Citizen Kane has long been acclaimed as a work of genius and endlessly dissected by critics. But a mystery still lies at the heart of this masterpiece. On the eve of Orson Welles’s centenary, Peter Bradshaw comes up with his own theory about the film’s clinching moment.
Spitting Image once made a joke about Orson Welles – that he lived his life in reverse. The idea, effectively, is that Welles started life as a fat actor who got his first break doing TV commercials for wine, moved on to bigger character roles as fat men, but used his fees to help finance indie films which he directed himself; their modest, growing success gave him the energy and self-esteem to lose weight. Then the major Hollywood studios gave him the chance to direct big-budget pictures, over which he gained more and more artistic control until he made his culminating mature masterpiece: Citizen Kane, the story of the doomed press baron Charlie Kane – played by Welles himself, partly based on WR Hearst – and told in a dazzling series of fragments, shards, jigsaw pieces and reflected images.
Poor, poor Orson Welles: repeatedly talked about as a tragic disappointment, his achievements somehow held against him, as if he had culpably outlived his own genius. After all, he only created arguably the greatest Hollywood movie in history, only directed a string of brilliant films, only won the top prize at Cannes, only produced some of the most groundbreaking theatre on Broadway, only reinvented the mass medium of radio, and in his political speeches, only energised the progressive and anti-racist movement in postwar America. As the room service waiter in the five-star hotel said to George Best: “Where did it all go wrong?”
The Guardian | Read the Full Article