Archive for October, 2010

Analysis — Inspiration of “Citizen Kane”

          In “Citizen Kane” (Orson Welles, Mercury Productions and RKO Studio, 1941), the scene where a banker named Walter Parks Thatcher recalled Kane’s life experience used deep focus, artful lighting, and historical flashbacks to display Kane’s rise and fall of his career. Comparing the loss of Kane’s childhood and the secret of Kane’s last word “rosebud”, Welles disclosed the complexity of Kane’s personality and inspired audiences about the meaning of life during War World II and the Great Depression. The innovative message and cinematography made this film became the number one on the AFI’s top 100 list, and it was also known as a turning point between modern and traditional films.

            “Citizen Kane” used flashbacks to show different stage of Kane’s life. The film started with Kane’s death and his last word “rosebud” to tell how the millionaire lost everything. Thatcher flashback showed the childhood of Kane, which was the most important part about how he built up his personality. In the scene, Thatcher and Kane’s parents were arranging Kane future. Welles used deep focus to shot to show every person’s face clearly in the rough house. At the same time, Kane was naively playing with his sled outside.

            This deep focus shot let audiences immediately realized Kane’s poor background because of the empty house and the dress of his parents. Also, the contrast between Mrs. Kane’s serious face and Mr. Kane’s angry face was showing their conflict of making the decision to Kane’s future. The lighting of Mr. Kane only reflected his half face while Mrs. Kane and Thatcher had full lighting. This moral enhanced the opposition and isolation of Mr. Kane. Additionally, Thatcher was sitting closer to Mrs. Kane with all the documents. The ignorance to Mr. Kane foreshadowed that Mrs. Kane was dominated the family, and she had decided to send her son away his broken father. Meanwhile, in the deep of the field, Kane was enjoying the snow outside without knowing his fate had entirely changed from that moment. After Kane realized that he needed to leave his family, Welles gave a close shot to show the inner feeling of every character. Especially for Kane, he had no idea what did the wealth mean to him, and he felt like abandoned by his family. The pain of Kane imported the change of his personality. The flashback storyline and deep focus cinematography were revolutionary compare any other films at that moment.

           Welles used tons of flashbacks to provide different views of Kane in different angles of interviews, however, only the scene of Kane’s childhood implied the answer to “rosebud”. It was a shock for audiences that Kane’s last word had nothing related to his two wives and the enterprise he had struck for the whole life. By the surprise ending, Welles unveiled that the most important thing to Kane was his childhood. The experience of incomplete childhood made Kane want to control everything by himself and other people admire him afterward. Welles seems to dig a deeper meaning of happiness in humanity by telling the precious thing is the love of family. As people kept chasing wealth and social status for their entire lives, they lost all the joys in the past. The flashback scene brought the audience back to think about what they actually need—maybe it is just a little stuff as Kane’s sled.

             Furthermore, “Citizen Kane” was released during World War II, with the attack on Pearl Harbor, and followed the Great Depression. The narrative structure and historical flashback struck a responsive chord in the hearts of its audiences. This cinematography was so different and shock compared to the ones in history. In the early of 1900s, the majority of Hollywood movies were comedies, science fictions, or horror films. Welles absorbed the essence of classis previous films and put a significant innovation in “Citizen Kane”, which pushed the success of Hollywood movies to a new high. Welles entertained his audience by Kane’s legendary life experience, but more importantly, his inspired people by the growth and the ironic ending of Kane. Welles work also enlightened the subsequent film development, which made “Citizen Kane” become a milestone of the history of Hollywood movies.

Citizen Kane


           “Citizen Kane” narrated a tale of a millionaire newspaper magnate Charles Forest Kane. He had twice marriages and twice divorces. The first was to marry with a president’s niece Emily Norton who left him in 1916 and died in a motor accident with her son in 1918. The second was to marry with a singer Susan Alexander 16 years after his first marriage. In Kane’s heyday, he owned thirty-seven newspapers, two syndicates, a radio network, and other properties. He was the earth’s third richest man. However, Kane’s enterprise collapsed in the great depression in 1926, and he spent his rest of life in a covert Xanadu in Florida. Mr. Kane was defined as a fascist since he urged his country’s entry into one war. People supported him but denounced him after his love affair with Susan. A group of journalists tried to figure out the secret of Mr. Kane’s last word “rosebud” to enrich their report. Mr. Thompson, one of the reporters, visited Susan, Kane’s closest friend and a dramatic critic Leland, Kane’s paper manager Bernstein, and Kane’s housekeeper to find the clue of “rosebud”. Those people gave different views of Kane, but none of them could really tell the answer of “rosebud”. As Thompson concluded “rosebud” might be just a piece of puzzle, the film showed at the end that “rosebud” was nothing but a sled Kane used to play outside of his small house in his childhood.

