Citizen Kane: Narrative Style and Kane’s Character

Narrative Style

Citizen Kane is a film about the collapse of the “American Dream”, the struggle for love, abuse of power, and the toxicity of wealth. It’s also a film with a central message: no one can ever truly know who someone is. Kane’s story is told through a series of flashbacks, which all seem to contradict each other. As the faceless reporter interviews these various figures in Kane’s life, we get a different perspective each time. Below, I have posted a movie poster for Citizen Kane, in which different characters throughout the film are shown exclaiming different opinions regarding Kane.

When we first begin these interviews, it feels as though we are going to be presented with the truth and that we, the audience, will have an inside look on Citizen Kane and who the man really was. However, by the end of the film, it is clear that the truth has not been presented. The story is told chronologically, as we know with Kane’s aging appearance, but it seems that some events are left out. Each of the storytellers is telling the story that interests/involves them and not the full truth. At the end of the film, we appear to be handed the “missing piece” to the jigsaw puzzle, with the Rosebud engraved sled. However, was this really the final piece? To me, it seems like there are still pieces missing. It’s a jigsaw puzzle that is impossible to complete. No one can ever know who Kane truly was, perhaps not even Kane himself.

Kane’s Character 

I’m not a searcher this week, but I did want to include an article I found because I found it very relevant to character analysis in Citizen Kane. Link to the article: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/movies/2011/12/citizen-kane/. When watching the story of Kane’s life as well as the stories told by others, I got that the sense that Kane could have narcissistic personality disorder. To me, he appeared to lack empathy, had no ability to love someone other than himself,  and was easily upset when things didn’t go his way/he didn’t get what he wanted. After doing a bit of googling, I found the article linked above, which shared my idea and also made some other very interesting points. It is definitely worth the quick read.

I think this theory makes sense with the idea that no one could ever truly know who Kane was. Who is the true person behind the narcissist? Is it possible to know the individual behind that shell? Does an individual exist?

In class, we were asked to think about if/why we feel empathy for Kane’s character, even if we are not rooting for him. I think the story of Kane’s childhood at the beginning of the film, the one story hat I felt I could almost completely believe, helped develop my empathy for Kane’s character. His father is clearly abusive, as he tells Mr. Thatcher (Kane’s future caregiver) that Kane deserves to be beat. The way his father speaks is verbally abusive as well. His mother seems cold and emotionally distant from her son. She tells Thatcher that Charlie’s things have been packed for a while and she says this without any visible emotion. This is unusual for a mother who is basically giving up her son and making him live somewhere else.

I think his childhood is very troubled and this is what leads to his troubled adulthood and the development of his personality. At the end of the film, we see that Kane has died alone, with nothing but material things. In his life, he never obtained any real meaning. Being a human being who does feel empathy and emotion, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Kane and the way he ended up. The film is set up so we see his childhood early on and I couldn’t help but remember Kane’s childhood innocence and what could have been if his circumstances were different.

Perhaps psychoanalyzing Kane’s character goes against the central message of the movie- that we never truly know a person (and there isn’t one piece of information that will give us an answer). However, perhaps that is partially what Welles wanted us to do. The entire story of the film revolves around discovering who Kane was and the meaning behind his final words. It leaves the viewer helpless at the end of the film and accepting of the fact that Kane was just a sort of enigma. Maybe that’s all we can infer and maybe it is supposed to be left at that. Even when we see the Rosebud sled at the end of the film, though other characters are not aware of its existence, is this really some huge revelation? What does it really tell us?

Is Gravity a Feminist Film?

Hi everyone! I know we have the week off of blogging, but I wanted to share this article and start a discussion about whether or not Gravity is a feminist film.

Here is the link to the article: http://cinemachords.com/is-gravity-the-feminist-film-everyone-thinks-it-is/.

I had not seen Gravity before, but I heard discussion about it being an extraordinary film with a very strong female lead in Sandra Bullock. While I agree with both of these statements, I don’t agree with the fact that Gravity depicts a woman who is independent and who survives without the help of a man. After all, George Clooney’s character saves Bullock’s character when she is first detached and then comes to her in a vision when she is unconscious and ready to accept death. HE gives her advice in this vision that saves her life and brings her safely back to Earth.

