"A Mercury Production by Orson Welles." Rise and fall of the emperor, out of Colorado snow and into the misty mausoleum by way of Wall Street, a barn-burning burlesque of Great Man biopics. Charles Foster Kane the baby-faced Tamburlaine viewed through an avalanche of refractions: little boy lost, upstart, newspaper magnate, reformist candidate, failed Svengali, magisterial hoarder, plume of smoke. Rough sledding for the faceless reporter out on assignment, investigating the meaning of a certain final word and bumping into one low ceiling after another. "1941’s biggest, strangest funeral" is an interrupted sentimental journey, the visionary mind laid bare in all its megalomania and solitude as a flowing spectacle. (Fellini in 8˝ understands its circusy side.) Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten) is Jiminy Cricket with his bad review unfinished, Bernstein (Everett Sloane) with his unfading recollection of beauty is but one victim of memory, humanity’s "greatest curse." The President’s niece (Ruth Warrick) exits stage left amid scandal, Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore) is the soprano with a toothache agonizing through aria upon aria until she’s a fizzing lightbulb, at the nightclub she remembers it all with an astringent smile. The labyrinth is a central locus in the language of cinema, Welles presents himself as its Minotaur, giddy and somber. "Shangri-La? El Dorado? Sloppy Joe’s?" A voracious work ("Still eating?" "Still hungry"), a cavernous overlaying of Murnau and Fitzgerald and Freud and cubism (Picasso’s Portrait d’Ambroise Vollard is all but reproduced). A Night at the Opera for the New York Inquirer entrance, the dissolving marriage via widening furniture is from Keaton. The camera eye that seeks also deforms, sprawling tracking shots and depth of focus side by side with shock cuts and warped vantages and the most astonishingly dissonant of soundscapes, the myth assiduously erected is inevitably dismantled. "I know I’ve played at the game, like a moth in a blue flame, lost in the end just the same..." An endless fountain of inspiration for Resnais, Ruiz, Coppola, Roeg and innumerable others; for Welles, just a beginning. Cinematography by Gregg Toland. Music by Bernard Herrmann. With Ray Collins, George Coulouris, Agnes Moorehead, William Alland, Erskine Sanford, Paul Stewart, and Fortunio Bonanova. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce