CITIZEN KANE (1941, USA)
directed by: Orson Welles

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IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033467

Submitted by Matt Hauske on 2006-09-20

Matt Hauske's comment:
This is the first film I've done, and it was difficult: I probably would have been better off taking Yuri's advice and starting with an easier film. The extremely high ratio of dissolves to straight cuts complicated the process quite a bit. I also accidentally added between 5 and 10 cuts because I anticipated shot changes based on dialogue or movement where there were none. During the process I noticed how drastically the longest shot differed from the shortest shot, and I look forward to analyzing the data more closely. I stopped taking data when 'The End' came up on the screen and the image faded to black, but there are at least 2 subsequent minutes that give the credits, which include shots of the principles characters reciting a line of dialogue, either directly from the movie or that wound up on the cutting room floor.

No doubt I'll try this again with this film.

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Author: Yuri Tsivian Date: 2006-09-20

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Author: Matt Hauske Date: 2006-09-25

I?m currently doing a reading course with Yuri that uses Cinemetrics to examine the films of Orson Welles and his development as a director. CITIZEN KANE is the first film I have put through the Cinemetrics process for this project. My comments on the message board and on the film pages will serve both as correspondence between myself and Yuri as well as a kind of public prototype of how Cinemetrics can be used in the educational process.

Last Wednesday Yuri and I met to discuss the data obtained from CITIZEN KANE. As you can see from the graph with a low trendline of 1, the film?s ASL slows down as it moves along. We compared this with another multi-story film, RASHOMON, and it seemed to make sense that with narratives that are told several times within the same film, the initial telling will tend to be much faster and exciting while the subsequent ones will become more philosophical and introspective, hence more slowly edited or deliberately paced. Such is the case with KANE. The film opens with what amount to two montage sequences: the sequence of his death, including the series of dissolves that slowly bring the audience closer and closer to his illuminated room in Xanadu, and the ?News on the March? sequence, which includes very fast editing featuring wipes and direct cuts (rather than dissolves and superimpositions as in the death). The following flashback sequences (Thatcher, Bernstein, Leland, etc.) tend to slow down the pace of the film enormously. The reporter Thompson?s first visit to Susan Alexander Kane unfolds in only three shots (14:21 to 17:17), which play as if they were only 2 (the transition between the first and second shots is the famous dissolve where Welles pushes in through the skylight of the El Rancho nightclub, using the rain to make it seem as if the camera were moving in an unbroken path). Following the encounter with Susan, Thompson goes to the Thatcher Library, where he reads Thatcher?s diary of the day he first met Kane, which is played in a flashback sequence that contains only 7 shots, but which covers over five minutes of screen time (18:56 to 23:05) for an ASL of 44.1. These 7 shots also contain two of the longest in the film, centering around Mrs. Kane?s signing the papers that make Thatcher Charles? legal guardian.

At this point the pace of the editing speeds up, as Kane grows up over the span of a single cut (?Merry Christmas! [cut] ?And a Happy New Year!?) and the narrative action of Kane?s rise to power and fame begins to speed up. Trendline degrees starting at 8 and above show that the ASL reaches another peak about halfway through the film when his newspaper, the Inquirer, hires the Chronicle?s reporting staff and becomes the most powerful paper in New York. Kane marries his first wife and seems destined for true greatness. The point in the trendline where it starts to dip again occurs around the time Thompson visits Leland (in trendlines above 8 the dip at this point is much more pronounced). Leland?s flashback, of course, deals with the breakdown of Kane?s first marriage (the breakfast table montage), meeting Susan Alexander, being discovered and blackmailed by his political rival, and Susan?s unsuccessful opera career. Leland?s flashback ends at 85:10, at which point Susan?s story begins. On the graph, this corresponds to the final climactic hump, with the fastest editing coming during Susan?s tumultuous opera career.

The section ends at about 97:04, at which point Raymond?s story takes over. As usual, it starts with two long takes of Thompson talking to Raymond, then it moves into the flashback with the screeching parrot shot. The bulk of this flashback consists of Kane?s demolition of Susan?s room after she has left, which may give an impression of being a montage consisting of several disparate, violent shots (this is how I remembered it before I re-watched it). To my surprise, it consists of only 6 shots over a span of nearly two minutes (108:18 to 110:12), which is about twice the ASL of the film as a whole. Each of these shots features pans and tilts that follow Kane?s rampage around the room, which, in combination with the violent nature of the action depicted, adds to the energetic quality of the sequence and the impression that the editing must be dynamic and pronounced. This also led Yuri and I to discuss the correspondence between longer takes and camera movement, which is certainly the case in the flashback to Kane as a child playing in the snow, where the camera follows Mrs. Kane through her cabin and outside to meet Charlie in the longest takes of the film. I can also think of a pronounced exception to this rule that occurs in BOOGIE NIGHTS, where the camera stays on Mark Wahlberg for an extremely long time as he sits and stares off into space as fireworks and a drug deal are transpiring around him: at no point does the camera move from its close-up of Wahlberg (I don?t have the time on this one).

Finally, if we look at the chart with the trendline at 8, we see at either end two tails that point up rather than down. The first of these, at the beginning of the film, indicates to me that the montage of dissolves that creeps closer and closer to Kane?s room in Xanadu is edited slightly more slowly than the News on the March segment, which itself has a dynamic range of ASLs. This section also includes the production and title credits, which consist of 3 shots that take up about 30 seconds of screen time. The shot of the NO TRESPASSING sign, which really kicks off the film, does not come up until about 34 seconds have elapsed, at it lasts about 20 seconds (it?s the first long white spike in the graph).

The last small upward curve on the graph with a trendline of 8 indicates another slight decrease in ASL, for a bit faster editing, though still higher than the overall ASL. The final four shots of the film (before the end credit sequence) are (1) a close-up of the sled (115:55 ? 116:19), (2) an upward tilt outside of Xanadu that shows the smoke from the incinerator rising into the sky (116:19 ? 116:36), (3) the NO TRESPASSING sign (116:36 ? 116:52), and (4) a deep-focus shot of Xanadu in the background and the large K on the front gate in the foreground, with THE END superimposed over the image (116:52 ? 117:03). Clearly, the ASL decreases over the period these shots are on the screen (24 sec, 17 sec, 16 sec, 9 sec), therefore accounting for the upward slope of the curve, as well as paralleling the musical themes that come to crescendos at the end of the film.

I plan on breaking the film down into its segments and using Cinemetrics on each in the future, much as has been done with RASHOMON and INTOLERANCE. It will be interesting to break down each section further to see how the editing dynamics of the film work at a more microscopic level.

Below I will post our conclusions about the degree of usefulness of each trendline value.


Author: Trendline results Date: 2006-09-25

We found that trendlines 1, 2, and 8 were most useful, 3 and 7 were not, and 10, 11, and 12 were more or less the same. Trendline 4 features a classic 2-hump, 3-act style.


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