Monday, September 17, 2012

"citizen" kane

the movie ends with a seemingly extraneous shot of a chainlinked fence, encircling a mansion-turned-factory (visually-black smokes billows conspicuously) and adorned with a 'no trespassing' sign.  Earlier in the movie, kane is said to have said, "i did as well as i could given my [wealthy] circumstances."  The sly turn  jives with Kane's headlines, but not his behavior.  Marching bands, statue collections born entire of impulsive narcissism, show, if not his enjoyment of his wealth, his absorption in it.  If he does resent it, he cannot bring himself to disown it.  The closing shot, recalling simultaneously a sort of frankenstein mansion, home of the lavishly isolated madman, and a factory, signal of economic progress as well as economic stratification, draws a connection btwn economic stratification and social alienation and isolation ('no tresspassing').  This connection recurs: he is happy with his family and his old toboggan.  he is taken away, and the toboggan is buried in snow.  His caretaker buys him a new, nice one.  He resents this one ("rosebud") immediately, and it is not seen again until it burns at the end, supplying the factory smoke of the closing shot.  Tender, modest upbringing exchanged for estranged, extravagant upbringing.  The opposing toboggans signify this exchange visually.  He names the extravagant sled twice-- first when susan brandy leaves him, when he realizes he cannot "buy" her ("these pearls are nothing to you!.. you give me nothing, you only buy me things!.."etc).  He begins wrecking his wealth, murmurs rosebud, and is calmed, finding an analog for the experience in his past:  He resents his wealth, it seems to him that it alienates himself from would-be friends, the exchange (affection for extravagance) of his childhood is repeated.  When he murmurs it on his deathbed, he is fitting his entire life into this structure:
This opposition plays itself out in his actions at the inquirer.  If reading the newspaper is the new morning prayer, what of the man who prints the newspapers?  He becomes god-- "i tell the people what to think."  The power and subsequent arrogance Kane adopts become increasingly alienating.  Irony enters to complicate the picture - Kane is not a "money can't buy happiness" caricature - he uses his newspaper, which is dependent on his wealth, to fight economic stratification.  The means are incompatible with the ends, and the increasing authority conveyed by his newspaper eventually subverts its purpose.  Kane attempts to create a cohesive non-hierarchical community of his nation, but is inextricably involved in the pre-existing hierarchy and his mission and his life crumble.

another quick example:  his initial interest in Susan Brandy stems from: one, she laughs at him, two, she doesn't know him as newspaper-(god-)Kane.  These both validate his humility, his humanity.  Their relationship sours when it becomes hierarchical, when money, status, fame enter the picture.  As she is no singer, he is no citizen.

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