouldn’t have explained anything.” True, it has not really explained anything but it just denoted that not all things can really be explained. Perhaps, Rosebud just helps the film to go on. It basically acts like a weaver of the story about a great man in American history. Without it, CK may not be as intriguing and mysterious as it was. To add to its mystery, it is believed that CK was patterned to a real newspaper mogul in America named Hearst. Thus due to bad publicities brought by Hearst’s media and political influences, the first release of the film was a financial flop. However, there is more to CK than just by its famous line Rosebud and its relation to Hearst.


The film has actually embedded many allegories and political implications. First, it depicts the history of America in the years 1895 – 1941. It covers the Spanish-American War, the Great Depression and the gutter politics. In all these situations, media’s contribution was clearly shown through the success and the downfall of Kane’s newspaper empire. To be specific, Kane’s newspaper has actually contributed much to provoke the government and inflame the people to battle with Spain. If you can remember, Kane said “You provide the prose poems, I’ll provide the war”. In this era, media has really gotten its power and authority to influence political decisions. This Spanish-American War became the Journal’s war same with the Vietnam war which became the television’s war.

On the other hand, media under the Great Depression has also suffered a major downfall. Thus, Kane’s newspaper empire was actually closed to bankruptcy. But, though it has suffered a major economic downfall, Kane’s empire has still gained another chance and thus continues to influence people. Media, in reality, really has been an influential political machine. It creates both great and worst man in history. Kane gained prominence because of his newspaper’s advocacy for the underdogs in society. But media, itself also destroyed him. This was when Boss Jim Gettys, his rival for the governor of New York, blackmailed him to withdraw from his candidacy. His affair with an aspiring opera singer Susan Alexander depicts the end of his political career. Thus, Kane thought that the people whom he has devoted his power, wealth and time, have betrayed him. Actually, this kind of situation is not new to all of us. We have witnessed this situation wherein a certain prominent politician has thrown out in his position because of a love affair scandal. This gutter politics is not just seen in American political history but in the Philippines as well. Notice that Bill Clinton and Joseph Estrada were well-knowns because of their controversies regarding their mistresses. Well, Estrada was actually involved with other scandals but in the Philippine culture, having an affair was an offset to the public which then leads to a politician’s unpopularity. This only means that morality is really an important aspect in determining a political leader. Until now this gutter politics is still embedded in our nature. People still choose political leaders not through their certain skills but through their morale. Many aspiring political leaders could have been great such as Kane if not because of misleading judgments.


Indeed, CK’s prominence in the world of cinema is not just associated with its unique cinematography. The content itself is a powerful instrument to make people realize how powerful media is in influencing our decisions. We may not be aware of it but most of the time we pattern our own decisions based on how media portray a certain situation. Media is an effective tool to change the feelings and views of the people on a certain person or phenomenon. The film shows that ambition and the will to serve the people are not enough to win the election. Morale, as being project by the media, is still an important aspect even in the contemporary period. Thus, I believe that this film really is a powerful instrument to make people realize how media manipulates most of our everyday life’s decisions. Perhaps, this is one reason why Hearst greatly opposed the film so much that he actually attempted to blackmail Welles through sexual harassment or rape accusations. He is perhaps afraid to degrade the image of his newspaper empire and his personality as well. However, the film still gains prominence even after 66 years of its release proving that its worth is more than just by degrading Hearst Newspaper Empire.

- V. Buagñin

24 comments:

alejandro said...

Citizen Kane, a 1941 movie, was directed, produced and written (along with Herman J. Mankiewicz) by Orson Welles. He starred as the protagonist Charles Foster Kane as well.
Since “media” had already been thoroughly discussed in the presentation of the reporters, I would like to focus on the theme “private property” instead, which, I think, happens to be a less obvious theme of the film “Citizen Kane.”

I would like to start my comment on the film by asking the question: “What was the implication and significance of the ‘no trespassing’ sign?” The sign was shown both at the start and at the end of the film. There must be an important reason for that. What I know about the “no trespassing” sign is that it is used to refer to a private property. As far as I understood its meaning in the film, I think that the private property being referred to by the “no trespassing” sign was the private life of Charles Foster Kane – “private” in the sense that it was closed or inaccessible to the people who conducted an investigation about his life after his death. The investigation started with the aim of knowing what the name “Rosebud”- the last uttered word of Kane before he died – meant. Since the most credible source of information (Kane himself) about Kane’s life was already dead when the investigation was held, Mr. Thompson, the investigator, looked for different people (such as Susan Alexander) related to Kane to ask about his life, hoping that they would lead to the discovery of what is behind the mysterious name “Rosebud.”

Although the film was able to let the audience “trespass” the life of Charles Foster Kane by letting the viewers observe some events in his life through the camera, a lot of mysteries were still left unsolved even after the investigation, and at the near end of the film. I think that the aim of solving the mysteries in the life of Kane, such as what the name “Rosebud” meant, was symbolized in the effort of Susan Alexander to complete the jigsaw puzzle. Based on my understanding of the film, the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle symbolized the pieces of information that were gathered in the duration of the investigation, hoping to unravel the mystery behind the name “Rosebud.”

At the last part of the film, smoke was shown as coming out of the chimney of the house of Kane. The smoke was the result of the burning of a number of Kane’s possessions, including his sled named “Rosebud,” in his house. The sled, as far as I understood the film, symbolized the youth of Kane – the time when he was happy with his parents even without riches. The object that could have solved the mystery behind the name “Rosebud” was already burned and turned into ashes and smoke. In my point of view, the smoke symbolized that the mysteries of Kane’s life that were left unsolved would be nothing but unsolved mysteries, such as what the name “Rosebud” meant (the meaning of the name “Rosebud” was revealed to the audience only, and not to any character in the film). In connection with the theme “private property,” since the mystery behind the name “Rosebud” was left unsolved, then the story behind that name would remain “private” to Kane – “private” in the sense that it would remain part of his life, and would not be taken away from him, unlike all the riches and loved ones he lost.

As an overall assessment of the film, I must say that it was a very effective medium of political socialization. It was published and first shown in theaters 66 years ago, is still being watched and appreciated by the present generation, and has been ranked as the number one film of all time by the American Film Institute in 1998 and in the present year – I think all those reasons are enough to justify my claim that the film “Citizen Kane” is indeed an effective medium of political socialization.



References:
Emerson, Jim. Citizen Kane. http://cinepad.com/reviews/kane.htm
Wikipedia. Citizen Kane. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_Kane

dominic_barnachea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eva marie said...

Even as I was watching “Citizen Kane”, I have this weird feeling that something very familiar is being discussed. It was when I consider the film as a possible agent of political socialization that it hit me with me like a bad joke. And like some enlightened poor soul I also realized that even Cartoon Network our superhero movies had been telling us about it long, long before we knew there is such studies as Politics. I am talking about power, a classic theme in politics, and the how “Citizen Kane” effectively conceptualized it.

“Citizen Kane” is a great film and it had beautifully depicted other things but (for the purpose of our subject matter) how it talked about power is one of the ways to illustrate its power, to use our term. In many ways it reflects and in more subtle ways it suggests, how society define power. First, power can be used both in good and bad ways. The character of Kane was invariably built-up with the way he uses his power – in his populist stance, in politics, in his newspapers, in Susan Alexander. And it is not surprising how easily the viewer align the dichotomy of values along the way power is utilized. We also agree that power should lean in the positive side but of oftentimes the boundaries are too vague in practice. The New York Daily Inquirer should ideally work along Kane’s “Declaration of Principles” but in order to be sensational its fundamental vow of honesty is violated. Yet, readers consume it knowing it is getting low of credibility.

Second, power corrupts. I do not know where this idea came from but this is one thing that films and other mass media had played with so effectively that it even contributed to the negative associations attributed to the term. We could argue that Kane turned out to be what he is in other ways but the film strongly suggested that power has a lot to do with it. It showed us how Kane relied on his power to get what he wants, even those which are not supposed to be commanded upon (e.g. Love). His initial success in say, using his wealth and ownership of the Inquirer to acquire material possessions and influence decisions have made him thirst for more until it became an obsession.

Third, the sources of power like wealth and fame cannot guarantee the more valuable things in life like love and trust and good memories to accompany someone in his old age. Such a classic line but still dramatically portrayed in “Citizen Kane”. It uses the life of one man to illustrate this and one cannot help getting moved when the meaning of life is associated with this premise. After all, I dare say that all human being crave for power (albeit in varying degree) but everyone is also in search for a meaningful life. And there goes a dilemma the viewer can easily associate with.

These associations attributed to power had contributed to its lucrative potential. You could incorporate it in just any storyline and you get a sure issue because how power will play in a person’s life is a mystery. I have to say the way “Citizen Kane” used the mystery of power and love to create a general aura of suspense is one thing the film carefully invested – from sequencing to technical aspects to character portrayal. Then in the end, after all the talk of the main character’s power, it was in the young Kane’s powerlessness to choose his destiny that the essence of the mysterious “Rosebud” could be captured. This is one of the many ironies the film effectively utilized to emphasize its themes.

One more thing “Citizen Kane” emphasized is how the issue power bring with it highly moral overtones. For me, a film is an effective an effective agent of socialization if it has situated itself somewhere in the moral spectrum and persuaded viewers that it is somewhat appropriate. “Citizen Kane” took its stand and for my part, I am deeply convinced.

Hence, while it is probabably not so apparent to many viewers that something as controversial, useful, and sensitive as the concept as power has been discussed in “Citizen Kane”, I argue that much of it is taken in the film and conciously or not, viewers find themselves following its logic because the elements of the film have effectively reinforeced themselves and conveyed their message.

alberto said...