One could argue that this advice was a construct of her own intellect, but ultimately Cuaron chose to communicate this “life-saving idea” through Clooney’s character.

Although the film had many great qualities and was overall a very powerful piece of work, this aspect of the film really disappointed me. Opie goes over other issues with the portrayal of Bullock’s character in this article that didn’t immediately stand out to me, but that I could find fault with once they were pointed out.

What do you guys think? Is Gravity really the groundbreaking feminist film that many believe it to be?

Continuity Editing and the Flashback Technique in Casablanca

As we learned in The Film Experience, continuity editing is a system of cutting used in film to maintain continuous narrative action. The idea of this technique is to create a seamless stream of events that flows effortlessly for the viewer.

This style of editing is used consistently throughout Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca. Below, I have found a short sequence that utilizes continuity editing in our first introduction to Rick’s cafe. I think the author of this clip does a great job of explaining how the style of editing allows the viewer to take in the atmosphere of the cafe and introduces the viewer to Rick’s clientele.

One of my favorite scenes in Casablanca was the Memories of Paris montage sequence. I thought the fade in that Curtiz used was very effective in creating a flashback effect, especially with the fade being white, creating a dreamy vibe, reminiscent of better times for Rick (although the end of the montage does end in his heartbreak). Below, I have posted a clip of the montage, which begins around 1:10.

I found an article by Scott Myers that explains why this flashback sequence is so effective. Here is the link to the article: https://gointothestory.blcklst.com/studies-in-flashbacks-casablanca-7e154431d19c.

An important point that Myers brings up in this article is the fact that flashbacks seem to be a “no-no” in the current Hollywood world. They can often be viewed as extremely cheesy by the audience. Why is this the case? Also, why is it that one of the most cherished films of all time utilizes this supposedly “cheesy” editing mechanism? Myers says that the answer lies in excellent execution, something that is not typically achieved in many of today’s films.

Myers says Casablanca’s montage works for two primary reasons. The first being its structure- there is a clear beginning, middle, and end. The second reason is that it gives us background on Rick and Ilsa’s relationship, which is central to the story in Casablanca.

I would like to know what others thought about the flashback sequence in this film. Did you think it was effective or did you think it came off as cheesy?

Welcome to Intro to Film 2018!

Welcome to Intro to Film! I’m looking forward to an exciting semester of investigating, exploring, and analyzing cinema with you.

This post is intended to serve as an example of how you might use this blog. My hope that this will be place for experimentation, sharing, exploring, and ruminating—a place where we can write about films, videos, images, and subjects that interest us, both as individuals and as a group.

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Here is Phantoms of Nabua (2009), a short film by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. His practice extends across institutions and platforms, and thus serves as an excellent example of the many ways that “film” operates in the 21st century as a means of storytelling, history, and ideological critique across media forms. Weerasethakul makes award-winning feature films, as well as gallery pieces and installations. This work originally appeared as part of his video installation “Primitive,” a multimedia project that includes a seven-screen installation, an artist’s book, a short film and a feature film. “Primitive” was exhibited in Munich, Liverpool, Paris, and London. Phantoms of Nabua is intended for the web. The film takes place in a town in northeastern Thailand. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the totalitarian government militia occupied this part of Thailand in order to curb communist insurgents. Weerasethakul says: Nabua has an ancient legend about a widow ghost who would abduct any man who enters her empire. The Primitive project re-imagines Nabua, the ‘widow town’, as a town of men, freed from the widow ghost’s empire, and features the male descendants of the farmer communists – teenagers that will lead a journey, fabricate memories, and build a dreamscape in the jungle.

Link to film: http://www.animateprojects.org/films/by_date/2009/phantoms

How does the film represent the repression of memories through media? How does the director indicate the historic violence of the Thai dictatorship? How does he use artificial vs. natural light? What is the relationship between analog and digital cinema here? Some of the dualities and associations the film brings to mind are past/present, history/narrative, beauty/fear, play/danger, and the power to destroy/create. Why do you think he exposed the cinematic apparatus, and in particular, the projector? How does he provoke us to think about the very idea of projection: the projector in our classroom, the projector in a theater film; the nature of cinematic projection as a mixture of the filmed past and the viewing present. How does the piece show us the possibilities of what can be done with moving images besides classical three-act narrative structure?

Can there be a cinema without images? Are films phantoms?