The best movie ever made? You’ll find a lot of people who think so, many who claim co-writer/star/director Orson Welles and his cinematographer Gregg Toland invented a lot of the filmmaking and storytelling techniques that are standard today (like flashbacks).
If you don’t know the story, it’s a modern fable about an industrialist, Charles Foster Kane (Welles) – it was an open secret at the time he was basing the character on news magnate William Randolph Hearst – and how absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Kane starts out as a young, idealistic newspaper owner but after running for office he becomes more disconnected from the ideals he fought for as a newspaper publisher. As the film opens Kane dies an old man, alone in his private palace of Xanadu, where his final word ‘rosebud’ sends the collected packs scrambling to untangle his life and discover who the mystery icon is (it is a woman? A beloved pet?), a story we learn through flashbacks showing his rise and fall.
The new Blu-ray release has two separate commentaries, one by director Peter Bogdanovich and another by critic Roger Ebert, interviews with co-star Ruth Warrick and editor Robert Wise, short slideshows of storyboards and call sheets and telegrams sent to and from executives, studios and Welles. There’s even a short and trippy video of the 1941 premiere in New York and the guest list for the Hollywood premiere at the El Capitan theatre that still stands on Hollywood Boulevard.
Not all the material is brand new and if you’re a diehard fan it’s probably not the first time you’ve seen or heard most of it, but if it’s been ages since you’ve seen one of cinema’s first timeless classics (or you’ve never seen it), this is a great place to start.