Citizen Kane is a movie about Charles Foster Kane, multi-millionaire-slash-newspaper-mogul-slash-presidential-aspirant. His story isn’t anything we haven’t heard of before, rags-to-riches, but he died a lonely man, his demise was one he brought upon himself. In the movie’s opening scene, he utters his final word “Rosebud.” The film then becomes a backwards detective movie (kind of reminds me of CSI), a quest to find the meaning of Rosebud, and a journey through the private life of the movie’s most public figure.

We follow the character of Thompson, the reporter assigned to cover the life of Kane, and to decipher the meaning of Kane’s dying word, “Rosebud,” as he tracks down and interviews five people who knew Kane: Thatcher, Bernstein, Leland, Susan, and Raymond.

Thatcher, who knew him since childhood, showed an idealist side of Kane, the one with the hero complex, who thinks it is his duty to save the underprivileged, the Charles Foster Kane who wasn’t afraid to lose one million dollars every year to continue running a newspaper that was constantly criticizing America’s financial elite, a group which he himself is a part of.

Then we see the public side of Kane, the arrogant newspaper publisher, desperate to increase his newspaper’s readership by printing stories that are definitely attention-grabbing but are almost entirely fictional. In his desperation to save his newspaper, he stakes his reputation as a journalist and all thought of his philanthropic side, the one who wants to “look after the interests of the underprivileged” is thrown out the window. His ambitions have taken control over him, even as he marries the President’s niece; a move that I think was made to boost his political connections. His hero complex evolving into something terrifying, he has confused his love for the underprivileged and his need to help them with his political ambitions. To quote Leland: “He married for love. Love. That's why he did everything. That's why he went into politics. It seems we weren't enough, he wanted all the voters to love him too. Guess all he really wanted out of life was love. That's Charlie's story, how he lost it. You see, he just didn't have any to give. Well, he loved Charlie Kane of course, very dearly, and his mother, I guess he always loved her.”

He meets Susan Alexander who is enthralled by childish side of Kane, the one who plays with shadow figures and who is equally enchanted by the fact that she has no idea who he is. Their affair ends his political career, when Boss Jim Gettys exposes it right before the elections. And so begins his demise, one bad decision followed by another.

“Rosebud” for me isn’t as significant as the rest of the film. It seems to have some kind of Freudian symbolism, maybe his lost childhood. The quest of finding out what “rosebud” means is more important than actually finding out what it meant. We see how our ambitions can cloud our visions, and how much power can corrupt a person.

As for this movie becoming an agent of political socialization, I think it became effective in that area, even though it was for entirely different reasons. The release of this movie caused Orson Welles to step on the toes of one of the most powerful men at that time, William Randolph Hearst. Hearst rallied to have the movie shown on major theater chains. The fight over Citizen Kane became extremely personal; Hearst vendetta against Welles caused him to expose scandals in an effort to discredit Welles completely. The movie may have been received nine Academy Award nominations at that time but it won in only one category, possibly the work of Hearst.

Hearst may have killed the movie in 1941 but the spirit of Citizen Kane lives on. For me it was borderline disturbing, but for some reason, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. This movie has somehow closed the generation gap, a classic one that even our “MTV generation” can comprehend and enjoy.

Tephanie said...

From philanthropy to megalomania – absolute power corrupts absolutely as the above article says. That is certainly true for Charles Foster Kane.

Once upon a time, there was a kid raised in an impoverished family. Nevertheless, he was so delighted in that simple life, living and playing in a place filled with snow. Then one day, he was adopted by a wealthy banker, and was forcedly brought to the city to live a blessed life, or so the old man thought.

Charles Foster Kane’s character was so vividly portrayed in the film, highlighting the various transformations that he had undergone, long after he was taken away from his snow-filled home. The young Mr. Kane was very much witty, and cared nothing less about the riches that he has been granted at that time. The confrontations that he and Mr. Thatcher have had in the first parts of the film which features Mr. Kane’s smart aleck conduct was amazingly combined with his various speeches on protecting the citizens’ rights and interests. That intertwine portrayed him as nothing but a selfless rich man, very rare for his type, and a guardian of truth. As a newspaper tycoon, he was able to sincerely provide help and aid to those who are powerless. He was able to publish news, not just the ordinary ones, but radical, persuasive, and he would have sworn, bare truthful news. He was a courageous young man who wants to protect the alienated and the voiceless. He even published his Declaration of Principles for all the people to see. That piece of paper was so powerful that it became the foundation of his hardline passion for truth. Mr. Charles Foster Kane was such a philanthropist.

However, anyone who viewed the film should have noticed the smooth transition of Mr. Kane’s personality as he, and The Inquirer, became more and more powerful, not only in the world of media, but in the entire country so to speak. He also married the president’s niece. He became more and more prominent as he even challenges the president on his newspapers, and mocks him in front of his wife. That scene in the dining table where he arrogantly claims the he’ll be the next president in the near future shows how he perceives himself as someone who could do whatever he wants to do, and someone who could get whatever he wants. He’s not just a mere “someone” anymore. He looks at himself as “the one”.

Tragically, on his attempt to enter politics, for the first time in his successful career, he was beaten. He was beaten because not because he was worse than his competitor, but because he was scandalized. Gutter politics as the above article says. From that moment on, he lived his life always trying to prove something, as his friend told his story. All the material things and grandeur depicted in the film e.g. The Xanadu, reinforced Mr. Kane’s quest for supremacy, and most importantly, his need for the adoration of the people around him. He was hungry for power, a megalomaniac. He had broken ties with some of his closest friends, including his second wife who in the end, slapped to his face that she could do whatever she pleases, even if he’s against it. Susan Alexander therefore became a symbol of failure for Mr. Charles Foster Kane. However, that wasn’t Mr. Kane’s biggest distress in life. That’s when “Rosebud” comes in. The last scene on the film effectively captured the tragedy in the greatest life of Charles Foster Kane. “Rosebud” – a childhood sled burned down to ashes; a childhood missed forever. That’s the life of Mr. Charles foster Kane, his life in the eyes of anybody but him.

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me_delas_alas said...

Life As Everyone Knew It (but not everybody appreciates)

Considered to be America's greatest film ever by the American Film Institute, Citizen Kane revolves around the story of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane and how he rose to the top to become America's most influential and prominent figure in American history. The film, released in 1941, won critical acclaims both within the United States and overseas through its unique cinematography, innovative storytelling and more forward technicality during that period, which made it clinch the Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay at that time. However, the praises did not come too soon, and it was too late for director O. Wells to hear that his debut film, now considered a calssic, was also THE greatest film of all American time. It was not too soon that the latest release of the film was in 2001, 60 years after its first showing, in the Czech Republic. How,then, does this film became the best and arguably the greatest? What are the thematic implications of the film in the discourse of socialization?

It is obvious from the film that its main theme is supported by the portrayal of Kane's newspaper empire, a representation of what is referred to as the "fourth estate": the media. However, there is something more profound here to discuss than the obvious: the ability of the elites to amass a hefty sum of wealth, own a vast collection of businesses and in the process turn the heads of the people and affect the personal intentions of those elites to go about their own lives. In Kane's words, "I am the authority on what people will think."

Who is Kane by the way? Charles Foster Kane was born and lived his childhood in a small town at the East away from the bustling cityscape but eventually raised and lived in the metro through the heritage of her mother. He grew up to become the publisher of The Inquirer, a local paper, with a vow to tell the people news with honesty, truth and fairness. He worked on to become one of the greatest newspaper and business mogul of his time, generating a massive wealth and a number of business networks. But is he happy? Through the process of climbing up to the top, Kane lost sight of what he was supposedly made of: a man with a dream, a vision for the people, a man of great will and intgrity. I believe he is a simple man, with simple dreams, drowned in the ocean of wealth and fame, to the point that even his personal life seemed to be slowly doomed to rumble. Two failed marriages, an election scam, separation from his close friends (like Mr. Leeland whom he terminated) are the key elements why at the end, Kane succumbed to death unhappy amidst his overflowing fortune. Like the Xanadu, his life was on top of the world, but is locked up from happiness outside its towering walls. And during his dying moment, it all turned 180 degrees through his final word, "Rosebud". Why the turn? It seems that there is some sort of regret and seems that his saying Rosebud translated to "I should have hit Mr. Thatcher harder so that he becomes crippled, and I wont live and die the way I did", referring to his childhood sled.

This is how I viewed Citizen Kane, not as a pure political satire, but as a reflection of life's important lessons. It is known to the modern world of the existence of illustous circle of elites amongst almost all societies which controls almost the entire state machinery, in which Kane is one of. The idea here, the, is that how this political game of money and power affects the individual as a political actor in himself. Kane, although lived a life of fortune and fame, died feeble and frowning.

Apart from the technical excellence of the film, I think what sets it apart from other films of its time is its ability to implicitly let the viewers rethink and reconstruct the notion of man's ideals, how he builds his aspirations and how he shapes himself as a member of the society. At first, it semms just another black-and-white-with-a-lot-of-dancing-and-profound-languages type of film: personally I asked: "How come it was named great? That's it?" But then again, I thought,there must be some innate, profound meaning attached throughout the 2 hours of so of the film's run. It tells us how Kane was devoured by the system of competition for newspaper supremacy. It tells us that Kane became a different man, from an idealistic person to a sore-loser, love-jinxed business tycoon. It tells us these things that certainly at first we may not put nuch attention to. In this case, as I argued, it is through his life long journey and his socialization and how it was presented gave Citizen Kane the distinction worthy of international acclaim.

Citizen Kane, indeed, is a rare gem of the film industry. Cliche but in fact true. Watching it for the first time will make us rethink what we want in our lives, and what to do with it, presented using a force parallel to that of life: the media. The use of the newspaper to represent the choices we made (like when he opted to publish that he was cheated in the elections) is also a clear representation of how media affects how we deal with the discourses of humanity. The parallelism employed between life and the thematic use of newspaper as the media in itself made Citizen Kane a worthwhile film to be watched and appreciated.

odessawoods said...

Citizen Kane. Orson Welles, U.S., 1941
Odessa Woods

Citizen Kane is a film about a man who used his power to pursue his self-interests. It depicts how a man's principles were compromised; how he used his influence and wealth to change opinion and twist reality.
In the movie, the character of Charles Foster Kane was a seemingly poor but happy boy living with his parents. But due to his parents inability to send him off to school and offer him a good life, Charles was adopted by a rich business man who could financially provide everything he needed and wanted.
The story is shown in different perspectives. The story took off with the reporter, Mr. Thomson, searching for the significance of Kane's last word: rosebud. Mr. Thomson then goes on interviewing people connected/related to Kane who might be able to give meaning to the word, and from there describe how the powerful man lived his famous life.
The film portrays the use of media in providing information to the masses. The only catch here is whether the information disseminated is the truth or not. Kane's influence on his newspaper company was reflected in scenes where he manipulated headlines and storyline saying he was 'cheated' at the polls (though maybe, when people found out of his being unfaithful, they lost trust); or when he actually published how Susan Kane's (his mistress) performances were applauded in major cities (though Mr. Matiste wanted to cut her head off because she just couldn't sing; still, one listener said it was dreadful).
Critics say it was based on Randolph Hearst's life because of the similarities in his' and Kane's lives. Both were college dropouts, divorced with their first wives, owned a media company, and tries a hand at politics. The term 'rosebud' in Kane's situation referred to his lost childhood, while in Hearst's case, his pet name for his mistress' genitalia (though some may argue it referred to his mother).
The flashback in the movie is very effective in the sense that it made the audience reflect on a particular perspective and time frame then compare and relate these with another. Also, the search for 'rosebud' was the fuel for the engine, it kept people hanging till the end of the movie (a strategy too, perhaps, for viewers not to get bored).
Yes, the movie talks about power for self-interest (for Kane, it is for people to love him). Influence is used to manipulate and media is used to control. Also, money is a significant factor.
“Money is the root of all evil”, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” so they say. Kane used his wealth to control opinion through his paper; he drove people to listen to Susan's singing by building opera houses. Truth was blocked, values and principles were compromised: “If I wasn't rich, I would have been a great man”—Charles Kane. He considered wealth as his misfortune of not being great/noble.
But the argument here is that Kane used his money to be/feel loved. He built Susan opera houses hoping she would thank him for that. He printed Lelan's unpleasant write-up (even finished it himself) on Susan's singing, thinking Lelan would still u[uphold him as an honest man. He used his money for a good cause (well maybe at least on his part, because he would benefit), but somewhere between this and the result, things happened. The point is, Money, Power, Influence, and Media were only tools and are not essentially evil. The determining factors should be the goal, the action/means, and the result. Kane wanted to be accepted, but he used his resources in an “unacceptable” manner. His goal was to be loved, but his behavior triggered otherwise.
Kane would have been a great man; in fact he already were when he outlined his principles, he was already rich then and had power and values but was jeopardized when he didn't employed these correctly.
Because the movie is so talked about that it was even chosen and twice voted as the “Greatest Movie of all Time,” then it is a very strong agent of socialization. Years after its production, viewers still discuss it, critics and admirers alike. This is so because of its significance to reality (in Philippine context, I compared the character with Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos had a goal: a wealthy and booming industry. He was able to do this in his first term. But somewhere along the way, his priorities changed. In his later years of power, his actions and policies caused the economy to fall and conflicts to arise), and human nature, where we pattern our day-to-day lives—how we allot our resources and use our tools (power, influence) and media, to please everyone and look good in the eyes of others, to aim to be great in order to belong and be accepted by society.

Felicia said...

The 1941 classic movie “Citizen Kane” (henceforth referred to as “Kane”), Orson Welle's masterpiece, was written (with Herman J. Mankiewicz) and directed by Welles; even its title role was played by Welles himself. Engendering controversy and topping the “greatest movie” lists for years on end, “Kane” carries with it many themes pertinent to society then and now, particularly that of the power and influence of the mass media. In light of this, I would like to present a theme that has been less discussed in published reviews on “Kane”: the dimension of women, particularly their character and influence, both in the times of the traditional society then, and their eventual empowerment later. I suppose there has not been much discussion from this perspective since, according to D. K. Holm, “women don't figure that heavily in most of Welles's films”; however, despite this observation, nonetheless, I still believe that such a theme is found in “Kane”, though, agreeing with Holm, not quite heavily, and rather overtly.

The women in Charles Foster Kane's life are very much depictions of women in different dispositions, priorities and personalities. These women are his mother; his first wife and the President's niece, Emily Monroe Norton; and his mistress-turned-second-wife, 'opera singer' Susan Alexander.

Charles Foster Kane's last word uttered (“Rosebud”) is said to represent his vain longing for his lost childhood. This is depicted in the first and last scenes, in the snow-filled glass globe (symbolizing his growing up in a log cabin), which he last held in his hand before he died. In fact, according to Tim Dirk, and speaking in Freudian terms, “the glass ball represents the mother's womb.” This implies that his mother was a considerable part in Charles Foster Kane's childhood, although not necessarily implying that they had a loving filial relationship. “The mother, played by a young Agnes Morehead of "Bewitched" fame, is solid, stoic and almost unfeeling at the loss of her child,” says Patrice Lauren. Nonetheless, it was his mother who changed his life forever by wishing him to be well cared for by the wealthy Mr. Thatcher, and away from his father's beating.

Secondly, I believe that the character of Emily Monroe Norton, although this was not focused on very much, was nonetheless a picture of an assertive and dignified woman. This strong character was manifested in the scene entitled “Confrontation at the Love Nest”, where Norton made a visit to Susan Alexander's place to confront a threat to her family, especially her son, Charles Jr., through a note from Jim Gettys, Kane's opponent in the state gubernatorial race. As opposed to the evident bewilderment in Susan Alexander's face, Norton levelheadedly talked with Gettys and tried to convince her husband to side with reason and withdraw from the race. Sensing a crumbling marriage early on, she took that confrontation as the last straw, leading her to decide to finally divorce Kane, for her and her son's sakes.

Lastly, Susan Alexander Kane, in the beginning of the movie, was an impressionable, overbearing and naïve young woman. Her life with Kane was mostly herself being displayed like a trophy but caged like a pet, and actually very comparable to the artworks collecting dust at Xanadu. Kane forced others, as well as herself, to see herself as he does. On the brink of losing her identity and sanity, she matured and “eventually loses [lost] her illusions about the kind of man Kane is [was]”, and finally decided to leave him. It was said that Alexander's arrival and exit from Kane's life were both turning points in his life (Sparknotes.com). Before she met Kane, he was fearless, respected and successful. But upon their first meeting, things went downhill: his first marriage died, his political aspirations dissipated with just one malicious news story, and he lost the respect of and became hated by the people. When Alexander left him, “the loss Kane feels mirrors the loss he felt when his mother left” (Sparknotes.com), referring to the scene where Kane was thoughtfully walking through a hall of mirrors. Nearing the end of the film, he destroyed her room, an act which is his first overt and sudden manifestation of his inner-lurking and long-thriving feelings of despair and loss of his “first and only innocent love” (Dirks).

“I can't do that to you? Oh, yes, I can.”

With this last line by Alexander, I believe “Kane” is an effective medium of political socialization, even in its obscure feminist context. Made during the 1940s, it gave me an impression that it must have somehow, though maybe only to a small degree, socialized women during that time to rethink their position in society; hence, the eventual Sexual Revolution of the 60s. The very words “I can” intensifies the feminist sentiment; and personally, as a woman, it had an impact on me, although this was not the main focus of the film. Mrs. Kane's motherly love and intentions (though expressed unconventionally), Emily Monroe Norton's dignity and self-respect, and Susan Alexander Kane's endurance and gradual maturity have played seemingly peripheral roles in “Kane”; but they all have contributed greatly to the rise and fall of our main character, effectively creating ripples on the movie as a whole.

Indeed, at the end of the day, behind every man's success (and downfall) is a woman.


References:

__________. Citizen Kane. Analysis of Major Characters. http://www.sparknotes.com/film/citizenkane/canalysis.html

Dirks, Tim. Citizen Kane (1941). http://www.filmsite.org/citi.html

Holm, D. K. Citizen Kane. http://www.dvdjournal.com/reviews/c/citizenkane.shtml

Lauren, Patrice (09 November 2005). Perspectives on “Citizen Kane”. http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?id=20042

kat suyat said...

The Greatest American Film.

Such powerful words that had been used many times to describe the movie, Citizen Kane. Released in 1941 by RKO Productions, this movie that was directed, produced and co- written by Orson Welles, who starred as the movie’s main character as well, basically talks about the life of a fictional character (although some assumes that it is not) named Charles Foster Kane, a multi- millionaire newspaper man yearning for love. Starting with a scene showing Kane dying and uttering the word “Rosebud”, the film revolves around the quest of a journalist, Thompson, who had been given the task of finding out what this word means. Through the course of his investigation, he unveils the life of the newspaper magnate, from his childhood until the time that he reaches old age and eventually, up to his death. Thompson does this by talking to certain people who had been a part and had been in a way influential to Kane’s life. Each had their own stories to share of who Charles Kane really was, but none were able to give answer to Thompson’s query of what “rosebud” refer to. Failing on his attempt to find out what this dying word means, Thompson concludes the whole thing by saying that he doesn’t think “any word can explain a man’s life”, pointing out that “rosebud” would not, in a sense, explain or reveal anything about Kane’s life. Now, the movie ends with a scene that shows a sled being burned, with the words rosebud written on it.

