Lost in the Movies: May 2016

Mirrors of Kane: Citizen Kane video series, chapter 1: "Meeting Kane" (Introductions)

Earlier in the month, on Orson Welles' 101st birthday, Fandor Keyframe posted "Meeting Kane", the first chapter in my Mirrors of Kane video essay series. (update: Fandor has since made this video private and I have re-located it to my personal channel - see below.) "Meeting Kane" is available on both Vimeo and YouTube (where it has joined a new Mirrors of Kane playlist to keep track of the series). Both are embedded below.

Here is the intro I wrote for Fandor

Today, CITIZEN KANE turns seventy-five. That's five years older than writer/director/star Orson Welles when he passed away, and roughly three years younger than Charles Foster Kane himself when he whispered his final "Rosebud". Like those septuagenarians, the film remains celebrated, but - also like them - it may be misunderstood. The "greatest film of all time" is placed on a lofty pedestal that commands distanced respect and resentment, rather than affection. Even its greatest admirers often emphasize the film's technical achievements and immense influence over any emotional resonance. Most infamously, KANE has been called "a shallow masterpiece" (Pauline Kael) and "a labyrinth without a center" (Jorge Luis Borges) - and much discussion surrounding the movie, however admiring, tends to concur with that judgment.

MIRRORS OF KANE, my first multi-part video series since JOURNEY THROUGH TWIN PEAKS, serves two, related purposes. First, the following chapters will focus in turn on each of the film's five "narrators", the characters who trigger the film's flashback structure. Often dismissed as convenient storytelling devices, these characters actually reveal as much about themselves as Kane. These revelations are both dramatic and stylistic, lending each section of the movie a distinct flavor. Second, using these individuals as touchstones, this series will emphasize the power of the film's relationships, between characters and also between different parts of the film (including CITIZEN KANE's quasi-"ring" composition in which the second half mirrors and reverses the first). Throughout this exploration I will engage with the work of critics with whom I mostly align (Laura Mulvey) and respectfully diverge (Roger Ebert), assembling a chorus of voices as diverse as the film's own.

"Chapter One: Meeting Kane" serves as a concise, playful, and personal introduction to this mission. I pose questions that will be addressed in upcoming chapters, challenge the "cold"/"shallow"/"purely technical" interpretation of the film, and recall my own excited initiation into CITIZEN KANE's world (including its bizarro-world similiarity to Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE). This kicks off not only a series of video essays, with new entries to appear regularly over the next few months, but also, hopefully, a conversation. Where does YOUR view of Citizen Kane fall? How did YOU first discover the movie? What have YOU noticed on repeat viewings? With its panoply of conflicting points of view, maverick approach to filmmaking, and skeptical take on elite institutions, CITIZEN KANE remains a democratic masterpiece, a fact worth celebrating off and onscreen. To take part, visit me on YouTube, Vimeo, or my site Lost in the Movies, where I will be linking to new entries throughout May and June.

To be continued...

Citizen Kane at 75: a new video essay series

Today, for the 75th anniversary of Citizen Kane, I am announcing Mirrors of Kane. This brand new video series is my first since Journey Through Twin Peaks concluded a year and a half ago. The first chapter, which should appear in the next few weeks, will debut on Fandor Keyframe, while the rest will be hosted on my personal YouTube/Vimeo channels. The series will be structured around the five "narrators" of the film, who inspire its flashback structure: Walter Parks Thatcher, Mr. Bernstein, Jedediah Leland, Susan Alexander Kane, and Raymond the butler. It's based on an essay I wrote in 2011 but will also expand the scope of the analysis by, in the final chapter, digging into the structure of the film including its striking efficiency as a "ring composition" (written about by Mike Klimo with regards to the Star Wars saga). It will also incorporate criticism of the film that I do and don't agree with - I'm really looking forward to engaging with this material visually, something I've already begun with the first chapter which is finished and awaiting its premiere on Fandor.

Citizen Kane at 75 (trailer)

And of course, I've also created the above trailer, which is available on YouTube and Vimeo. If you like it, please share - your word of mouth will be the main way people discover this series and join the conversation. Most importantly, I want to highlight the human pulse of Citizen Kane, a film that is too often celebrated as a purely technical achievement. As such, it can seem intimidating and/or alienating to many viewers, something to admire from a distance rather than invest themselves in emotionally. As a narrative analysis, these videos will pay attention to the subtle ways character, camera, and cutting intertwine to tell a series of "short stories" about Kane (and also about the storytellers themselves) which coalesce to form a rich, intricate tapestry.

Update: I originally planned to continue the series through the spring and early summer and included a schedule/directory here to link all of them. However, after Chapter 1 the project was postponed so the directory will reappear when the other videos are ready.

Vimeo embed:

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