From the very beginning, "Citizen Kane" draws you in. The great newspaper tycoon, Charles Foster Kane, dies a lonely man in his expensive mansion. His dying breath is expelled with one word: "Rosebud". What does Rosebud mean? Is it a woman that Kane loved? The rest of the film unfolds in interviews and flashbacks, telling us the life story of Kane and giving us an insight on not only what makes this man tick, but what Rosebud really means.
Do I really need to go on about why "Citizen Kane" is amazing? I don't think I do. Although it was trashed back when it was released due to problems with William Randolph Hurst (whom it was based on), it has constantly been touted as the greatest film of all time for decades now. Why is that? Well, for one thing, it is much like King Kong in that it pioneered a bunch of different techniques. Before "Citizen Kane," you just didn't see the camera moving around as much as it did in Kane. In most movies you had a static camera that would simply show the action. In "Citizen Kane" the camera itself produces mood and drama. Who can forget the shot through the snow globe? And let's not forget the use of shadows. This film is just a marvel to look at. The soundtrack is also exceptional. Bernard Herrmann is simply one of the greatest movie composers of all time, and this is his first film score.
Plus the acting is great. Orson Welles is, of course, fantastic. I find him to be one of the most charismatic actors ever. He just has an air of coolness taht few match. I am always humbled by the power of his work.
Plus, I just find the story engrossing. It starts by sucking you in with new reports, telling you of the ups and downs of the life of Charles Foster Kane. You want to hear more about this monumental figure, and are intrigued from the very start. From there the movie unfolds in flashbacks and such, filling in the gaps of the story as it goes along. It's not in chronological order, but banks on the idea that the audience members can fill on the blanks in their own. This was also quite a novel idea back then which has, obviously, become a recurring technique in modern cinema.
Although it's not my favorite film, it's hard to argue with the idea that "Citizen Kane" is the greatest film of all time. I'd probably say that "Citizen Kane" and "King Kong" are the perfect bookends of the title Greatest Film of All Time. One is drama, one is fantasy. Both were huge innovators and pioneered new techniques that would change the art of cinema forever. But most of all, both are terrific, timeless films and are masterpieces of American cinema.