Three days before its 80th Anniversary on May 1st, ‘Citizen Kane’ has been toppled by ‘Paddington 2’ after being dethroned of its status on Rotten Tomatoes ‘100 Club’ following the addition of a review published in The Chicago Tribune on May 7th, 1941, by a film critic credited under the pseudonym Mae Tinee (speculated to be a play on ‘Matinee), leaving it with a rating of 99%. To many, this jokingly makes ‘Paddington 2’ the new greatest film of all time. Citizen Kane is an American drama directed by Orson Welles and stars himself, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Corningore, and was co-written by Herman J. Mankiewicz. The picture was also Welles’s first feature film following the success of the controversial broadcast of ‘The War of the Worlds’ in 1938. Citizen Kane is often touted as the greatest film ever made by critics and filmmakers alike, also being part of the United States Film Registry 1989 inaugural group of films preserved for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
I do hope Mr Kane won't be too upset when he hears I've overtaken him with rotten tomatoes.
— Paddington (@paddingtonbear) April 28, 2021
Tinee commented: “It’s interesting. It’s different. In fact, it’s bizarre enough to become a museum piece. But its sacrifice of simplicity to eccentricity robs it of distinction and general entertainment value.” adding: “I only know it gives one the creeps and that I kept wishing they’d let a little sunshine in.”
Citizen Kane tells the life story of the titular Charles Foster Kane, a fictional media mogul who runs a newspaper called the Daily Enquirer, and later attempts to run for government office due to his popularity [Techradar.com]. Film critic, French New Wave founder and director François Truffaut wrote that “Before Kane, nobody in Hollywood knew how to set music properly in movies. Kane was the first, in fact the only, great film that uses radio techniques”.
Citizen Kane is often praised for Gregg Toland’s cinematography, Robert Wise’s editing and Bernard Herrmann’s music, all of which are considered to be innovative and precedent-setting for the film industry, with the film rejecting the usual stance of linear narrative – solely telling Kane’s story through flashbacks using differing points of view.
Many film scholars view the film as Orson Welles’s attempt to create an entirely new style of filmmaking by taking other forms of storytelling and combining them. When asked why he took such a risk as a first-time director, Welles responded that: “Ignorance, ignorance, sheer ignorance – you know there’s no confidence to equal it. It’s only when you know something about a profession, I think, that you’re timid or careful.”
French historian Georges Sadoul states that “The film is an encyclopaedia of old techniques” with popular French film critic André Bazin adding that “even if Welles did not invent the cinematic devices employed in Citizen Kane, one should nevertheless credit him with the invention of their meaning”. This brings to light an important issue and age-old argument within film, being classic versus contemporary films, which even at the time of Kane’s release would have been prevalent with the first ‘films’ being released in the late 19th Century.
Many feel as if there is a drastic difference between classic films and contemporary films, with Brianna Brann [dailycal.org] stating: “Older films are truly classic, reflecting a nostalgic past through strong storylines and uncomplicated filmmaking. Classics are often unique works of cinema that have transcended time and trends, with the undoubtable quality of acclaimed cinematic works. As a result, renowned film critics tend to show substantial favouritism to older films. In fact, when Roger Ebert, who was the very first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, created one final list of his top 10 favourite films of all time in 2012, all except one of his selected movies were more than 30 years old… Classic films, whose stories and characters are not enhanced by special effects or digital compositing, are believed to allow audiences to adopt a more hands-on viewing experience by showcasing film’s unique elements at a more personal, organic level. On the other hand, modern films are too often generalized as pop-culture flicks that are solely concerned with making revenue rather than producing quality content. Beyond this stereotype, the technological advancements that are often criticized for tarnishing modern motion pictures have also massively streamlined the process of film production.”
A Reddit user by the name of ‘Moxbuncher’ argues that “I think, post French New Wave, the films have become much more dynamic and “fast”, and even now we’re suffering from the overuse and misuse of the jump cut technique. Long takes are hard to come by mainstream films these days as people demand things that are easier for them to hold their attentions on to. People nowadays are so cooped in the idea that ‘they don’t have time’ that the effect of watching something ‘long’ or ‘slow’ requires so much ‘time’ for them that it becomes physically painful. Also, this isn’t to say that every old film is good. No, I don’t think so. I think people should uphold all films to the same standard. What I mean is, even though Citizen Kane is a great film technically, it really doesn’t evoke anything much in me. Game changer, yes, and the production behind it is something else too.”
Laura Mulvey investigated the anti-fascist themes of Citizen Kane in her 1992 monograph for the British Film Institute, in which she wrote that the film reflects “the battle between intervention and isolationism” fought in the United States while President Franklin D. Roosevelt was fighting to win public opinion for entering the Second World War.
Mulvey stated that “the destiny of isolationism is realized in metaphor: in Kane’s own fate, dying wealthy and lonely, surrounded by the detritus of European culture and history.”
Comparisons are also frequently made between Donald Trump and Charles Foster Kane, with Citizen Kane reported to be one of his favourite films. It is also said that Trump himself was bewitched by Kane and identifies strongly with him.
Journalist Ignacio Ramonet has noted Citizen Kane as a foreboding example of the mass media manipulation of opinion, and the power media conglomerates have on politics. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp is sometimes labelled as a modern Citizen Kane due to his impact on the political sphere through media.
Rotten Tomatoes has a ‘Tomatometer‘ which ranks films. A score of 70-100% meets the ‘Certified Fresh’ standard if they have been reviewed by at least 80 critics and five ‘Top Critics’. Films scoring between 60-100% meet the ‘Fresh’ standard with no other requirements, and anything below 60% receives the ‘Rotten’ rating, usually meaning it’s not worth the watch.
Even with its new 99% rating, Citizen Kane will still often called one of the most influential films of all time.