Orson Welles' Film Citizen Kane Term Paper

Pages: 3 (1423 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Film

Film noir arguably reflects, often literally (i.e., through the chilly weather conditions often typical of such films), the "Cold War" isolation, mistrust, and "chill" that was in the air in real life, in an ever-present, international, sense. A good example of this within Citizen Kane is Kane's walk along a dark, gloomy, muddy street right before he meets his second wife, the singer Susan Alexander. This period in cinema also coincided with the dawn of the "United States vs. USSR (now Russia)" "Iron Curtain" period, in which the western world in particular divided along ideological and economic lines of "capitalism vs. communism," each becoming increasingly, paranoid and suspicious of actions and would-be actions of the other. In film noir of this era, examples of this include use of images of jagged mirrors, mirror-like, distorted reflections (e.g., through outside windows of ill-lighted rooms), and voyeuristic views through windows and cracked doors (such as the way the young reporter in Citizen Kane is first seen, through a cracked door). Film noir also typically features unusual (e.g., slanted, angled, jagged, or interrupted camera angles and views). Jump-cuts and physical distortions of time and space, and other unusual juxtapositions of camera shots and sequences are typical. Citizen Kane is replete with these, particularly within the sequence in Kane's newspaper office with his reporters, and also within the scenes of Kane's extravagant party for the newspaper. Sometimes in Citizen Kane, camera shots are angled upward to achieve a distorted effect of the dominance of a person at the top of stairs (e.g., Charles Foster Kane at the top of a set of steps, viewed from the bottom, when his first wife discovers him with Susan Alexander, appears, from below, gigantic, ominous, monstrous, and threatening), another film noir camera technique.

Term Paper on Orson Welles' Film Citizen Kane Assignment

Film noir is also often characterized physically by dark, deserted rooms or offices (e.g., the hollow emptiness of the deserted rooms of Xanadu; Charles Foster Kane, due to his ruthlessness and emotional detachment, dies bitter and alone inside Xanadu (where a "No Trespassing" sign hangs outside, seen at both the beginning and the end of the film). Such main characters are usually (like Kane throughout much of his adult life) cynical, suspicious, and resigned, although also (very occasionally, and never at the end) hopeful and even a bit boyish. However, they are also, like Kane, solitary, stoical, and never self-pitying, wistful, or sentimental. Their vulnerability, when it occasionally shows, is fleetingly (and unintentional). Within Citizen Kane, for instance, the snowy world of Kane's early childhood foreshadows the emotional coldness of his adult character, his ruthlessness, his bereft relationships, and his isolation as bitter older man. In the scene where he meets Susan Alexander on a cold, rain-soaked evening, Kane walks alone, depressed, and mud-splattered, down a dark, gloomy street. Inside Susan's apartment the lighting is fuzzy and unclear, underscoring the fact that neither Kane nor Susan sees one another clearly, foreshadowing the end of their union even just as it starts. Film noir was an international sub-genre, expressed distinctly by different filmmakers in different countries, although none better than Orson Welles in Citizen Kane.

Orson Welles's Citizen Kane revolutionized the world of cinema, by showing all that was truly possible in film, in terms of directing, acting, sound, editing, photography, and in many other eras. Further, Orson Welles brought to world attention the seminal role of director as author, or auteur, thus both legitimizing, revolutionizing, and spreading the auteur theory of French film critics. Ultimately, that led to greater artistic autonomy for American film directors, within Welles's era and beyond. Third Welles and Citizen Kane expanded the uses and possibilities of film noir techniques in cinema, in ways that are still being used today. There are many good films, but fewer great ones, and arguably none as great in so many ways, or as important overall, to the film industry here and abroad, as Orson Welles's 1941 classic Citizen Kane.

Works Cited

Bazin, Andre. What is Cinema, Vol. II. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California:

University of California Press, 1971. 40-45.

Giannetti, Louis. Understanding Movies. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall,

1993. 445-480.

Mast, Gerald, and Bruce F. Kawin. A Short History of the Movies. 5th Edition. New York: Macmillan, 1992. 266-274.

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