The received wisdom that Citizen Kane is the Greatest Movie Ever Made is not very well received 60 years on. Younger audiences coming to the film cold, knowing only its vaunted rep and the buzzword ”Rosebud,” often scratch their heads: The rise and fall of Charles Foster Kane makes an interesting story, but, dude, what’s the big deal?
Consider the two-disc DVD release of Orson Welles’ whiz-kid debut a primer on what, exactly, is the big deal. Here’s how it works, kids: (A) Watch the film. (B) Watch the film again while listening to a chatty, knowledgeable commentary by critic Roger Ebert that supplies neato insights (in the opening approach to Xanadu, the lit window is in the exact same spot in shot after shot), interesting gossip (the scene where Kane trashes Susan’s room was inspired by a tantrum during which Welles threw a coffeemaker at producer John Houseman), and long-view thoughts (ultimately, Ebert feels, the film ”remains out of reach, just as Citizen Kane does”). (C) Watch the second disc’s documentary, ”The Battle Over Citizen Kane,” to learn how William Randolph Hearst almost had the film destroyed. (D) (Optional) Watch the film while listening to Peter Bogdanovich’s startlingly lackluster commentary, if only to marvel at such non-wisdom as ”Notice how [Welles] plays different ages at various different times, and he was 25 years old. How he did it, I don’t know.” (E) Watch ”Citizen Kane” again. Get it now?