Film Center

September 20th, 2011

Journal Posting #1: “Citizen Kane” Challenge

Posted by Steven Rengifo in Uncategorized


Citizen Kane (1941): Breakfast Montage Scene

To start off, first and foremost… this movie was way ahead of its time and extremely innovative. Though the course is looking back at movies during an important time period in film history, Citizen Kane is like Inception for us in the present. Clearly Inception is a more complicated story of falling into numerous dreams and sort of needs to be watched 2 or 3 times to completely understand, but Citizen Kane gives us so much info and advances in technology, that it is hard to grasp the entire essence of the film. ┬áIt wasn’t just “a hollywood movie”, it is a well crafted piece of film that was constructed with having a deliberate message and technique.

Right from the get go, a noticeable technique and achievement is the incredible cinematography and lighting. Compared to “Lady Eve”, a picture that was released the same year, this film used so much low shots and creative lighting techniques. This was extremely unconventional, but so new. Then comes Toland use of deep-focus in the scene where Kane is a young boy playing in the snow. After discussing about the image frame for 10 minutes in the lecture, I now realize what 1 single frame can say or mean.

After the news reel of Kanes life ended in the small screening room, the next shot of the journalists in the room was extraordinarily crafted. Once again lighting is used very well and it created a murky, cigarette filled environment that has become synonymous with film noir. What mostly got my attention was the “Breakfast Montage” scene where Kane and Emily discuss the various events that happen either in the Inquirer or anything related to that fact. They dramatically grow apart as time goes by because of their differences.

The first shot has Emily wondering why Kane spends so much time over night at the Inquirer. Kane smiles and ignores her question by directing her to read the Inquirer instead of asking so many questions. Next shot shows Kane in a serious and cocky attitude about his articles on “Uncle John”, the President of the United States, Emily’s actual uncle. The articles seem to attack the President and Kane promises change very soon, and then smirks to Emily. He shows a sadistic attitude when he smirks to Emily.

Kane’s work life starts to him home when Mr. Bernstein arrives at “the nursery” with a “credible atrocity” and Emily wonders if that is ever going to happen again. We see Kane sitting down, cutting something with a knife, but noticeably, he is sitting in stiff posture. All Kane can do is look at Emily and wonder ever why he ever married a women who will not accept who he is. The flowers are now gone from the table and we can now see the actors hands. The next shot is crucial and a turning point in the relationship. Time has passed once again and Emily gets her question cut off after 3 words. He yells “I TELL WHAT THE PEOPLE SHOULD THINK”. Kane is visibly angry and places his tea cup on the plate with a dramatic effect.

Kane has had enough that when the next shot showcases is not literally a slap in the face, but the equivalent of that. EMILY IS READING THE CHRONICLE!!! Kane doesn’t even dare to look at her straight into her eyes, likewise herself. He silently reads the Inquirer while Emily reads the competition, “The Chronicle”. The music is low key and everything around feels awkward, including the lighting around the breakfast table. This and other scenes are by far my favorite.

This montage is so crucial because it shows the fall of a promising relationship but ends terrible with a public scandal. Montage is important to film. As film theorists Sergei Eisenstein says “montage as a collision“, it combines various pieces of film and creates a scene, at the end it is supposed to represent probably days, weeks, or months into several seconds or minutes. The montage is well crafted because it changes the environment around them and what they wear. Kane usually dressed in a robe for breakfast, but his clothes began to change conservatively into a stiff character. By now he has already experienced long, tough days in the office and quite frankly, will not stand Emily questions every morning at the breakfast table. The flowers are gone from the table. Kane probably hated seeing that every morning as he was becoming more old and grumpy.

Ultimately, I don’t understand why the flowers were there in the first place, and then suddenly, as Kane was wearing the striped suit, the flowers were gone. Plus… Kane had a knife in his hand and seemed like he was having a problem cutting some food. Was the knife a symbol, implying weapons. I feel this relationship was brilliantly capture in these scenes of montage because the breakfast table conversation, is something most married couples do every morning. I believe this scene can be social commentary on how Americans deal with their newlyweds or how we generally live in relationships and how they can be quickly destroyed in a matter of a few weeks, months, or years.

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3 Responses to ' Journal Posting #1: “Citizen Kane” Challenge '

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  1.    Daniel Min said,

    on September 20th, 2011 at 3:44 am

    Remarkable insight, Orson Welles handled this scene so well through examining the character’s dreary troubles of passive aggressive domestic dispute, almost reminds me of Bergman’s “Scene from a marriage”.

  2.    Amy Herzog said,

    on September 23rd, 2011 at 4:34 am

    What a great analysis– I love the way you relate the contrasts in lighting and costume to Eisenstein’s discussion of collision!

  3.    Roberto Rodriguez said,

    on October 8th, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    This was a great analysis of the scene which was one of my favorites in the entire film and I like the way you described the director’s use of cinematography in the film.

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