19. “Citizen Kane”, Orson Welles (1941)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane

dir. Orson Welles scr. Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles cin. Gregg Toland with Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, Ray Collins, George Coulouris, Agnes Moorehead, Paul Stewart, Ruth Warrick, Erskine Sanford, William Alland

In 100 words: How do you live up to being called the greatest movie ever by a great many film lovers? By simply being that. Welles’ genius practically invented cinematic grammar: his shadows, his deep focus shots, his incredible sense of editing for clarity and for thrills, and his sense of scale. Kane is an astonishing story of a man’s hubris, improved by Welles’ mythization of his character through frequently dazzling images, audacious edits, virtuous performances. In other words, it lives up to the hype and then some—people forget how fun to watch this is and repeat viewings only magnify its brilliance.

Other Movies for Context: Orson Welles is an incredible director with a body of work that constantly pushes the boundaries of cinema. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), a film that despite the studio surgeries, is pretty spectacular, The Lady from Shanghai (1947) suffered from doing too much, but that last shootout scene is fantastic. Touch of Evil (1958) comes closest to Kane in terms of sheer genius, opening with the most impressive tracking shot EVER. I couldn’t get into Chimes at Midnight (1965) but the fight scenes are ahead of their time. F for Fake (1974) isn’t my cuppa either. Regardless, he is one of the most important directors in cinema, so mandatory viewing.

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65. “The Third Man”, Carol Reed (1949)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

The Third Man.jpg

The Third Man

dir. Carol Reed scr. Graham Greene cin. Robert Krasker with Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard, Alida Valli, and Orson Welles

In 100 words: From the moment that zither motif begins, the movie has you under its spell. Reed’s post-war noir feels dreamy, finding ways to film Vienna’s beauty amid its crumbling architecture and the antiquated structures. The Dutch angles and expressionistic use of shadows and light also heighten the romanticism. Though everything about the film’s images and sound feel phantasmagorical, the script fills the screen with indelible characters so disillusioned, hardened, and maybe even confused about each other’s names: Harry Lime’s famous oratory crystallizes the cynicism at the heart of the story, surely made even more memorable by Welles’ smug delivery. That ending!

Other Movies for Context: The battered grace of the movie’s images remind me of G.W. Pabst’s The Joyless Street (1925) or even The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), although everything about it feels uniquely attuned to its milieu. But the post-war vision also owes a lot to the films of Italian neorealism, including Roberto Rossellini, especially Germany Year Zero (1946)  Carol Reed would go on to win an Academy Award for directing Best Picture-winner Oliver! (1968).