It had been classified as one of the greatest movie ever made because of the advanced and unique cinematography it employed at their time (1941). The unconventional plot form (which uses flashbacks) and the different screen shots gave the movie an edge to the other films released at that period. No doubt, it had been revolutionary. It had even been shared in class that this movie had been the origin of the term “groundbreaking” referring to the fact that during its production, the staff literally had to break the ground in order to achieve the shots that they want to create. However, the question really is not whether or not it is the greatest movie there ever is. The question is, has the film been an effective medium for political socialization?

But before I answer this question, I would first like to make a point on the idea that was raised during the discussion in class. The question with the classification of the film, again has been mentioned. Now, unlike the first film (where I was bit in the middle ground), I definitely stand on the point that this film, Citizen Kane, is a narrative fiction. Although there may be some parts, which could be said to be comparable, if not exactly, parts of the life of an actual newspaper magnate named Hearst, as long as it is not clearly stated to be facts of his life, I guess it would be safe to assume that the character Kane is fictitious in nature. Also, it would be worthy to note that fictional stories are not really all creations of a writer’s imagination. Some parts of actual fiction stories are based on real life events or people, and what makes them fictional is the point that what is written are only parts and not the whole, meaning that in order to complete the story, the writer now employs ideas from his imagination.

Now, going back to the point of whether the film had been a successful agent for socialization, I would have to say YES. In my personal view, Citizen Kane had been effective in conveying concepts that cause people to act or to be moved. And among these concepts, I wish to discuss three important points that I think best show how the movie acted as an agent for socialization.

My first point would be the role of mass media in society and how Citizen Kane had enhanced this point. As we know, media acts as a watchdog for the people. Ideally, the media reveals to the people everything there is that is relevant to society. Politically, the media should act as an “eye” of the people to how the government, or politics, in general works. Furthermore, it is the media’s role to inform the people the truth. However, in Citizen Kane, we see how media turns all of these upside down. Citizen Kane shows to us how influential mass media can be. We see how certain people use media to spin around things and how it is used as a tool for propaganda. Also, it gives us an idea of how powerful newspaperman or owners could be- how they could dictate what to reveal and what not to whenever they like, wherever they like. So how does these socialize us? Well, in my own case, it taught me to be very critical with the news and how they are posed. Also, it taught me how to be critical with how I look at things, especially now that I have an idea of how propaganda is done.

The second point that I would like to raise is the concept of power. Just like what is written in the main entry, absolute power really tends to corrupt absolutely, which as a matter of fact is also shown in the film. We saw how Kane have abused his power and manipulated the events as well as the people around him. We saw how powerful a person can be, having the money and the resources needed. We even saw how he tried to use his power to buy and gain love! This point taught me that having power is not necessarily a good thing. Now, I guess one would think twice before wanting power or having access to it. As Kane said, he would have been a great man if he did not have all that he had.

Lastly, the movie showed to us the inseparability of the public and private sphere. Indeed, it is really hard to detach one’s private life from the public, especially if you’re a public figure. This is shown in Kane’s political campaign and how his private life affected his political career. This point just shows that the two concepts are really intertwined and that people should realize that not just because it is within your private realm that it would not affect what is outside of it.

The Greatest Film Ever? Well, you could say that again.

dominic_barnachea said...

In contrast to the first film shown two weeks ago, the political issues and concepts Citizen Kane tries to stress are more explicit and clear-cut. Some elements within the film plot are directly political in nature while some symbolize ideas or concepts that have political implications. All in all, the film today is overtly political.

Charles Foster Kane: The Man, The Power

The main character himself centered his life on playing alongside Power. From a very “lucky” kid who unknowingly had millions of dollars up in his name, Kane found himself with colossal power and an equally countless array of things he can do with it, of course firmly founded upon (and funded by) his new-found fortune. Although a college dropout too many, I find it rather peculiar but smart of him to invest himself- time and effort, and the millions of dollars in between- to a dying newspaper firm. With the very interesting first publication which contained his Declaration of Principles - his “most modest” manner of showing his commitment to the betterment of society, Kane clearly jumpstarted the new and improved New York Daily Inquirer with great exuberance and idealism. He was aggressiveness and arrogance personified – writing thought-provoking headlines, including the pre- Spanish-American War issue, and I remember him saying something like, If they don’t go to war, I’ll make the war.

And as we expect careers of powerful people would normally lead to, like fulfillment of a prophecy, Kane entered politics. Not surprisingly, Mr. Aggressiveness and Arrogance had an ace up his sleeve- public charm. Now- Mr. Charisma’s victory seemed sure shot- all it needed was pieces of black and white.

Then came The Charles Kane (Sex) Scandal, which shook and crumbled what was seemingly a landslide victory. And from then on I noticed a very significant change in Kane- from Mr. Man of the Masses he became Mr. Self-centered, with Ego as his middle name. His “most modest” effort for the betterment of society transformed in a “most modest” effort for the betterment of Susan Alexander Kane’s opera career (less the talent, of course). And although from the start of his newspaper venture, he was the most vital force behind it, from financial capital to ideological framework, from this point on until he died I saw Kane becoming the newspaper himself , the proof being, and I quote him, I am the (sole) authority on what people think.

Media – Framing the Possibilities

Taking off from above, and I borrow from the title of the main post, the film’s political concepts and ideas revolve around the concept of power as interpreted, and used by, a specific institution: the Media.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think, and I believe all UP political science students would agree, Lord Acton’s statement is forever undeviating and all-applicable. Clearly, Kane seemingly had absolute power with all the resources he accumulated. If the Spanish-American war isn’t enough proof, Susan Alexander Kane’s “fruitful” operatic career was undeniably erected from (very questionable) headlines from her husband’s newspapers.

Kane’s newspaper empire- the film’s metaphor of mass media. From the film, we at the very least have a faint idea of the mass media’s influence on the political perspectives, motivations and beliefs of society. At most, the film’s depiction on the role of mass media in politics is not fictional- for me at the very least, it is reality. Given the liberties states provides the mass media, its capitalist orientations (some of firms are even considered an economy on its own), and the ultra-modern technological advancements at its disposal, mass media’s power to strain incoming news and further narrow down news to be disseminated to the public (determined by its own political and economic motivations) can be simply put as putting a frame on all the possible concepts and ideas the public can ponder upon. In essence mass media determines and eventually shapes our political perception, motivation, and beliefs, of course in line with their own motivation and to their best advantage, both political and economic.

Citizen Kane is very much political. No doubt about that. And to end this with a point to ponder – What does the very political nature of Citizen Kane and it being proclaimed the greatest American movie ever made say about America?

mAc said...

One of the interesting films indeed!

One of the interesting facets of the film ‘Citizen Kane’ is the manner in which the storyline develops as it progresses. Charles Kane’s life is presented to the audiences via the re-telling of his life story by the different characters associated with him. The different stages of his life come together as those of a jigsaw puzzle; only, there’s a missing piece. A convergence of various viewpoints about him captures the fundamental nature of his life story (rich, powerful, influential, and discontented) except for one thing – Rosebud, which is an allegory of his lost childhood. This particular technique fosters an interaction between the moviegoers and the movie. The film tears apart his (Kane’s) life phase by phase and allowing the movie viewers themselves to stitch them seamlessly together. Such technique manifests a certain degree of parallelism with postmodernism approach; deviating away from the typical role of the audience who plays the third and neutral persona and directly absorbs the plot of the story, the film’s strategy was to recount the story of Kane in the lips of the few. The cornerstones of conventional narrative structure and characterization are modified in the film in order to create a cinematic work in which internal logic forms its’ means of expression. However, the problem with this technique is that it is open to subjective interpretation by those individuals who recount his life story aside from the subjective understanding of the audience. Nevertheless, such technique may account for the reason why many people find different meanings out of the film every time they watched it. And with emphasis, it puts forward the issue of subjectivity to which the reality of human life is ascribed to.

Another significant, yet underrated, dimension of the movie is the political element in it. The film is laden with many political elements that I find can serve as a source of political information, and boldly further, as an impetus for political socialization, for spectators.

Principally, the theme of the movie revolves around the idea of power: mainly through money and influence. The film is structured with political issues; from the Spanish-American War to the First World War, the tug of war between the Chronicle and the Inquirer (highlighting the significant role of media at that time), the New York mayoralty election (mudslinging, gutter politics, and the ‘love nest’ scandal), etc. The notion of power, indicated through money and influence, is blatantly incorporated into the film. As Kane responds to a reporter who asks if there’s a war, “You provide the prose poems, I'll provide the war”. Another indication, Getty, Kane’s mayoralty opponent, was drawn in prison stripes in an editorial cartoon of the Inquirer. This incident just shows how influence and money can be significant allies during election times.

