Day 30 – The “Smartest” Film You’ve Seen
Citizen Kane (1941 D: Orson Welles, W: Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles)
The “smartest” distinction is a tough one. I tend to think of “smartest” as having the deepest layering of ideas, themes, notions and moments, as having the longest resonance. Orson Welles struck this bell as a 24-year-old in 1940, and it’s still ringing. It may be ranked, deposed, and ranked again as the greatest film ever made, but it’s certainly one of the smartest. Welles and Mankiewicz, and, it should be said, cinematographer Gregg Toland, created an immense portrait of a fictionalized William Randolph Hearst, from lonely childhood to rambunctious youth to corrupt, powerful adulthood to bitter, beaten old man. Welles’ booming presence is unbeatable — you can see now why everyone told him he was a genius. Watch the film now and the energy is still palpable. I still find new things every time I watch it. Welles’ later career is full of unfinished, challenged works and the occasional near-masterpiece. Nothing touches this one.