Movies you might have missed
By Matt Miller
IMAGE COURTESY IMDB.COM
Title: Citizen Kane (1941)
Directed: Orson Welles
Available on: HBO Max (Free), YouTube (paid)
Brief Synopsis: The investigation of a publishing tycoon's dying words reveals conflicting stories about his scandalous life.
Scores: 100% Rotten Tomatoes, 100% Metacritic
Listen, I know recommending Citizen Kane as a ‘film to watch’ is beyond cliché. Often referred to as ‘The Greatest Film of All Time.’ having (twice) topped AFI’s ‘Top 100 List’ and being the plot of quite possibly the best Simpsons episode ever, ‘underrated’ is not the appropriate word. So why am I talking about a film that everyone knows? It was because I didn’t watch or think about a single movie this week, largely because I, like millions of others, was glued to a more ominous drama unfolding – The American election. See, it turns out that the former president’s favorite movie is (you guessed it) Citizen Kane, and just like everything else over these past impossibly-long four years, all roads somehow lead back to Trump. You don’t need another person harping on about the greatness of this film; its bold non-linear storyline, creative camera angles or difficult release. Instead, it’s more interesting to investigate what we can learn from this film, and what messages we can gain. Like many others, I resent the fact that I have had to think about this man almost every day for half a decade; that he has contaminated nearly all memories and moments for what feels like a lifetime. To mark the end of his hold on presidential power, lets investigate his ‘favorite movie,’ what it tells us about him, and how we can reclaim it as our own.
To begin, there is no possible way his favorite movie is Citizen Kane. In fact, choosing the consensus ‘Greatest Movie’ as his favorite is a perfect reflection of Trump’s personality and unique talent for blending intellectual dishonesty with a snake oil salesman’s bravado. It is reminiscent of when interviewers asked Trump for his favorite book, to which he answered The Bible and his own ‘The Art of the Deal.’ The follow up question asked, “Which verse?” of the Bible, to which Trump responded, “All of it.” Simply put, he is an emotional and intellectual poser, reminiscent of Patrick Bateman offering his fake insights to Huey Lewis & the News in American Psycho. Google ‘Donald Trump Movie Review Citizen Kane’ into YouTube and you fill find the most chillingly oblivious, unaware take on the film. In three minutes, Trump re-writes the tone and morality of the story to do what he always does – benefit himself.
Charles Foster Kane is one of the greatest character studies committed to film and, coincidentally, no one in the world mirrors his life quite like Donald Trump. Citizen Kane is a dark parable of the misleading American Dream. A child, unwittingly born on top a (literal) gold mine, inherits a fortune and uses it to get whatever he desires. His ability to accrue wealth, property, and influence gives him an inordinate amount of power over others as Kane directly or indirectly proceeds to make many people’s lives more difficult and miserable. Director Orson Welles based this character off William Randolph Hearst, the Trump of his time, who was also dangerously close to becoming president in his day. Trump is not too ignorant to miss the parallels between him and Kane but is too self-absorbed to see the warnings. Trump explores Kane’s “great rise… and modest fall,” downplaying the tragedy of Kane’s failures. What advice would Trump give Kane? Harrowingly, Trump responds with, “get yourself a different woman,” which is no surprise. Objectifying woman, treating them as trophies, and blaming them for your own failures is something that both Kane and Trump do. The fact Trump does not see the cautionary tale in Kane’s actions is a bit like when people cheer and take business tips from Tony Montana in Scarface. Yet even Charles Foster Kane doesn’t brag about sexually assaulting woman in the back of his limo.
As of this writing, Joe Biden has won the American election, and Trump has broken over a century of tradition by refusing to concede power. This result is as unsurprising as it is far from finished. While the future is uncertain, we do have a glimmer of hope. I am not suggesting that Joe Biden will be the greatest leader in history (he won’t), nor am I suggesting that North America has rid themselves from the flirtation with fascism (Trump 2024? Don’t rule it out). But what I am saying is that we need to pay close attention to the art we tell and celebrate. Before Trump and Kane, there were similar tales like Shakespeare’s Richard III and Shelley’s Ozymandias. There have always been people like a Trump who appear in history during the most difficult of times, promising answers and delivering only suffering, division and self-promotion. We as a society must be prepared to see the warning signs and stop it. To coin a phrase, “Those who don’t learn from (film) history are doomed to repeat it.”