Citizen Kane (Re-release)

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This re-release ties in with the BFI’s season dedicated to  architecture on film. Given the picture’s embarrassment of riches – block your ears and it’s a silent movie, close your eyes and it’s a radio play – a certain rigorous pleasure can be found in considering Orson Welles’s anatomy of a great, hollow American through so specific a lens.

From the tight log cabin of Kane’s youth to the cavernous castle he builds himself to die in, from a fecund breakfast parlour to a mausoleum-like library, built environments are put to richly expressive use throughout the film. Many of the novel techniques Welles developed with cinematographer Gregg Toland were calculated to offer new angles on film space: as well as refining deep-focus photography, they used camera tricks to elide scales and locations, and dug holes in the floor to shoot upwards.

But there’s a constant tension between the freedom with which the camera creeps, swoops and climbs and the restrictions bearing on the characters’ behaviour: the more lavish the buildings get, the more ammunition they provide for the picture’s scepticism about the pursuit of material acquisition. Welles remained alive to the expressive potential of architecture throughout his career, from the doomed richness of the Ambersons’ mansion to the splendidly anonymous Chartres cathedral in ‘F for Fake’.

Release details

Rated: U
Release date: Friday October 30 2009
Duration: 119 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Orson Welles
Screenwriter: Orson Welles, Herman J Mankiewicz
Cast: Joseph Cotten
Everett Sloane
Dorothy Comingore
Agnes Moorehead
Ray Collins
Paul Stewart
George Coulouris
Ruth Warrick
Alan Ladd
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