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He questions Kane's alcoholic mistress, his ailing old friend, his rich associate and the other witnesses, while the movie loops through time.
Curious about Kane's dying word, “rosebud,” the newsreel editor assigns Thompson, a reporter, to find out what it meant.
Thompson is played by William Alland in a thankless performance; he triggers every flashback, yet his face is never seen.
Deep focus allows Welles to play a trick of perspective.
Behind Kane on the wall is a window that seems to be of average size.
I look at a scene and tease myself with what will come next.
But it remains elusive: By flashing back through the eyes of many witnesses, Welles and Mankiewicz created an emotional chronology set free from time.“Citizen Kane” covers the rise of the penny press (here Joseph Pulitzer is the model), the Hearst-supported Spanish-American War, the birth of radio, the power of political machines, the rise of fascism, the growth of celebrity journalism. All of these years he covered, many of these he was.” The screenplay by Mankiewicz and Welles (which got an Oscar, the only one Welles ever won) is densely constructed and covers an amazing amount of ground, including a sequence showing Kane inventing the popular press; a record of his marriage, from early bliss to the famous montage of increasingly chilly breakfasts; the story of his courtship of Susan Alexander and her disastrous opera career, and his decline into the remote master of Xanadu (“I think if you look carefully in the west wing, Susan, you'll find about a dozen vacationists still in residence”). It explains what Rosebud is, but not what Rosebud means.The film's construction shows how our lives, after we are gone, survive only in the memories of others, and those memories butt up against the walls we erect and the roles we play.It is the green light at the end of Gatsby's pier; the leopard atop Kilimanjaro, seeking nobody knows what; the bone tossed into the air in “2001.” It is that yearning after transience that adults learn to suppress. I have analyzed it a shot at a time with more than 30 groups, and together we have seen, I believe, pretty much everything that is there on the screen.“Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get, or something he lost,” says Thompson, the reporter assigned to the puzzle of Kane's dying word. The more clearly I can see its physical manifestation, the more I am stirred by its mystery.The tycoon has overextended himself and is losing control of his empire.After he signs the papers of his surrender, he turns and walks into the back of the shot.Then as he walks toward us, his stature grows again.A man always seems the same size to himself, because he does not stand where we stand to look at him.Bernstein, the mogul's business wizard; Ray Collins as Gettys, the corrupt political boss, and Agnes Moorehead as the boy's forbidding mother.Welles himself played Kane from age 25 until his deathbed, using makeup and body language to trace the progress of a man increasingly captive inside his needs.