Monday, February 8, 2010

The 9 Most Influential Films of My Life: #4

There I am, staring at myself in the bathroom mirror.

I'm upset.  I'm angry.  I'm confused...  I'm sixteen.

Just hours earlier I had experienced the rite-of-passage that is the mullet haircut.  I gloriously accepted the work in the front, party in the back haircut to live up to a dare.  As soon as my father's eyes caught a glimpse of the awe-inducing dew, I was told the party was over.  In the morning an American barber would see to it that the beast in back would be tamed.  My mullet magnificence stayed with me for less than twelve hours.

I'm sixteen experiencing all the general self-identity issues that every teenager must walk through.  I don't fit in.  I'm socially awkward.  I've just taken my SAT, and I don't have a clue as to where I want to go to school, how I'm going to pay for it, or what the heck I want to study.

Mother comes to knock on the bathroom door.  She knows I'm upset.  Teenagers aren't the best at hiding their emotions. What is it, Mom?  She asks if there's anything she can do for me.

Then, suddenly, like some sort of angelic vision, it came to me.  Indeed, there was something she could do for me.  I needed a ride to the video store.  I had faintly heard of far-off rumors of the greatness of "Citizen Kane", but my movie knowledge didn't go much past the names of the (at that time) five James Bond actors.  Kane was supposedly the greatest film ever put to celluloid.  Could it be true?  And if it was true, what on earth did the greatest movie ever made look like?  Did it have dinosaurs? (See Most Influential Film #5)  What was this stuff made of that it could be so unanimously heralded as the best of the best?

In my high school angst this question suddenly seemed important to me.  Maybe the greatest movie ever made would give me some insight into how life works.  Maybe the answer to the mystery of Rosebud would also serve as the answer to my seemingly pointless life?

Orson Welles depicted a man's life on film.  All of it.  Welles squeezed out the goo from one man's destiny to get to its rich center.

The story of Charles Foster Kane, for me, is one of the most romantic stories ever told.It may be tragedy.  It may be indulgent melodrama,  but it is full -- to the brim. Be careful -- lest it spill over!

Kane works because it speaks to all of one man's life and only one man.  I think it may be the closest we can hope to get in this life of a Godly P.O.V.  Kane's life is a single theme.  That's the spirit of it.  Whatever you think of the film, be it boring, confusing, lack-luster; whatever it may be, it's all okay.  It's okay because it is complete in its focus of thematicizing a human life. 

I've been told that "Citizen Kane" was once planned to be entitled, "American".  If it would have ended up that way, sure, it'd still be awesome, but perhaps it would grow too big for its britches.  When we try to fit the life of Charles Foster Kane (or William Randolph Hearst, if you prefer) into an analogy for the average American, or for humanity in general, we lose the very stuff that makes Kane great.  One man's story is good enough, we don't have to muddle the waters by adding philosophical bloviation to it.

I watched "Citizen Kane" as a sixteen year old, and knew forthrightly that this was a sublime work unmatched by any other creation of fiction my eyes had yet subjected my brain to view.  The ramifications would be deep.

After Kane came my life.  The experience gave me faith that I could sculpt my life to match a single theme.  My very breath itself could, nay, must become cinematic.  My life was to be as valuable as the story it told.  I could have a theme of my very own; a sensation, a deep inner feeling that validated and individualized my very existence. 

So I went out in search of a story for my life.