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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.

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

Director

Orson Welles

Cast

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

Credits
Country of Origin

USA

Year

1941

Language

English

19+
119 min

Book Tickets

Sunday December 17

11:00 am
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Book Now

Credits

Producer

Orson Welles

Screenwriter

Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles

Cinematography

Gregg Toland

Editor

Robert Wise

Original Music

Bernard Herrmann

Vertigo
Vertigo film image

Vertigo

Runner up in the 2022 Sight & Sound poll of the Greatest Films of All Time (and #1 in 2012) this is Hitchcock's most personal and revealing film, a movie about male neurosis, fetishism and power, with James Stewart and Kim Novak.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Beau Travail
Beau Travail film image

Beau Travail

Inspired by Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Claire Denis' transfixing Beau Travail is set in East Africa. Sgt Galoup (Denis Lavant) reflects on his time in the French Foreign Legion, and the impact of the handsome Sentain (Gregoire Colin).

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Singin' in the Rain
Singin' in the Rain film image

Singin' in the Rain

The greatest movie musical ever made, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's sublime Hollywood on Hollywood satire is dynamic, romantic, and very funny, with some of the most memorable dance numbers ever shot - including, of course, the legendary title number.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Man with a Movie Camera
Man With a Movie Camera film image

Man with a Movie Camera

Bottomless invention and frenetic, dizzying montage make this city symphony one of cinema’s sharpest, most exciting experiences nearly a century after its release.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Tokyo Story
Tokyo Story film image

Tokyo Story

Ozu's most celebrated film follows an aging couple as they come to the city and make the rounds of their now grown children. Busy with their own lives, the children have little time for their parents, who are quickly packed off to hot springs in Osaka.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey film image

2001: A Space Odyssey

Based on Arthur C Clarke's short story The Sentinel, 2001 redefined the sci-fi genre. With its radical structure, scant dialogue and oblique narrative this was the first film to emulate the philosophical seriousness of writers like Clarke and Dick.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
8 1/2
8 1/2 film image

8 1/2

One of the greatest films about film ever made, Federico Fellini's 8½ (Otto e mezzo) turns one man's artistic crisis into a grand epic of the cinema.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Mulholland Dr.
Mulholland Dr. film image

Mulholland Dr.

Brunette Rita (Laura Elena Harring) wanders Mulholland Drive, dazed and confused after an auto accident. She finds refuge with Betty (Naomi Watts), an aspiring blonde actress who has arrived from Deep River, Ontario, with her innocence intact.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
In the Mood for Love
In the Mood for Love film image

In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar-wai's most popular film is a love story about two neighbours (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) who are drawn together by the long absences of their respective spouses.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Close-Up
Close-Up film image

Close-Up

In Abbas Kiarostami's self-reflexive non-fiction narrative feature, Sabzian, an illiterate film buff who passed himself off as the Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf plays himself in reconstructions of his fraud.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane film image

Citizen Kane

Orson Welles's debut was the most sophisticated movie to come out of the Hollywood studio system to that time, and opened up the creative possibilities of the narrative feature film for generations. For nearly 50 years it was "the best ever made".

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre