A review of the techniques used in the top 2 AFI films of all time.

Citizen Kane and Casablanca are number one and number two, respectively, on the AFI top 100 list. These two movies, filmed over 50 years ago, are classics, and both represent American Cinema as great examples of film technique, storyline, and social reflection. I pit these two movies against each other in this reflection because even though they have their similarities, it’s their differences that define what I like about movies and film-making.

Citizen Kane was a good movie, but not great in my opinion. Orson Wells had a great deal of artistic freedom when making this film, and he was able to use many interesting and unique techniques. He also strayed from the typical plot sequence and placed scenes out of chronological order. However, this technique was used as a tool to develop the main character in the movie (Charles Kane). The out-of–order sequence and difficult to put together storyline is a reflection of the character himself, who himself is a difficult personality to figure out. These techniques, and many others used in the film, have been used in many films to the present day (such as Napoleon Dynamite, in which its lack of plot helps to tell the story and develop the characters).

Citizen Kane­ does promote the viewer to take an introspective look into his/herself. Kane is a very mysterious character, yet there is a reason for this that we find out at the end of the movie (the mystery of Rosebud being solved). This is what I liked about the movie even more than the techniques used. There was a message in the movie that wealth does not necessarily bring about happiness. The film shows how even people that may start with good intentions can eventually become egotistical and corrupt, even if down deep they don’t want to be. Kane made me think about the path I am taking in life and what really matters to me, so as to avoid the tragic ending that Charles Kane had, ironically, in a huge mansion filled with great material wealth. The movie also makes you realize not to take the small things in life for granted. Kane’s whole life and personality was actually formed by that one event in his childhood when he was taken away to live with the wealthy lawyer. The one thing that revolved around his world was Rosebud, the name of the sled he was playing with on that day. Notice the word he says that stuck with him is the “name” of the sled, something obscure that many people overlook, such as the people who through it in the fire when cleaning out his house at the end. Citizen Kane was good in the sense that it was very psychological and made me self-reflect, however, it’s a film that I probably would watch again, at least not for entertainment value. Even though it did make me reflect, I didn’t think the story was great. Most of the movie merely seemed like “artistic” scenes where Wells could experiment. As a whole it seemed too “artsy” to be really entertaining, which for me, kills the “replay-value.” I mention this because this is where the line between a really good movie and a merely decent movie is. From what I’ve learned in this course, I think that the best movie is one where both the “arty/creative” value and “entertainment” value are fully maximized. This is why I personally like films like Napoleon Dynamite, My Name is Nobody, and The count of Monte Cristo (2002). The latter two may not have had the most creative aspects, but they are very entertaining and self-reflective. Napoleon Dynamite excelled in both.

Another movie that excelled in both is Casablanca. I contrast it with Citizen Kane because Casablanca was very entertaining in my opinion. It’s a movie that I would watch again (I already have a couple times). I understand that much of how I feel about these films are subjective, and many times have to do with humor value, as I prefer comedies, or movies that are light-hearted. Casablanca does a great job in both creative and entertainment values. The lighting techniques used in Casablanca told the story and emotions of the characters better than the dialog did. Although it did not have as many creative techniques as Citizen Kane it seemed pretty ground-breaking for that time, and in addition to actually be very-entertaining with a good storyline, is a great feat in itself.