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Archive for April 15th, 2008

CITIZEN KANE- 1941

Running Time: 119 minutes, USA , Black and white

Citizen Kane was the astounding directorial debut of Orson Welles, made when he was just 25. It tops the AFI 100 best films list and is widely considered to be the greatest movie of all time. More than 60 years after it was first made it is still revered as the classic American film.

Citizen Kane opens with a brooding exterior shot focusing in on the letter ‘K’, wrought into the ironwork atop the gates of Xanadu, a rich man’s castle in Florida. We see, through fog, the grounds of this vast pleasure palace with exotic animals in a private zoo, empty gondolas moored on a private lake, an Egyptian cat statue guarding a raised drawbridge over a moat. There are signs of neglect everywhere. Successive shots draw us into a castle window where a light is extinguished and a figure can be seen on the bed in the dimly lit interior. Snowflakes fill the screen and we zoom out to reveal a snow covered house in a glass ball in the hand of the old man on the bed. His lips pronounce a dying utterance:

Rosebud...

The dead hand releases the globe and it shatters on the marble floor.

Citizen Kane tells the life story of super-rich press baron, Charles Foster Kane. Kane is a fictitious character but bears so many similarities to the real life William Randolph Hearst that his newspapers boycotted the film. In fact, the Kane character was a composite of many arrogant and powerful media magnates and unlike the real Hurst, was born in relative poverty. He was arrogant and not always right.

A reporter (William Alland) is assigned to uncover the mystery of Kane’s dying word. He hears Kane’s story from five different points of view and we also see mock newsreel footage of moments from the great man’s life.
By the end of the film, the Rosebud mystery has not been solved. We return to Xanadu to see a panorama of crates and junk, the debris of the multi-millionaires acquisitive life. A workman selects an old child’s sled and slings it into the furnace. The camera zooms as the flames blister the paint and the word ‘Rosebud’ is burned away. We recognize this as the sled Kane was playing with when his parents sent him away as a child. Kane’s childhood memories curl into the smoke that billows out of the chimney. The camera pulls back and we end with the same wrought iron gates with which we began.
Kane wanted love at his terms and lost. Chalk it to his vanity and ambitions that came with his position in life; With all the wealth and its glory at his reach he lost all that he really cared for: a carefree childhood ( represented by his sled).
Trivia:By the way ‘Rosebud’ as Hollywood gossip would have it referred to the private part of Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davis.

Quotes:
I’ve talked with the responsible leaders of the Great Powers – England, France, Germany and Italy. They’re too intelligent to embark on a project, which would mean the end of civilization as we now know it. You can take my word from it; there’ll be no war!
~Kane (Welles) in newsreel from 1935
“- a picture that was not only more innovative than any since The Battleship Potemkin, but one that matures with age and speaks afresh to each succeeding generation.”
~ Barry Norman, 100 Best Films of the Century
Additional background info:

In 1938, Welles had made a sensational radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, a story by science fiction pioneer and near namesake, H. G. Wells. The broadcast was taken for genuine news by some and people were driven onto the streets in panic. This made him such a hot-property that his contract with RKO allowed him a freedom in production that Hollywood was never to grant him again.

Welles brought his Mercury Theater group to the film but also had the sense to surround himself with some of the industry’s most talented. Notably, he recruited cinematographer Greg Toland, who had worked on The Grapes of Wrath, to his team. Together with co-writer Herman Mankiewicz, Welles created the script – originally to be called “The American”.

Toland’s deep focus photography is legendary in this movie, as were the sets that included real ceilings. Welles had holes dug in the studio floor so that the camera could be mounted low enough to get the low angled point of view, used so effectively in the succession of breakfast scenes that milestone the breakdown of Kane’s first marriage. Orson Welles’ own performance skillfully followed the young Kane into old age. He directed other actors to a splendid ensemble performance. He tore up a few rules, appropriated a few revolutionary screen techniques and created a masterpiece.

benny

CITIZEN KANE (1941)
Director: Orson Welles
Charles Foster Kane: Orson Welles
Jedediah Leland: Joseph Cotten
Susan Alexander: Dorothy Comingore
Mr. Bernstein: Everett Sloane
Mary Kane: Agnes Mooreheaed
Walter Parks Thatcher : George Coulouris
Boss J.W. “Big Jim” Gettys: Ray Collins
Jerry Thompson: William Alland
Raymond: Paul Stewart
Kane aged 8: Buddy Swann
Signor Matiste: Fortunia Bonanova
Academy Awards
Won (1) * Best Original Screenplay (Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles)
Nominated (9)
* Best Picture
* Best Original Screenplay
* Best Director
* Best Actor (Orson Welles)
* Best Cinematography
* Best Art Direction
* Best Music
* Best Sound Recording
* Best Film Editing

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Lost Chance ©

As President of Iraq: Saddam
It was more of what you said
Or did that made the news.
Genocide as charge was laid
‘against you: it was bad news.

Hussein! You had sense of fun.
A poet’s ear and heart you had
We now from your guards hear.
You wrote as the end was near;
Also fed the birds in the yard.

Now that you are dead, and gone:
What you had, what genuine
In your life was, never made news:
The poet’s calling missed; Hussein
Instead got the noose: it is news.

benny

1-3-2007

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The superb, three-part gangster saga was the come-back movie for one of the original “Movie Brats” who had not had a hit after seven films: the Italian-American director Francis Ford Coppola, collaborated on the epic film’s screenplay with Mario Puzo who had written a best-selling novel of the same name about a Mafia dynasty (the Corleones). The Godfather catapulted Francis Ford Coppola to directorial super stardom. The first two parts of the lush and grand saga are among the most celebrated, landmark films of all time. Many film reviewers consider the second part equal or superior to the original, although the first part was a tremendous critical and commercial success – and the highest grossing film of its time. This mythic, tragic film contributed to a resurgence in the American film industry, after a decade of competition from cinema abroad. Perhaps it is curious coincidence that the movie served as a come-back vehicle for Marlon Brando.

The almost three hour, R-rated saga film (for violence and graphic language) won three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando refused to accept the award) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola). The other seven nominations included three for Best Supporting Actor (James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino), Best Director, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Costume Design.

Gangster films are one of the oldest of film genres (starring Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart), emerging as an influential force in the early 1930s (e.g., Little Caesar (1930), Public Enemy (1931), and Scarface (1932)). This gangster film re-invented the gangster genre, elevating the classic Hollywood gangster film to a higher level by portraying the gangster figure as a tragic hero. [With the disappearance of the Production Code, retribution for the gangster's crimes was not an automatic requirement.] If you were carried along by the technical excellence of The Godfather, and sympathized with horse butchers, racketeers and murderers do not feel bad. The Moral Watchdog of our fathers may not be there. However kindly readjust your morals before leaving your seat.

The rich and enthralling film is characterized by superb acting and deep character studies, beautiful photography and choreography, authentic recreation of the period, a bittersweet romantic sub-plot, a rich score by Nino Rota, and superbly-staged portrayals of gangster violence. Its grim, dark passages and bright exterior scenes are all part of the beautiful cinematography by Gordon Willis.

The film begins with the wedding of the Don’s daughter Connie (Talia Shire – Coppola’s sister). The Don’s youngest son , Michael (Al Pacino), newly returned from the war (WW2) as a heroic Marine captain seems to have little in common with other guests except for Kay (Diane Keaton) his girlfriend. When Michael explains to Kay that Vito Corleone is in business as an olive oil importer, we know it’s the truth, but not the whole truth.

The Don is approached by a Mafia rival who seeks his permission to set up wide scale dealing in heroin in New York. Don Vito turns him down, because drugs are dirty business, unlike gambling, prostitution and the protection racket. This results in an attempted assassination in which Don Corleone is wounded. In revenge, Michael kills their rival and goes into hiding in Sicily. In hiding he takes a Sicilian wife.
The eldest son, Sonny (James Caan) takes over as caretaker manger of the family business, but Sonny is not smart. He beats up his new brother-in-law for his ill treatment of Connie. Then Sonny himself is killed in a revenge ambush.

Michael’s new wife in Sicily is blown up in a botched attempt on Michael’s life. A tougher uncompromising Michael, re-acquainted with his roots, returns to New York to take over from Sonny. Don Vito, although recovered from his injury, decides to retire. He ultimately dies playing happily in the garden with his grandchild. Yet even here, there is a hint of violence and criminality in family generations to come.

The Godfather spawned 2 sequels.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
(Apocalypse Now, The Conversation)
Don Vito Corleone: Marlon Brando
Don Michael Corleone: Al Pacino
Kay Adams Corleone: Diane Keaton
Tom Hagen: Robert Duvall
Santino ‘Sonny’ Corleone: James Caan
Connie Corleone Talia Shire
Alfredo ‘Freddie’ Corleone John Cazale
Trivia: It appears that Marlon Brando allowed himself to a screen test and didn’t throw tantrums as he did in the past; he was also well enthused to improvise his role. It was his idea to change the script towards the end as that of doting grandfather before succumbing to a silent killer, his age. In that little game he plays to amuse his grand children he gave depth to his role with a flash of his old genius. He insisted on the stipulated fees of one million and not opted for a percentage of the earnings of the movie that broke all box-office records.
benny

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A Poem

The Ashley Testament ©

They call you Ashley
But have let you neatly
Like a fly caught in gel
Of human kind.

She is an angel; but she
Lies there; never shall she
Take to wings: she is born,-
Oh, her womanhood shorn
And with estrogen fed: she
Is an angel just the same,
But caught in the barbed wire
Of human kind.

They call you Ashley
But conveniently
Let your future be blown
Because when grown
You, a dead-weight shall be,
In terms of love and care
For your aged parents
Of human kind.
1-4-2007

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