721 Broadway, Room 648
CINE-UT 290 / class # 1386
Within the history of American film, Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane from 1941 enjoys special status as a work that pushed Hollywood studio filmmaking in experimental directions (complicated editing, deep focus, complex sound design, and so on). It has energetic supporters – it was for many years the front-runner in the film magazine Sight & Sound’s poll of critics’ top film (in recent times, it has been displaced by Hitchcock’s Vertigo) – and detractors (for example, the German exile philosophers Horkheimer and Adorno) saw as the key example of Hollywood paying lip service to experimentalism all the better to close it off everywhere else. This course aims to examine the phenomenon of Citizen Kane through both very close reading (shot by shot analysis) and contextual study. We will look at topics such as: the nature of the Hollywood studio system (and, in particular, of the studio for Citizen Kane, RKO), questions around film authorship (there are raging debates around Welles’s authorship versus that of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz), notions of genre (in a way, Citizen Kane offers a fictional play on the standard Hollywood biopic – biographical picture), and so on. We will study editing, shot composition, narrative structure, acting, etc. in the composition of Citizen Kane as a work of Hollywood experimentation.