Another, one of the perplexing aspects of the film is the title itself – ‘Citizen Kane’. Why put citizen before Kane? In my opinion, an important feature of Charles Kane’s personality was his love for the [American] public. This can be attributed to his pronunciation of Declaration of Principles whereby he advocates for truthful and responsible journalism and the protection of human rights after his takeover of the Inquirer newspaper. He even writes an exclusive story that ran against a company that he owns. He claims ‘as Charles Foster Kane who owns eighty-two thousand, six hundred and thirty-four shares of public transit – you see, I do have a general idea of my holdings - I sympathize with you. Charles Foster Kane is a scoundrel. His paper should be run out of town. A committee should be formed to boycott him. You may, if you can form such a committee, put me down for a contribution of one thousand dollars.’. In addition, his reply to a question of a reporter ‘How did he find Europe?’ shows his biased for his home country replying ‘How did I find business conditions in Europe? With great difficulty.’. This sense of nationalism portrayed in the film is very timely at the time of its release since World War II was being fought over. However, his nationalistic zealousness loses track towards the ending of the film. This is because of the scandalous ‘love nest’ incidence which was another pivotal moment in his life, aside from his lost childhood, that failed him the mayoralty candidacy race. From there on, his audacious life was on the decline. He uses his position in the Inquirer to write bigoted feedbacks and commendations about the musical drama his wife stars on. He even fires his own buddy Leland from the newspaper company that they both help re-established in the mainstream market. Finally, he starts to control the life of his second wife Susan Alexander by the neck; denying her the privilege of freedom. As a consequence, she left him.

Finally, what’s the significance of the signage no trespassing shown before and after the film. This symbolic image emphasizes the fact that even for the rich and the famous, no one is exempted from the eyes of the public. As Emerson points out, ‘such cinematic element provides the thrill of the forbidden. For Citizen Kane – in its first few images – takes us behind that concrete barrier, erected to keep out the public, for an intimate look at a great and powerful man who got everything he ever wanted... and then lost it’ (Accessed on 10 July 2007).

Emerson, J. Accessed on 10 July 2007 < http://cinepad.com/reviews/kane.htm.>.

Tamondong

abeleda said...

Uncle Charles, Uncle George, Uncle Sam … and FPJ?

Today, I shall try to cut Citizen Kane down to size. To try and pull him down from the seeming pedestal the critics have elected him to be, if, for no other reason than none of my classmates I believe, would have the audacity---or temerity---to do so. I shall heap no superlative praises on the movie, if, for no other reason than every other critic on the planet have already done so, and to agree---like what I believe, the rest of my classmates would do---would simply be an exercise in attempting to rephrase what has already been exhaustingly explained elsewhere; and besides…I’ve always believed it’s more fun to go against the tide.

This is not to say I don’t like the film, because I do (notice I’m still not using any superlatives). After watching it, I even watched Welles’ “The Magnificent Andersons” but I found I couldn’t use Andersons to explain Kane, for they are of the same mold, and I wanted to have a fresh take on it. What I mean by “fresh take” is to look at the same old thing from a different perspective, like what a celluloid mentor once said, apart from teaching my generation the rallying cry called “carpe diem!” (sieze the day!).

After discarding the classic lens, it struck me. I shouldn’t be comparing Kane with the Andersons, I should be comparing him with another all-time favorite American icon, George Bailey of Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life”. And while I’m at it, I might as well compare Kane with Carlo J. Caparas’ “Ang Panday” (The Blacksmith).

For more than half a century, Citizen Kane has been the flag bearer of American movies. Ditto with George Bailey whose film has been a perennial Christmas favorite. Both are iconic figures imprinted in American consciousness. I submit that they have stayed that way because, consciously or otherwise, they both represent the way Americans see themselves.

George Bailey is the man Americans see themselves to be when they pray. He is an American white male who loved and toiled his whole life in a small town, has an impeccable concern for the welfare of his friends and neighbors, who, in turn, rallies to save him from a tight spot in the end.

George Bailey then is the idealized America. Bailey became a successful businessman in his own town while America they say, became prosperous by developing its own industries. George Bailey, has an immaculate concern for his friends and neighbors and so does America, they say. America may have instigated wars, supported despotic regimes or meddled in a foreign country’s affairs but the reason for all of these is America’s selfless concern for its friends and neighbors and for championing democracy in the world, or so they say. In the end, the world will rally around America, just as George Bailey’s friends did---because God is on their side.

Citizen Kane is the man Americans see themselves as when they look in the mirror. He is an American white male who is never quite satisfied with what he has, and would continually seek love and reassurance through material acquisitions. Charles Foster Kane would be raised by a corporation and thus his heart would petrify and his mind would seek nothing but profits, control and self-gratification. His business would span the entire country and his business ethics would be pliable enough to undertake such an expansion. Kane would employ others to get their hands dirty running his business because he would seek to concentrate on running a newspaper, in his grand attempt to make people think the way he thinks. He would declare his principles on paper and would proceed to trample on them. Kane would build Xanadu, his own version of paradise on earth and bar everyone save for his mistress and servants. He would die alone, pining for the time when he still had a mother’s love and a tender heart.

Charles Foster Kane then is the realistic America. And we might refer to him not just as Uncle Charles but Uncle Sam. Uncle Charles, you see collected statues and other works of art from around the globe, and so did Uncle Sam in the beginning, not having much of an indigenous culture to speak of, it acquired paintings and cultural artifacts from around the world to fill its museums, even importing g-string clad Igorots from the Philippine Islands to be displayed until they die at the St. Louis fair. Of course, Uncle Sam preferred collecting entire countries, because cultural artifacts like the bells of Balangiga could always be acquired after razing the entire town to a “howling wilderness”.

Uncle Charles was raised by a soulless corporation. His driving motivation became profit and self-interest. The continuing search for corporate profits also drives Uncle Sam, even to the point of declaring war against Spain (something which was hinted at in the movie). Uncle Sam would protect its vital interests abroad through lobbying (in international organizations like the WTO), threats (backed up by its military might), backroom deals and bilateral agreements with unwitting third-world countries (while dangling “economic aid” as bait). Uncle Sam’s first rule is looking out for number one.

As Uncle Charles Kane’s business grew, he sought power and influence. He employed others to get their hands dirty in the day-to-day business while he sought loftier goals: that of running a newspaper because that would mean that he could shape the way the nation thinks. As Uncle Sam’s business interests grew, he also sought power and influence. This entailed making the world believe that protecting American business justifies American interventionism in international affairs. This entailed having to employ the CIA for instance, to do some dirty work like funding the Al-Qaida and the mujaheedins to weaken the influence of Russia in Afghanistan during the Cold war. It may have been more or less successful in those fields so Uncle Sam desired a loftier goal. Uncle Sam sought control of the ideoverse and thereby foisted Hollywood, Walt Disney, CNN, Microsoft, the 700 Club, MTV and Paris Hilton upon the world to shape world thought into that of the mainstream of American culture. To make the world think the way it does.

Uncle Charles would proudly declare the newspaper’s principles and subsequently trample on it when those principles would seemingly go against his interest of promoting the career of his mistress. Uncle Sam prides itself as the bastion of liberal democracy and would go to war in Iraq to force democracy down the throats of the hapless Iraqis. Never mind that the Iraqis never asked for it, or that outright invasion of a country goes against the very tenets of democratic rule, Uncle Sam had to do it for the Iraqis’ own good… and also to promote its business interests.

Charles Kane had Xanadu built like a fortress and in the opening and ending scenes in the movie, we can see the large, imposing wrought-iron gates which aims to keep everyone out from Xanadu but also seems to make Xanadu a prison. Uncle Sam built its military might to safeguard its interests. The Statue of Liberty may have beckoned immigrants thirsting for freedom in the years past but lately, Mexicans, Filipinos and other people of color trying to immigrate are finding out that the promised land are only for the privileged ones.

In the end, Charles sought the warmth and approbation of a mother’s care. He grew up insecure because he was weaned away from his mother too early. And I was wondering whether America, despite its superpower status and the lone-policeman-tough-guy image it projects is still an insecure child who subconsciously seeks the approbation of its mother culture, that of Great Britain’s?

The most enduring cultural icons in the movies are those who we can most identify with. Those who can best become the repository of our collective dreams, foibles and aspirations. In America, George Bailey and Charles Foster Kane are those icons. They are America for more than half a century.

Consider this: Sydney Poitier or Denzel Washington could never be the poster boys of Hollywood movies (at least not now). Why? Because they’re black, silly. George Bailey and Charles Kane are white boys made good, they hail from the establishment, thus, they are the flag bearers of Hollywood. In other words, it is my contention that their enduring status in American movies is also due to the power structure in American society. Since the white man holds sway, so shall white boys be on top of the heap, whether in American politics or American movies. Hispanics and blacks, though their population may have increased exponentially in America will find it hard to produce someone of their own to dislodge Kane and Bailey from the pedestal of American movies until they have sufficiently mustered political dominance as well as numerical superiority. There are exceptions, of course, like Michael Moore who may be white but because he “rocks the boat” of the Establishment, is always looked at as a pariah in American movies.

Another way to look at it is to look at the composition of movie critics. The links of movie review websites Sir F refers to reveals the fact that most of these critics are also white middle-class males. And so who shall we expect them to elect as American movie icons but one of heir own?

In the Philippines, the most iconic character in the movies for me is “Ang Panday” (the Blacksmith). Originally serialized in Filipino komiks by Mars Ravelo, Ang Panday tells of the story of a lowly blacksmith who was able to make a magical sword that he uses to emancipate the villagers from the evildoers who sought to plunder the land, or worse. There had been numerous movies based on this icon but try mentioning ‘Ang Panday’ to any Filipino and he would naturally associate the image with Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ)--- the “King of Philippine movies” and the erstwhile 2004 presidential candidate of the opposition.

In ‘Panday’ movies megged by Carlo J. Caparas, FPJ shone as the hero of the suffering masses. It was shown that poverty and hardships they suffer were not caused by them but by the plunderers who came to ravage the land. FPJ’s hero status persisted even after the camera has rolled and thus he was convinced to run against what many believed to be plundering the land, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The electoral battle became jokingly known as “Ang Panday vs. Ang Pandak” (The blacksmith vs. the midget---poking fun at the president’s height). Eventually, the establishment conspired to rob ‘Panday’ with the presidency---but that is another matter altogether.

