The widely acclaimed Citizen Kane makes a spectacular debut on Blu-ray, a fitting commemoration for the film's 70th anniversary. This new release honors and showcases the work of the cast and crew, most notably actor/co-screenwriter/director Orson Welles and cinematographer Gregg Toland.
Citizen Kane tells the story of Charles Foster Kane (Welles), a newspaper tycoon who “helped to change the world” though his detractors declared him a yellow journalist. He became one of the wealthiest persons in the world when as a young boy a stroke a fate led to his eventual ownership of the sixth largest private fortune. Yet, as the film begins, the character dies. In a newsreel, Kane's life story is told, but it only showcases the key moments over his 70 years. It doesn’t tell the story of who the man was. His last word spoken was “Rosebud,” and that leads a reporter named Thompson (William Alland) to discover its meaning.
The story is told in a fragmented manner from different points of view. Thompson learns, as does the viewer, about Kane from the perspective of his second wife Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore); the unpublished memoirs of his guardian Walter Thatcher (George Coulouris); his associates at the New York Inquirer, Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane) and Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten); and Raymond (Paul Stewart), his butler at the Xanadu estate during his final years. Similar to one of the puzzles Susan was fond of, once all the pieces of Kane's life are put in place the picture of the man is revealed. His ego took him to great heights as he built a media empire. Yet, that same ego was also the source of his greatest failures: the collapse of both marriages, his run for governor, and the end of his empire. Thompson comes up unsuccessful in his quest to discover what Rosebud is because nobody had heard of it. But then even if he had found it, he never had a chance to understand it because Kane longed for what Rosebud represented, not the item itself.
Even 70 years after its creation, Citizen Kane remains one of the medium's most visually compelling films, and Toland was such an integral factor he had the rare distinction of sharing a title card with Welles. The film makes great use of shadow, diffused light, and deep focus. The positions of cameras are chosen with reason. The great opening, which transitions with dissolves moving closer and closer to the Kane's bedroom, reveals a lit window in the same spot in the frame, immediately reveals some serious thought went into the shooting of this film. Citizen Kane could have been silent and the story would have been just as clear because the scenes were lit and shot as well as edited together by future director Robert Wise in such specific ways, the emotions of the moment are augmented visually.