            “Citizen Kane” was known as one of the greatest movies by its innovative cinematography. The film at first used a general report to tell the life of Kane and how other people considered Kane as an incredible person. Through the flashbacks of Kane’s related people, the plots display the growth of Kane’s ambition and the development of his personality. For instance, Kane bought a newspaper company when he had first got the authorization to manage his wealth. The company didn’t bring Kane any profits but he did this to against his guardian, a banker named Walter Parks Thatcher, who separated his childhood from his family for school.  Kane became temerarious when he tried to prove himself as a man. He changed his newspaper style to inauthentic, and on the other hand he wrote a declaration of principles to promise his paper would tell news honestly. Kane successfully made the circulation reach more than sixty-four thousand by entertaining readers with the exaggerated reports, but he was imaged as unrespectable by his friends and relatives. This plot showed Kane’s childhood affect him into an extreme person indistinctly. The film also applied Kane’s eight-year relationship with Susan from six conversations on the breakfast table. Kane changed from “put off all appointments” for Susan to “think what I tell them (the readers of his paper) to think” for election. The flashback depiction established Kane’s characteristic in different angles. The film also came up with property against personality rather combine them with a happy ending. This technique was revolutionary in 1900s movies, and it made this film remarkable.

            Literarily, “Citizen Kane” seems to address the inaccuracy of concluding a person by seeing he has done. As people judged Kane for his unreal paper and love affairs, no one cared the reason behind his behaviors. When Thompson looked for the answer of “rosebud”, Kane’s related people imagined that was a woman he loved or even just a crazy word. “Rosebud” was like a joke that Kane gave to people. Audience might think Kane was the luckiest person when he suddenly became a millionaire. However, by knowing “rosebud” was the sled of Kane’s childhood, people realized that the most precious thing to Kane was the moment he stayed with his family, and all denounces and hypothesizes to Kane were unjust. Kane’s characteristic was more complicated than what he had done with his wealth and power.

The Lady Eve

          “The Lady Eve” illustrates a romantic comedy between a fraud Jean and a millionaire Charles Pike (nickname: Hopsie), who just returned from studying snakes in Amazon. Jean first met Charles in a ship heading to New York. Charles soon fell in love with her because of her beauty and sophisticated talk. At the beginning, Jean and her father Harry planned to trick Charles’ money in a poker game.  However, Jean also fell in love with Charles because of his innocent and his passion of love. She ruined her father’s hand in the game and made him tear a $35000 check gained from Charles.  As Jean treated Charles straightly after he proposed her, his body guard named Muggsy, who was adapted by Mr. Pike when he was young, discovered Jean and her father were professional poker frauds and passed their profiles to Charles. The misunderstanding led Charles to leave Jean when the ship reached the destination. Later, Jean attended Mr. Pike’s banquet as an English noble Lady Eve and a niece of Mcglennan Keith to meet Charles again. She excused herself as a twin sister of Jean, and Charles proposed her again, and they finally got married. While they were taking a train to spend their honeymoon, Eve purposely provoked Charles with her numerous love affairs in the past. Charles was so upset to leave the train and divorce her afterwards. At the end, Eve changed back her identity Jean and bumped Charles again in another cruise. Charles found that the original Jean was the person who he truly loved. The movie ended with a happy ending.

            “The Lady Eve” used tons of humors to descript the personality of the characters. For instance, Jean was scared by Charles’ snake at the beginning when she approached him for advantages. This was ironic for her hypocrisy. Also, when the domestic workers were too busy on arranging the banquet, Mr. Pike was exaggeratedly roaring to people and slapping the table with dishware for his breakfast. This indicated the general image of rich class which has no patient, no attitude, and arrogant to other people. Furthermore, Charles embarrassed himself three times by befouling his suit when he met Jean as Lady Eve in the dinner. The awkward scenes showed Lady Eve’s glory feature and Charles’ straight innocent. Those plots are not only to entertain the audience with scene of humor, but also provided a vivid image of the characters.

            On the other hand, the fashion of “The Lady Eve” displayed how the ideal men and women are supposed to dress in 1900s. All men in the rich class were wearing suits. They were always acting as gentlemen. Women must be in dresses. They should know all the etiquette in the banquet and being polite in their conversations. This showed women in 1900s had lower status than men. Women are considered good if they obey to men.

            In a deeper imagination, “The Lady Eve” reflected the social mobility of 1900s. It was hard for poor people to move over to a rich class, and it was unusual to have relationship between two different classes. Thus, Jean father was warning her when she fell in love with Charles because the rich class would not accept poor people to become their family member. The film seems to criticize about people related love to social status. In facts, many people have a mindset that wealth is necessary for happiness. However, Jean eventually loved Charles was not because how much money he had but just because what person he was. This film is re-educating people that true love is worthless than any other things. This film is comedy because its ending is ideally happy, which is not as pity as reality.

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