In the end, our movie heroes are all that is best in us, all that is worst in us. They are cultural products, shaped not just by our collective yearnings but also by the dominant power and ideological structure in society.

abeleda said...
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abeleda said...
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jeejee said...

“Behind every great man, is a woman.” In the case of Charles Foster Kane, there were three – Emily Norton, Susan Alexander, and his mother.

I would like to focus on the idea of gender (particularly female significance) in “Citizen Kane”. I think there is not so much to talk about gender issues in the film such as gender discrimination and the like but since there have been several comments about power and the influence of mass media before me, i would concentrate on the superficial and hopefully towards the end, tackle my perceived underlying significance of gender in the film “Citizen Kane”.

During the reign of Marcos, there was Imelda. In his pinnacle during the martial law, she was still there. Up to the very end of his downfall, Imelda was there. The difference in Citizen Kane, in his pre-glorious period, there was the presence of his mother (symbolizing the simple joys of his childhood). During his prosperity as a newspaper tycoon, Emily Norton was there (this is the part where the corruption of his self-being is in the process). Come his defeat in elections and the materialization of his personal corruption because of so much power, Susan Alexander was there. In the film, I think it is also important to highlight not just the icon/s that moved the audience towards political mobilization or the entity that molded the character (referring to power) into what he has become, but also how the other characters surrounding the main character contributed in shaping the main character as a whole.

Going back to the focus on gender, even Kane’s last dying word – Rosebud – connotes a female significance. The role of a female depicted in the movie correlates to one of the principal ideas revolving in the film as stated by one of the reporters, Charles Foster Kane’s longing for love. Since he was robbed of the opportunity to enjoy his childhood, later in his life, he married the presidential niece, this act, personally, demonstrates a desperate move to gain popularity, and at the same time, love. I'm not saying that he did not really love his first wife but this scenario delineates a political opportunity: catching two birds with one stone. And in the life of such a man as Charles Foster Kane, opportunities like these are never disregarded. Another gender-related issue I've noticed in the film is the character portrayed by Susan Alexander. I can say that to some extent, she was “utilized” by Kane. (Well, women, during that period were not fully empowered, so it’s somehow logical.) He reasoned Susan for his publicity, had an opera built for her for the public to notice his wife's singing career, and manipulated the reviews on her wife's performances. And despite all of these, hoping that these favors would earn him the love that he had always dreamed of, Kane still did not get the love he deeply wanted. Sometimes, it is not in the material compensation that love is given and shown, sometimes, it's more of the little things you do that gives meaning to love. The subordination of Susan Alexander to her husband, and to some extent, Emily Norton was also laid out dimly in the film but towards the end, female empowerment still reigned. Susan Alexander had the courage to leave Charles Foster Kane, the most powerful and influential man in the newspaper world

Citizen Kane is the epitome of the story of a man who succeeded in his career and lured by power, who had almost everything he wanted but was denied of the only thing that could have completed his life. And the mystery he left to the people behind made the story remarkable. Perhaps, it is also the unsolved mystery for the other characters in the story that made this the greatest film of all time. Directed, produced, and played by the same individual, Orson Welles, who collaborated with Herman J. Mankiewicz on the script. “The film engendered controversy (and efforts at suppression in early 1941 and efforts at suppression in early 1941 through intimidation, blackmail, newspaper smears, discrediting and FBI investigations) before it premiered in New York City on May 1, 1941, because it appeared to fictionalize and caricaturize certain events and individuals in the life of William Randolph Hearst - a powerful newspaper magnate and publisher.” So here enters the infinite battle between documentary and a narrative fiction. Since it apparently illustrates parallel events in a real person’s life, does that entail that it is indistinguishable between a documentary and a narrative fiction? I think no. The film is still a narrative fiction. These parallel events that happened to Charles Foster Kane in the film and Randolph Hearst in real life were, again personally, intended to make the film more realistic in a sense and to earn controversy in order for it to be bought by the viewing public.

repato

abeleda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gaspar said...

Citizen Kane: Media, Politics and Image-Making

Citizen Kane is a film composed of themes that are as relevant today as they were first released in 1941. Themes of power, individuality and the media are combined mapping a life starting form the end, as we see Kane dying in the opening then go off to the point backwards. Every single frame is awash in brilliance. As with other great films, this one’s theme is completely absorbed through its characters, presenting them, then judges them, taking a firm moral outlook. We gain a complete image of not only Kane’s life, but also his character and values, from methods of telling the whole story mainly through stories and tales from those who knew Kane and through news. With this the director was successful in complimenting important and crucial events. The glimpses we get from Kane’s life are from varying points of view. Though Kane is a faulty character as the amount of power he has becomes worrying, I may say he is at heart good. It’s just that mistakes damaged him. In allowing his media influence to publish favorable reviews to his awful opera-singer wife, he breaks his promise (with his Declaration of Principles published with his first issue of the publication) of telling the truth for the public he loves so much.

While watching the film, I remembered a documentary “Papogi: The Imaging of the Philippine President”. Politics nowadays is no longer just addition, having votes counted, presenting platforms and making a lot of promises. In the age of mass media, politics is more of image making; a politician’s image in the public’s mind magnified by television and ads is much greater than the sum of his assets and accomplishments. I just remember how advantageous it was for a news anchor or a media personnel like Noli de Castro winning the elections over other candidates that time, as also for a media tycoon like Kane or Hearst. Images projected in favor of the candidates may have little basis but in fact they are very real to voters, enough that even public offices have become a competition of images. As an effect of false media projections, people are confused with politics.

Competition over politics has become struggle over perception; how we see things has everything to do with how we live in assumptions. This was clearly shown on the film especially on the part where Kane decided to publish that he is in affair with an opera singer just to save face. All over the film it is projected that Kane’s news is the element that proves the power of mass media. Its power to influence our political perceptions of what is reality is enough to see how people can be easily deceive. Media in essence is one of the mainstream factors that influence our political perceptions, participation, as well as our opinions and motivations as part of the society.

Citizen Kane has earned a lot of reviews and comments that sums up as being the best movie ever. It is indeed exceptional especially during its time. It is a good thing that it has revealed the meaning of Kane’s dying word, Rosebud, but I think this is just intentioned for the viewers to stick to the story and focus mapping the character’s life. Its being symbolic in ways that help us appreciate exactly what is going on has given much power and depth to the film. Almost all reviews were talking about how good the movie was. I may add some questions to ponder. How can a man, after having all he wants in the world, find his soul? And how can make media accountable for all these “realities” they are presenting to us?

vnus ambrona said...

The film started with a crude narration of the biography of Charles Foster Kane in the form of a newsreel, which essentially is the plot with which the entire film was to revolve. From the initially omniscient point of view of the narrator, we were passed on to adopt the point of view of Mr. Thompson, a magazine journalist who was assigned by his publisher to do some detective work on the last words of Kane -- the infamous line “Rosebud”. This beginning immediately showed a key objective of media: To present things as factual as news with creativity and uniqueness relative to their competition. Thompson’s publisher, after realizing that all the journals are saying the same things, took interest with the significance of “Rosebud” and presupposed that the unraveling of this mysterious word would provide a fresh, more lucid, and marketable explanation of the man’s life.
Moreover, it was not oblivious to us. If we were to choose a political theme from the movie, it would be about media. That one headline on every news program in American television was able to undermine support for the United States’ war with Vietnam* and that a man’s thriving political career could be turned upside down by one news banner are one of the many facts that definitely recapitulate to us the overwhelming potential of media to directly or indirectly influence public consciousness and even a state’s domestic and/or foreign policy. We are well aware that media is a dangerous toy to play with, that is why we all laughed with sweat drops on our heads when the young Kane said, “It would be fun to run a newspaper!”.

One of the things that amazed me about this film was how it prevented its viewers from getting centrally concerned about the mere resolving of the mystery by shifting our interests to the character of Kane himself. At first we were not aware of it but the film was already taking advantage of our simple curiosity, using “Rosebud” as the bait with which to lead us into scrutinizing the whole being of Kane. Personally, I found myself growing more interested with the intricacy of Kane’s personality rather than the connotation of “rosebud” in the process. It was astounding how such a tyrannical, insensitive, egotistic, and self-centered man like Kane, one detested even by the ones who were closest to him, would be presented in a film in such a way that its viewers would somehow “care” for him.
I think it would be naïve to say that the film is no longer praiseworthy or timely just because it was an allegory of someone long gone like William Randolph Hearst. In fact, it would be an allegory to every media mogul or politician at any given generation or setting. In a sense, it is also allegorical of everybody who will watch the film, young and old alike, whatever their economic status. Why is this so? This leads us to the second theme the reporters also mentioned: Love. Ever since Kane inherited great wealth and power, he was used to doing things his way, on his own terms. A lot of us also have this thinking that only if we have control over everything around us – cold cash, submissive subordinates, fame, political power, knowledge, etc. – would we be able to live life with ease. The lesson here is that you may have everything around you, but if you don’t have anything inside of you, meaning if you were not able to truly love and be loved, everything will be meaningless. Life would be like a big, fancy hot air balloon soaring up the sky, and yet, empty and without clear direction.
To conclude, there two overarching themes in the movie: Media and Love. The former appeals to the “intellect” and the latter appeals to “feelings”. Based on this conclusion I discovered that one of the most important things a film must manage to do so that it can be an effective impetus for political mobilization and socialization is that it should both indoctrinate political knowledge and at the same time, deposit a burden to the hearts of the viewers. The film must present itself in a way that the viewers can mentally and emotionally relate.

*Brown, Chris with Kirsten Ainley. Understanding International Relations, 3rd edition. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. p. 84.

Agpalo said...

