One of the gifts I received this Christmas was a two-disc special edition DVD of Citizen Kane. Many movie buffs consider it to be one of the greatest films, if not the greatest film, ever made, so about two years ago my wife and I decided to rent it and educate ourselves (actually, I really wanted to see the movie and she graciously went along). While the pacing is a little slow in spots, it’s a great film that has really grown on me. It’s probably one of my top-ten favorite movies.
In 1941 the gifted wonder-kid Orson Welles co-wrote, directed, produced, and starred in Citizen Kane at the tender young age of 26! The movie tells the fictional story of Charles Foster Kane, a powerful multi-millionaire, newspaper mogul, and would-be politician. The film is allegedly inspired by the real life of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and many key events in the film mirror Hearst’s own life. Much of it is less-than-flattering. Hearst tried everything he could to get the film destroyed before it could be released into theaters. He attempted to buy the original print so it could be burned, and attacked Orson Welles’ career and reputation. Hearst couldn’t stop the film from being released but he did strike fatal blows to the career of the brash but talented young filmmaker. Welles never again approached anything near the success of Citizen Kane. It has been said that Orson Welles started at the top and worked his way down.
The first disc of the DVD set includes two audio commentaries. One is by film critic Roger Ebert, and it is one of the most informative and fascinating audio commentaries I have ever heard. The second disc contains a two-hour documentary entitled “The Battle Over Citizen Kane”, which chronicles the dramatic behind-the-scenes battle that raged between Welles and Hearst.
From an artistic standpoint, what makes the film so impressive is not just the intriguing story but the dramatic visuals. Long before computers, green screens, or even color (the film is black-and-white), Hollywood directors had to rely heavily on simple tools like composition and lighting to keep their images interesting. Welles had a masterful eye, and Citizen Kane makes great use of powerful compositions, stark lighting, deep focus, and dramatic camera angles. Great stuff for sketching and study!
I’m busy working on a large client project and can’t post any current artwork. So here’s a few pen-and-ink studies from the film I did almost two years ago when I first rented it. It’s a mish-mash of main characters and background extras with interesting faces. I posted these on my blog way back when I first drew them, so some of my long-time blog readers might recognize them.
I promise to post more new artwork as soon as I can! In the mean time, if you want to watch a good flick and then do some fun sketching, I highly recommend renting Citizen Kane.