Re: Thoughts on Kane

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.past-films
Date: Thursday, July 23, 1998 8:22 AM

JSChivers@my-dejanews.com wrote in message <6p5ot9$qam$1@nnrp1.dejanews.com>…
>we learn precious little about Kane. His work as a crusading
>publisher is condensed into the newspaper headline montage; his relationship
>with his first wife is condensed into the breakfast table montage. Spiffy
>filmmaking; but it leaves me wanting to know more. We never hear why he
>collects art; he just does it. We never hear why he wants a war with Spain.
>So what detail do we get?

Kane's relationship with his wife is depicted not just in the breakfast-table montage, but also by her being in the background (visually and in importance) during the gubernatorial race, by her resigned attitude when Boss Jim Gettys threatens exposure of Kane's relationship with Susan, and in the first mention of her in the movie, when it's said that Kane acquired her in the same manner he does art.

Kane's approach to collecting art is expressed not just here (where it's said he added statues to his searches because he was collecting someone who was interested in statues), but also in the withdrawn manner that, upon learning of his financial downturn, he says he spent too much money "buying things." It's an escape, a means of burying himself in an overlarge house, a means of achieving clutter that keeps him from noticing his emotional detachment. These points come across in statements made by the interviewees (notice what Leland says about the Xanadu being like a tomb), in the photography (the large, cluttered house), etc.

Kane's becoming a crusader comes from the same personality trait that fueled these things. Leland tells him so when in a late meeting, he tells Kane that the downtrodden are no longer to be bought favors by Kane, that Kane's wanting to make a present of their rights is no longer an achievable goal because Kane's readership is now seeking their goals by other means. The emotionally-detached Kane wanted the "love" of the mass populace (Leland says so), even as he failed in personal relationships, this being another means of clutter taking the place of the genuine article.

>His relationship with Susan Alexander. I was
>surprised at how non-epic this story is, and how soap-opera-ish.

This relationship is in the service of the larger story already introduced and already discussed by me herein.

>Side note 2: has any actor portraying himself at an advanced age ever been
>prescient enough to get it right? The old Kane doesn't look much like the
>old Orson Welles.

The makeup deliberately made Welles look deplorable and mean. A make-up man interviewed for a television program about Welles, "Kane" and RKO remarked that a special device was used so that when Welles raised an eyebrow, it made the whole forehead drop in a scowl.

The make-up was not meant to convey what Welles would look like in his final years but what would serve the dramatic tensions. Welles undoubtedly preferred to present himself as benign and potentially-friendly in his later years.

--
David Hayes

 

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