The movie centers on the role of mass media in the political socialization of the people who consumes it. We can even see how this works in the real context that the film was released. The issues that the film faced in actuality mirrors that of the whole theme of the film. This would be because of the claim that the movie was patterned from the real life of a real big time person named William Randolph Hearst . The very fact that Hearst tried to stop the film from coming out , is an acknowledgment on media's important role on peoples social orientation. It is also an acknowledgment on the capability of the movie he very well opposed, in instilling ideas and values to the public that consumes it.

I agree with Ms. Bartolome's sentiments on the mass medias influence on peoples lives. We see in the movie that Kane does not only have the power on how to deliver a certain piece of information (We remember that aside from lighting the torch of Susan Alexander's career, it was also the Inquirers publicity that kept it alive,though barely) whether they would give it a more positive angle or rather a very negative one.

Apart from the treatment of the news, the media has the power to decide what the audience would know. They have the power on what and what not to show the public. This sets the agenda by which the people can process the informations and form their opinions and oftentimes it is what is not seen that greatly affects the publics orientation of a certain issue.

Now, I try to examine the movie based on these two qualities and control the media has, one is on how it treats a certain thought, idea or a situation and secondly on how the movie basically sets the mood based on the informations the film makers choose to show. By doing this I believe will I be able to answer the question on how effective is the movie on the socialization of the viewers.

I dare say that Citizen Kane has a more positive view of human beings. Be it Kane as a person corrupted by his almost limitless power, the film still depicted men as victims of the society it lives in. Though, I do not say that Kane's attitude specially with how he handles his status as one of the most influential men in America in his period could entirely be justified by this thought. The film shows that human beings are born good but society corrupts him. It is then the challenge for men to retain this goodness as he faces different circumstances that would yield him to compromise his values.
We remember Charles Foster Kane in the early parts of the film as the innocent child, playing adorably with his sleigh, begging for his mother to come with him. Even the parents were depicted as victims of a society where everything revolves around the money. They do not wanted to part with their son. The film did not focused on the fact that both of the parents would be receiving an annual allowance of $50,000 each. It instead highlighted that Kane's parents wanted the best for their son.
Their son thus grows up into an idealistic young man who wanted to run a newspaper and outrightly expressed his desires to help those who are oppressed. As the years passed we see him transform into a man whose life revolves on wanting people to love him and later into a corrupted one who uses his power for his sole interests.
The effectiveness of portraying this message is heightened by the concentration of the topic on what Rosebud is. Though the film portrayed him as an egoistic, chauvinist, self-centered, corrupt, unhappy and dissatisfied old man, the film still choose to pick the sleigh to be the Rosebud. It was not the women , the money, nor Xanadu that this old man valued and missed most. It was a sleigh. That some interpreted as the symbolism for his ideals as a young man which he lost as he gained power,along with his chance to be a great man. This is what he regretted the most.

I guess one of the major things that contributed to this film's capacity to effectively affect its audience is the fact that the film makers choose to pattern this movie from the life of a real person. That fact alone makes the public take this narrative fiction more seriously. The fact that it is based from 'a true story' intrigues the viewers and at the same time making them more receptive to the ideas the film is promulgating.

Richard Henrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Henrick said...

The media is considered as the fourth estate as it functions as an effective watchdog for the government’s actions. The people trust it to expose any untoward actions of the 3 other estates: the legislative, judiciary, and executive. Given that reporters are armed with their freedom of expression especially in liberal democracies, the public trust the media to be brave enough in providing the information that they ought to know. However, is the media always responsible?

One among the many important themes that was presented in the movie “Citizen Kane” will be the politics inside media. The media is a powerful agenda- setter. It has the control on what people talk about during their daily conversations. It has the power to make an issue controversial or a non-issue, by either highlighting it on the headlines or by not even putting a single write-up about it. Moreover, since every story is written according to the perception of its writer, biases are hard to eliminate even if there are specific guidelines that must ensure objectivity in delivery. In fact, newspapers allot the opinion section in order to give room for writers to freely express their biases and take sides on specific issues. This makes media powerful for it is able to “encourage viewers and readers to portray the topic in a similar way” (Hague and Harrop, 2004 p. 114) with the way they frame their stories. We’ve seen how the print media has set the agenda and framed the stories for the public in the movie Citizen Kane. We’ve seen how the media sets the agenda in the movie with the way the Inquirer portrayed Susan Alexander Kane as a very good singer in its news, which made her a popular topic in town. Likewise, the way the Inquirer headlined Kane’s loss at the elections as another incident of fraud shows how the media frames news according to the writers’ perspectives.

Ideally, the media is supposed to be an avenue where multiplicity of perspectives is highly welcomed. It is supposed to provide an avenue for intellectual discourse and debate since all writers are entitled to express their own opinions given that they are armed with the freedom of speech. Open-mindedness and tolerance are two of the primary pillars that make media a very powerful democratic tool. Many journalists revolt against the government whenever it violates their right to free speech. For them, existing safeguards exist, which are enough in order to prevent the abuse of the freedom that they possess. However, not all of these safeguards indeed safeguard the media’s practice of freedom of speech. In fact, some of it may be a major curtailer of that vital media right. As shown in the movie, the editorial board and management of media itself could be the fascist that the writers could fear. They could in fact be more fearful especially when they fire writers and other staff who do not comply with the way they want the information to be relayed in the public. Newspaper owners like Charles Foster Kane could use the power of their media properties to forward their own interests even if it means violating the main principles that media is supposed to stand for: the truth.

Indeed, uncovering the truth behind every story has always been media’s top priority. Keeping up with this principle makes the people trust whatever information the media relays. Citizen Kane was able to portray how tedious media jobs could be as they quest in finding the right answers to the stories that they want to share to the public as exemplified by Mr. Thompson’s series of interviews as he tries to unlock the real meaning of Kane’s last words: Rosebud. Media work requires thorough research and patience. However, as what could be signified by rosebud in the film, not everything is meant to be discovered by people. There are some things that would remain secret forever. On scenarios wherein the most precise answer is impossible to be determined, a multi-perspective approach is very helpful in the relaying of that story. Media gains more credence in using this method since it shows how they try to provide to the audience the widest pool of possible answer and not limit them to what they feel is the correct one. Through this kind of approach, the public becomes the judge on what they feel the truth really is plus they get to know more about the subject as each perspective share both similar and different takes about what they know about it. The multi-perspective approach used in the film “Citizen Kane” is what I think one of the things that differs it from other films in such a way that it doesn’t really impose to its viewers what to think about its main character.

Throughout the film, the theme that media is powerful was very much apparent. However, the film also teaches us that its misuse has negative repercussions that are irreparable. Citizen Kane challenges media to be as objective, accommodating and fair in the way it conducts its reports. Media always has its specific limitations, which should always be kept in mind. Knowing that media has great power; the film reminds us that its usage also equates to great responsibility.

Beltran

Uy said...

“When you spread your wings, spread it wide – wide enough to be able to fly.”

Finally, he let go…

You never know when, you never know how, you never know where. And it happened; many newsprints and papers announced his death and erupted with different comments and opinions about the “greatest” newspaper tycoon, Mr. Charles Foster Kane. But before he died, he uttered his last word “ROSEBUD”…

It was taken away from him; he was robbed. Looking at a larger picture, the ‘rosebud’ signifies the attachment of an individual to a certain stage of his/her life. In the case of Mr. Charles Kane, ‘rosebud’ depicts his youth – the stage of his life that he did not fully experience and enjoy. His youth was not his. This just shows that in life, along the way, we tend to remember and recall a certain stage of our life. If possible, we even want to return those ‘missed’ moments and time. In some way, we are tied to a stage of our life and we have difficulty in letting go. This is what I call the “Butterfly” phenomena. Butterflies go on wandering and look for the flower bud they are attracted too. They stay on it for a while, transfer and continue on with their journey. But even they are given the open environment to fly and live, butterflies have a great tendency to return to their “much-loved” flower. For man, this is the “rosebud” of life.

He left his family, together with his youth, when he was young. The “butterfly” phenomena of Mr. Charles Kane could be better understood in the context of youth. Youth is a social position between childhood dependence and adult responsibility. Youths are said to be granted some greater responsibility than children but are still subject to adult control. According to Chris Barker, youth is characterized by the following:

1.Youth is a unitary category, with certain psychological characteristics and social needs common to an age group.
2.Youth is an especially formative stage of development, where attitudes and values become anchored to ideologies and remain fixed in this mould for life.
3.The transition from childhood dependence to adult autonomy normally involves a rebellious phase, which is itself part of a cultural traditional transmitted from one generation to the next.
These three features of youth stage could be understood in the context of Kane’s lifestyle and decisions, newspaper management approach, emotional/love life and his relations with staff and other people.

Lifestyle. The ‘Rosewood’ sled was a symbol of his childhood personality and social need during his young years. He only thought of play-and-fun and this could be symmetrical to his lifestyle and beliefs as he grew. He found his happiness (play-and-fun) in luxurious spending and things (mansions/houses, theatre, printing company, campaigning, parties).

Relations with staff and other people. Mr. Kane also had a large collection of statues and other decorative items in his houses. These may symbolize his relationship with his fellow beings wherein he perceives himself as possessing overwhelming power over others. With wealth and influence, he uses these to advance his interest and get what he wants. We may then say that some of his established values and attitudes during his youth stage remained in how he deals with others. Moreover, the movie also showed his transition from childhood dependence when Charles does not consider and listen to the ideas and thoughts of his fellow workers, his wife and Mr. Walter Thatcher.

Newspaper management approach. Furthermore, as youths, we have a tendency to believe that we are always right. We start strong and hold on to our principles; but sooner or later, we do not realize that we go overboard and have left behind our ideals. Same is true for the nature shown by Mr. Kane, he had a vision of professionalism, integrity and social responsibility in his newspaper company. However, it all ended when many factors, including love-life, emotional challenges, wealth and power, have distracted him from his purpose and goal. Instead, his goal of social responsibility, integrity was replaced by a particularistic agenda setting vision in his newspaper output. Agenda-setting is basically defining what constitutes news based on preference and what you view is important (Hall, et. al, 1981). Mr. Charles Kane, who ran for a government position, used the newsprint as his campaign strategy in order to hold power against the competitor. As Malcolm X said, “the medias are the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty; and the guilty innocent.”

Love/emotional life. Finally, decisions are crucial during the youth age wherein we encounter a self crisis or dilemma. This dilemma may be seen in knowing ourselves and our responsibility whether we depend or we work to be independent. Here we search for ourselves, what makes us happy. Mr. Charles also encountered this self crisis and did not know what was lacking (what is being happy, decision-making in his love affairs and family).

He wanted it badly… his youth…
But have lost it forever…
Therefore, sometimes, we cloak ourselves to escape away from the pain and suffering of reality. The possibility of experiencing the soreness of life just wants us to stop the pulse of the seconds made by the hand – time. We look for answers for happiness but we are confronted by choosing from the options of uncertainty rather than solutions. It is really complicated and we, sometimes quit and let go; but, hold on it to but never be tied to it completely. Spread your wings wide in order to fly and be happy.

Because you never know when, because you never know how, because you never know where.

Reference:

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage Publications, Ltd.,
2000.

Ron S.R. said...

Citizen Kane

Provided with the notion that this film is considered by many as the greatest movie ever made, watching it then became a sort of quest into finding that “something” that makes it the greatest film ever. Nonetheless, repeated screening did not bear any fruits—I did not find an exact “something” that makes it the greatest. And quite frankly—as what Robert Egbert would say; making a list of the greatest movies of all time is “silly and ridiculous”. Indeed it is, but personally, this movie is one which I would consider great (just not the greatest, because there is no such thing, in my opinion)—how is it great for me as a viewer from a different generation? This we shall tackle in the length of this brief article:

First, we take a look at the technicalities of the movie. In what aspects in the production of the movie did it excel or made a breakthrough? In watching the movie, one can immediately tell as to the craftsmanship and the talent that is evident in the movie. Considering it was a movie of the 40’s, the visuals are undoubtedly fascinating—the techniques utilized in cinematography/photography such as deep focusing employed by Gregg Toland was revolutionary, the musical score of Bernard Herrmann was well-conceived and fitted well within the film, and the sets were made magnificently. More importantly, all of this visually stunning production was done within a very tight budget and a relatively “fresh to filmmaking” cast and crew. Added to it was the kind of directorial control that was unheard of at its time and was barely heard of again—the “final cut” deal wherein the director had total control of the whole filmmaking process. This kind of direction has become the “holy grail” (Egbert, 200x) of directors ever since.

Second, we look at the elements that make the story of the film captivating and appealing to the viewers. As one can derive from the movie, it is about the life, and death of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). It is told in such a way that the viewers are taken into an insiders’ look into the life of this glamorous and controversial man that the normal individual would only see and hear about in the news. This as Egbert comments is primarily why the story of the film was so alluring to the audience—“because we are naturally fascinated by these things”. Indeed we are that we seek to find the answers by ourselves to questions that bother us. In this case, the audience is made to believe that indeed s/he is on this quest with Thomson (reporter; William Alland) to uncover the mystery of Kane’s final word—rosebud. It is not the question of the audience liking Kane or feeling sorry for Kane but it was more on the intrigue and the rewards that lie in finding out for oneself. Only in the case of this movie, the ending is a perfect twist in that the whole point of your quest does not explain everything which then forces ones’ mind to interpret and formulate for him/herself the ultimate ending or meaning of the whole “adventure”.

Third, from the point of view of this commenter; another element (aside from the movies’ portrayal of the influence of media) that makes this film great is the films’ tackling of the concept of post-materialism. We shall look at this within the films portrayal of such concepts in various scenes of the film:

In the scene where Thatcher, Bernstein and Kane were talking over the allowance of Mr. Kane to be provided by Mr. Thatcher, their dialogue goes into the topic of money and how Kane used his money—Thatcher arguing that Kane has never made an investment in his entire life, only using it to “buy things” wherein Kane continues; “My mother should have chosen a less reliable banker… I’ve always gagged on that silver spoon… If I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a great man.” Within the most general sense of post-materialism, this scene portrays the concept very well; choosing over what is tangible and monetary for something more abstract.

In the scene with Thomson interviewing Bernstein about rosebud, Thomson made mention of Thatcher, then Bernstein regarding him as “the greatest fool”. “It’s no trick to make money, if all you want is making money … you take Mr. Kane, it wasn’t money he wanted.” Bernstein referring to Kane as one who foregoes money for other things though not specified but perhaps something intangible ergo post-materialism.

Also a scene worth noting with regards to post-materialism was the dialogue between Kane and his second-wife Susan Alexander, wherein Susan gets fed up with the way Kane treats her as if she were someone that can be bought by the material things that Kane offers her. Just so she can be satisfied and “happy”, but then Susan argues that it is not about the money and the gifts—“it’s only money… you could buy something worth a hundred thousand and it would not mean anything to you… its just money.” Then adding “you never gave me something that was yours”; within the context of this dialogue, one can clearly delineate the concept of post-materialism as it is manifested in the movie. Though not the main theme of the movie, evidently the film employs such a concept (post-materialism) and is manifested in various important scenes as aforementioned and many others within the movie. It also is partly the object/attribute wherein we can put reference on if we are to gauge the change within the character of Kane. From a post-materialist to a materialist then back to a post-materialist; from a man of principle and ideals then consumed with only the want of money and ending only to realize that he has lost something more important than all the money in the world.

Citizen Kane is indeed a great movie, one which breaks the norms of filmmaking at its time, one that elicits curiosity from the viewer and one which tackles concepts that the audience can generally relate to.


RON S.R.

jen asama said...

We tend to pay more attention and get more amazed when we are watching the real thing. I think most of us would choose watching a live magic show than an edited magic trick video. And of course, believe the credibility of the former. “Citizen Kane”(1941) caught our attention, amazed us, and raised issues that we paid attention to just because we interpreted them to be real.

I did not know what to expect from Citizen Kane until I saw the newsreel. I predicted the film to be either of the two: (1) a film based on the true story of Charles Foster Kane, introduced by the newsreel or (2) a 120 minute newsreel about the true life story of Charles Foster Kane. As the film progressed, I started to feel that both my guesses were incorrect. The dramatization led me to say that perhaps, there really was no Charles Foster Kane at all. But I also watch dramatizations in TV, and “Maalala Mo Kaya” claims that their featured stories are all true stories. So I suspended my decision on that matter until I did some researching on the internet (and I found out that Charles Foster Kane was actually meant to portray a fictionalized William Randolph Hearst).

I guess that newsreel inside the film made me think that way (that the film was indeed based on the life of an existent person). I would not know if it was real since I was not born then and I’ve never heard of the film. I remember watching documentaries with newsreels inside and the newsreel at the beginning of the film gave me the same feeling with Citizen Kane. The newsreel also seemed like an authentic one. Entitled “News on the March”, it acted like a mini documentary, with only the narrator and a lot of “flashbacks” to support the narratives. Also newspapers that showed Kane headlines gave me the idea that they were real newspapers. And it also mentioned Kane’s connection to certain historical events like the Great Depression.

Regarding the film’s effect on my view on mass media? The film just legitimized what I already know about mass media as a business and as a tool for influence. For instance, the entry above has already mentioned that the mass media particularly the newspaper can even be a tool for propaganda. Mass media was portrayed negatively in the sense that the film showed the mass media may/may not objectively state events according to the interest of the people behind the newspaper. I was alarmed by this and pondered on how much this happens in our country. I do not depend my knowledge of current events in the newspaper, but the television networks also have people behind it, people who might “manipulate” the minds of their audience according to their interest.

Mere dramatization or real, I am sure that a lot of Filipinos can relate to the film, in the sense that they understand Kane’s longing for love and his family, since in theory and practice we give so much importance to our families than other Western cultures. In fact, the moment I found out about the true meaning of rosebud, it really gave me a sense of “awww-ness”. It made me think that not all powerful people after all are just pursuing power per se. “These people also do have a heart, I guess.” Mere dramatization or real, I subscribe to the idea that all people have their own pursuits of happiness which is implicitly shown in the film.

To sum this up, as a person who does not really know much about the technicalities of films, I have my own tentative criteria on the kind of attention to give to the issues (especially political) presented on a film: There is quite a big difference when you are watching a film which is a true story, based on a true story (I equate this to be inspired by a real story), and fictional in nature. When a film is a true story (which I would never know how much they twisted the storyline), it gives me the notion that I should pay attention to the issues because it happened in real life, it may happen again. Probably it can give me a greater grasp or reality. And history is more important than fiction. If it is based on a true story, pay attention, but less. The writers and producers have probably twisted the storyline too much. It still depicts reality but to a more exaggerated level. And if it is fictional, do not take it seriously, just enjoy. These are just my own perspectives and I know there are more accurate theories on these three types. I categorize “Citizen Kane” to be on the “based on a true story” type because there was no existent Charles Foster Kane but the character was based on William Randolph Hearst. If there happened to be a real Charles Foster Kane, I think the film would have more impact on me, simply because his life history validates everything I watched. I can research more about his life; I can even cite him (and not the film) in my papers, etc.

Just one problem. We do not usually know where a film falls under. Sometimes it does not appear at the beginning of the film whether it is based on a real story or not, so we do not know what to expect and what kind of attention we should give.