Cinemadope: Kane, Able

There was a time, I’m sure, when using Citizen Kane as a benchmark—when one could say with some seriousness, for instance, that Cabaret was the Citizen Kane of musicals—still meant something. That time is now past. The sprinkling of Kane comparisons has become a deluge, a monsoon, so much so that Time magazine has collected what it calls The Citizen Kane of Citizen Kane Lists: a list of ridiculous Kane comparisons that includes films which critics have crowned the Kane of (among others) ninja movies, arm wrestling movies, and alcoholic clown movies.

Fun is fun, but enough is enough. These days, one can’t help but feel that many of the people who throw the Kane dart haven’t actually seen Orson Welles 1941 masterwork. A pseudo-biography based in part on the life of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (who would later ban mention of the film in his papers), the film was a Nabokovian exploration of one man’s life, rewound from his dying word: “Rosebud.”

The film, which screens at Amherst Cinema this Sunday and Wednesday, was Welles’ debut feature. Though it was distributed by RKO, Welles—based on the outlandish success of his earlier work, which included the 1938 War of The Worlds radio broadcast—was given artistic freedom on the picture, a move that resulted in a groundbreaking work that continues to inspire auteurs today. And Welles didn’t just direct; he produced, co-wrote the script, and took the starring role, cementing his reputation as a one-man band early on.

For film lovers, it’s a chance to catch Kane on the big screen, where perhaps they haven’t seen it before. And for those who haven’t yet had the experience of Welles’ story, it’s an opportunity to take in a classic that not only stands on its own after almost 75 years, but will give viewers a new appreciation for everyone from Woody Allen to Quentin Tarantino—and maybe even a certain Internet meme that owes its life to Welles’ famous film.


Also at Amherst this Monday is Actress, director Robert Greene’s film about the actress Brandy Burre, who gave up a career that included a recurring role on HBO’s hit show The Wire to start a family. Greene’s story picks up when Burre decides to get back into acting, only to find that the new life she has created for herself begins to fall apart around her. Burre stars as a version of herself here, in a work that combines drama and documentary; both she and Greene will be on hand to discuss the film, which is being presented as part of Hampshire College’s Creative Media Institute. The screening, which is open to the public at regular admission, is free to Amherst Cinema members.


Also this week: Cinemark Theaters brings in a special screening of the cult hit Sharknado, which is about exactly what it sounds like—a tornado filled with sharks. A social media-fueled television hit on the Syfy network, this bit of ridiculousness gets special treatment here: it will be accompanied by running commentary from a trio best known for their work on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 television series, where they overdubbed snide commentary onto old B movies. It’s not for everyone, but if you like it—and I do—you can also find a rich backlog of MST3K episodes streaming via Netflix. And for me, that is truly the more essential experience: when it comes to snide asides, a few good friends in your living room beats a big theater any day. Especially when you’re talking about the Citizen Kane of tornado/shark movies.•


Jack Brown can be reached at


Author: Jack Brown

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