Citizen Kane

Illustration by Marshall Reeves

I don’t like the movie. Never did.

There, I have said it, and the cinema pundits be damned. It must sound a bit like saying to the College of Cardinals that one can’t stand The Virgin Mary, but then the movie cardinals aren’t the venerable College and Citizen Kane hasn’t yet withstood the test of a millennium.

Still, the late Pauline Kael, though allowing for “lapses of characterization and gaps in the narrative”, wrote that the film’s “almost every shot and every line is utterly absorbing both as entertainment and as craft”.

Why do I feel like such a killjoy when I say that in addition to those lapses mentioned by Ms. Kael, I also feel that all the critically acclaimed camera angles seem terribly contrived, the dialogue stilted and the wretched “Rosebud” explanation at the end embarrassingly puerile.

No one ever seems to mention makeup in connection with the Citizen. It’s one of the worst jobs I have ever seen. And the writing! Everybody’s shouting, making speeches, no one’s talking the way his mouth grew on. Every scene is forced, making a statement, and in the end nothing is said. Except, of course, for Rosebud, but who wants to listen to a statement made by a damn sled?

Don’t get me wrong, though. Orson Wells was still a great actor. But try the Third Man or the now largely forgotten Prince of Foxes if you want to see what he can do.

…And leave Citizen Kane to the pundits.

Jan Drabek

Jan Drabek


The octogenarian Jan Drabek has been an ambassador in Africa, Chief of Protocol, author, Vancouver High School teacher, a graduate student in southern India, a radio announcer in Germany, a sailor aboard a US aircraft carrier, and a failed naval aviator trainee.