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The story is a powerful one. This film is a piece of cinematic history because of its novel use of the camera, inter-cut story lines, etc. But these novelties don't speak to the films enduring qualities as a good film.
Though I do feel that many critics who want to rate Citizen Kane as the best film of all time are confusing the categories of film history and film criticism a bit, I do feel that the story in the movie is a strong one.
In the Hearst-like character we have a figure that is at once archetypal and real, offering an image of American industry and values and demonstrating how thin the line is between success and failure.
Another technique that Orson Welles created was to cut into floors and place the camera in the hole created so that the view of the actor is from way down, creating the illusion that the actor is about eight feet tall. This innovative technique has been imitated time and time again by directors. Also, Welles made use of shadows to cast into sinister doubt the characterization of Kane, who represented William Randolph Hearst.
The attack upon one of the most powerful men in America was also unheard of in that time. Of course, Welles paid heavily for his action; however, his film remains a classic testimony to corruption, both ethical and moral.
Aside from the powerful story it tells, Citizen Kane is innovative in many ways. The film's use of deep focus and its use of telephoto lenses for close-ups was entirely new, and the film used many low-angle shots. The story is told entirely in flashbacks, and it uses multiple montages and stock newsreel footage. Orson Welles used several new types of special effects and innovative make-up styling that took up to seven hours per day to transform Kane from young to old. Even the soundtrack and sound editing featured many never-used techniques, and Welles' choice of the incomparable Bernard Herrmann was an inspired one.
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