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Citizen Kane film image

Is Kane the greatest movie ever made? Between 1962 and 2002 that was its reputation and the consensus view: it topped Sight & Sound’s poll for four consecutive decades, only to be displaced by Vertigo in 2012. This year, it polled #3rd, behind Jeanne Dielman and Vertigo. Is Welles’ reputation in eclipse then? Does his first and most accomplished Hollywood movie withstand the test of time? Does it still speak to us, intellectually and/or emotionally, or has this vaunted classic accumulated too much dust sitting on top of the canon?

Orson Welles’s debut is an extraordinary piece of work whichever way you look at it. This was the most sophisticated movie to come out of the Hollywood studio system to that time, and it opened up the creative possibilities of the narrative feature film on an unprecedented scale.

Nor is the film “only” an aesthetic tour-de-force. Thematically, it’s just as complex. It’s the life story of media magnate Charles Foster Kane, or William Randolph Hearst, or George Orson Welles, but someone else is always telling it, and then someone else is retelling it from a different perspective. “’Rosebud”, Kane’s enigmatic last word, remains a potent symbol because the different meanings ascribed to it aren’t wrong, they all have value, even if none of them gives us the whole story.

The impossibility of accounting for someone’s life may be the key Welles’ theme, along with the equal impossibility of measuring up to your own aspirations. There is a terrible emptiness at the heart of such a project, and Welles’ dynamic, baroque style can be interpreted as a rush to deny or stave off that knowledge, just as Kane himself fills warehouses with objets d’art.

Sunday’s screening in our PANTHEON series will feature free refreshments and a short introduction by an expert in the field.


Dec 17: Introduced by VIFF Centre programmer + a special guest


The former champion still feels like a grand summation of film’s early development as an artform and a glimpse of the future, too. At the same time, it’s a hugely entertaining portrait of the media narcissism and demagoguery that underscore American politics.

Scott Tobias

Sadly, it’s fashionable now to chip away at its greatness. This temptation should be resisted. The audacious American masterpiece of the 20th century, not only for its cinematic innovations and storytelling vigour, but for how accurately it dissects the ’American character’.

Eddie Muller

film that amply rewards repeated viewings, revealing new depths, new nuanced details, new mysteries. There is no greatest film, but if there were, for me this would surely be the strongest contender.

Geoff Andrew


Presented by


Orson Welles


Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead, Everett Sloane

Country of Origin






119 min

Book Tickets

This event has passed.



Orson Welles


Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles


Gregg Toland


Robert Wise

Original Music

Bernard Herrmann

Also in This Series

Pather Panchali

Dir. Satyajit Ray
125 min

Satyajit Ray's first film opened eyes in the West. It's a naturalistic portrait of the childhood of a Brahman child, Apu, growing up in a village far from twentieth century technology in West Bengal.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

The Night of the Hunter

Dir. Charles Laughton
92 min

One of the strangest and most beguiling movies you'll ever see, from a poetic, nightmarish novel by Davis Grubb, a fable about two children fleeing from a psychotic evangelical preacher (Robert Mitchum). Charles Laughton's only film as director.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

The Battle of Algiers

Dir. Gillo Pontecorvo
135 min

French Colonel Mathieu hunts for Algerian resistance leader Ali la Pointe in Pontecorvo's classic, which draws the battle lines between colonialists and Arab insurrectionists in a pulsating, "fly-on-the-wall" documentary style.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre


Dir. Jacques Tati
152 min

Jacques Tati was modernity's clown; technology his banana skin. Here his alter-ego Monsieur Hulot navigates a sterile Paris that seems designed to thwart his every wish.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre