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September 22, 2011

Citizen Kane (1941)

Filed under: Blog Challenge — Daniel Min @ 5:16 pm

Love! You don’t love anybody! Me or anybody else! You want to be loved – that’s all you want! I’m Charles Foster Kane. Whatever you want – just name it and it’s yours! Only love me! Don’t expect me to love you   – Susan Alexander Kane [1]

An extraordinary cinematic endeavor that expended and pushed the movie production to its limits, a film that was beautifully crafted by Toland, Mankiewicz, Hermann and the renaissance man Orson Welles. Citizen Kane is a remarkable yet alluringly strange film that established the highlight of Welles’s career and its technical superiority.

Orson Welles has done a remarkable job playing such a self-centered character who talks to people with a condescending manner, a character that I honestly had no sympathy for, yet the intricacy of Kane’s life was mysterious and it was depressing because such human beings can exist without regard for others. One particular segment that strikes me the most is the domestic dispute between husband and wife during an enormous picnic. A spectacular event where a boar is spit-roasted on an open fire, hundreds of people are present to dine in and listen to bebop jazz, such a glamorous evening that was all for the sake of Charles Foster Kane’s second wife, Susan Alexander. Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore) an opera singer who suffered through enough tumultuous experiences due to her poor performance in the opera house of Chicago, had enough of Kane’s selfish ways as she was complacent about how there is no empathy from him.  All he ever does is buy her things for compassion and love, however she doesn’t acquire any of it in return. Afterwards Kane slaps his wife across the face which Susan replied that she doesn’t want any of his remorse, but cruelly Kane didn’t intend to. This particular scene where we hear some woman abhorrently cries and screams in the background as the camera is still fixated on Susan Alexander after she was hit, truly disturbed me the most.

What is the purpose of that particular scene? Is it because it was the director’s intention to provoke strong emotions from the audience? We could hear the horrendous aural cues that were synchronously intact with Susan’s initial reaction after she was hit, it left me to contemplate the hysterical cries were not necessarily from outside of the confines, however the pain and violent agony within Susan.  Orson Welles handled this scene phenomenally well yet delicate in its own aesthetic achievement.  That scene is truly effective and couldn’t been accomplished any better, had if it not been Susan’s stoic reaction and the cries of distress in the background. It is as if Orson Welles wanted us to examine the immoral aspect of being human.  Citizen Kane is a mysterious film that requires repeat viewing, not only because we can’t pin it down with a few interpretations, but examining their skills in creating an extraordinary film with the limited amount of technical options that were made available to them.



September 11, 2011

The Lady Eve (1941)

Filed under: Film Comment — Daniel Min @ 5:33 pm

       Preston Sturges’s Lady Eve is a delightful comedy that I thoroughly enjoy from the beginning to the end. The backdrop of an elegant cruise ship and the opulent mansion of New England were definitely vulnerable to the perpetual state of audacious adventure.  Barbara Stanwyck who played “Jean Harrington” the leading con lady of such wit and gregarious charisma (almost a resemblance of Catherine Keener) established herself as a force to be reckon with, her seductive prowess made it easy for her to manipulate the heart of the snake enthusiast [1] “Charles Pike”, played by Henry Fonda, a stoic yet somewhat of an innocent man that knows how to play his cards right (maybe).

On the S.S. Southern Queen traveling from South America, one marvelous scene that caught my eye was Jean holding up a mirror to spy at Pike, scrutinizing and performing a commentary by doing voice over for their fruitless attempt on persuading him. A scene of such caliber by Preston Sturges made me ask myself, why haven’t I watch any of his films before (except for half of “Sullivan’s Travels”(1941) on TCM during one of many endless nights, suffering from insomnia and paranoia). Jean finally caught the attention of her new lover/victim, they’re overwhelmed in each other’s arm and became infatuated with the idea of true romance, well maybe except for Jean whose goal is to swindle some of his money.

Cards are drawn from the poker deck and the game is on between Pike and Jean’s father, Colonel Harrington who is an assertive man that can operate at a higher level on the scheme of convict, demonstrated some of the most innovative ways of manipulating the winning hand, a remarkable performance by Charles Coburn that left a huge impression on me. After this pithy diversion of playing tricks, Jean felt it wasn’t right to trick Pike out of his pocket, since she is head over heels for him, thus reinforcing her father to cease from taking Pike’s loss. Meanwhile Muggsy (William Demarest) a condescending minder, found some unsettling photos of Jean discovering that she is a gold digger of a con-artist and only wants Pike for his money.

They go about their separate ways from having to hurt each other’s feeling, only to be reunited during a social gathering. Except the woman that Pike still had strong feelings for wasn’t Jean, it is Lady Eve Sidwich, a glamorous socialite with a distinct English accent (I couldn’t even distinguish between her English accent and an American one, I guess is because my ear is somewhat familiar with different variety of Anglophone). Sturges’s way of using characters to role-play, has certainly led me to believe his artistic craft in provoking excitement from the audience and flaunted some of the most extraordinary skills by creating an elaborative slapstick of a classic comedy, especially the scene with the horse (I’m no equestrian, however the way Fonda tamed that horse was hilarious).

In the end, they’re reunited just as they met before, only she is no longer Eve but Jean as Pike remembered. Sturge’s Lady Eve is a top notch screwball of a classic farce yet sophisticated in its own way, one film that I might consider on par with Sturge’s work is “Va Savoir+” (2001) directed by Jacques Rivette. Both represents the idealistic pageantry of the pratfall genre and does not come out as contrived as one would probably expect (maybe except for prospective action film directors).


[1] –,17866/

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