1941, 119 minutes, black and white, 35mm | Written by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles; directed by Orson Welles; with Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins, Everett Sloane, and Orson Welles
Prior to the screening, Academy Award®–winning visual effects supervisor Craig Barron and Academy Award®–winning sound designer Ben Burtt investigate how Welles’s Citizen Kane broke the rules of cinematic language and why it remains one of the essential titles for modern filmmakers.
Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as part of an ongoing series at LACMA. A reporter pieces together the extravagant and mysterious life of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane in the feature directing debut of 26-year-old wunderkind Orson Welles. Having inherited a mining fortune left to his mother by a boarder, Kane fashions a media empire and a lavish, increasingly isolated lifestyle that includes political bids and the building of Xanadu, a baronial Florida castle touted to contain “the loot of the world” and “the biggest zoo since Noah.”
Citizen Kane proved to be a hard act to follow, not only for its maker but for the rest of American cinema. The film’s impact has only intensified over the ensuing decades, leading François Truffaut to declare, "Everything that matters in cinema since 1940 has been influenced by Citizen Kane." It regularly appears atop polls of the best films ever made. Welles directed himself and his Mercury Theatre players—some of whom, including Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, and Everett Sloane, were making their screen acting debuts—to unforgettable performances. But even more impressive was Welles’s grasp of the technical art of moviemaking. Among the film’s many splendors are Gregg Toland’s black-and-white cinematography and groundbreaking use of deep focus, Robert Wise’s fluid editing, Van Nest Polglase’s elegant art direction, the dazzling visual effects (incorporating a variety of techniques including matte paintings and miniatures) of Vernon L. Walker and Linwood G. Dunn, and Bernard Herrmann’s evocative score, his first composed for the screen. All of these elements are tied together by the witty, complex screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Welles, which earned the film its only Oscar (it received nine nominations, including Outstanding Motion Picture, Directing, Black-and-White Cinematography, Score and Actor for Welles’ performance).