“Welles‘s first feature is probably the most respected, analyzed, and parodied of all films. Although its archival and historical value are unchallenged, Citizen Kane, nevertheless, seems fresh on each new viewing. The film touches on so many aspects of American life—politics and sex, friendship and betrayal, youth and old age—that it has become a film for all moods and generations. In its expansive way, it creates a kaleidoscopic panorama of a man's life. Loosely based on the life of the newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, Citizen Kane is the saga of the rise to power of a ‘poor little rich boy’ starved for affection, as Welles himself was after his parents’ early deaths. It is also a meditation on emotional greed, the ease of amassing wealth, and the difficulty of sustaining love.
Welles completed it at the age of twenty-five. Here is a young director‘s movie, full of boyish bravado, impatient with the genteel traditions of seamless cinematic storytelling, and eager to plunder other media (incorporating the staccato rhythm of newsreel clips, the briskness of radio narrative, and the moodiness of stage lighting). Through its cunning flashback format, the film shows that the future is both inevitable and unknowable” (MoMA Highlights, 2004).
May 6, 2015, marks the centennial of Orson Welles’s birth, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Department of Film pays homage to Welles with a presentation of Citizen Kane, preceded by the 1934 short The Hearts of Age.
Organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film.