Citizen Kane [1941]

Arguably the greatest of American films, Orson Welles's 1941 masterpiece, made when he was only 26, still unfurls like a dream and carries the viewer along the mysterious currents of time and memory to reach a mature (if ambiguous) conclusion: people are the sum of their contradictions, and can't be known easily. Welles plays newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, taken from his mother as a boy and made the ward of a rich industrialist. The result is that every well-meaning or tyrannical or self-destructive move he makes for the rest of his life appears in some way to be a reaction to that deeply wounding event. Written by Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz, and photographed by Gregg Toland, the film is the sum of Welles's awesome ambitions as an artist in Hollywood. He pushes the limits of then-available technology to create a true magic show, a visual and aural feast that almost seems to be rising up from a viewer's subconsciousness. As Kane, Welles even ushers in the influence of Bertolt Brecht on film acting. This is truly a one-of-a-kind work, and in many ways is still the most modern of modern films from the 20th century. --Tom Keogh

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