have you ever watched orson welles’s masterpiece, “citizen kane”?
that is all.
i guess i could tell you that i had to watch it maybe 80 times (alright, an exaggeration, but regardless, it was many, many, many times) when i took a film criticism course at the u of i — chicago circle campus in 197_. this then was when the ‘new’ journalism was all the rage and pauline kael, the movie critic for the new yorker was the ne plus ultra of criticism, dividing the world into those who worshipped at the end of her pen and those who would have thrown her and her ink pot on the nearest pyre and gladly struck the match to ignite the fire.
in spite of having to watch “citizen kane” a gazillion times, what did happen was that i began to understand movies in a new way; firstly, as works of art (which i hadn’t considered before then, sure they were entertainment, and yes, they told a story, but i hadn’t, in my 22 years on the planet, really thought of them as works of art until then. that doesn’t make me a bad person, does it?)
for, just as i had had to do in my french ‘explication de texte’ courses, we had to dissect every little aspect of the movie, actually dismantle it and put it back together again in order to completely inhabit the mind of its creator (shudder, orson was a man of many, shall we say, appetites); how scenes were framed, at what angle they were shot, the use of black and white, its chiaroscuro not unlike a renaissance painting by caravaggio, the foreshadowing (i’ll repeat that: the foreshadowing), the language, the grammar, the way the characters were drawn/conceived, how they interacted, archetypical symbols (my love for carl jung springs from this course of study), and on and on and on.
and then you take all of the parts, considered and parsed for meaning, and toss them all in a light vinaigrette (your perspective) and re-present them on a plate as your understanding of the film and how it affects your world (or doesn’t). “tasty, isn’t it?” you might ask (to no one in particular, it might even be sotto voce or mumbled to yourself) or you may even not think a thing about it, having thoroughly given yourself up to the experience of enjoying the work of a great artist.