Citizen Kane


Warner Home Video, $29.99

SIXTY YEARS later, Orson Welles' Hearst-inspired tycoon tragedy has pretty much transcended cinema to become part of the Western canon of great art. Countless books and studies chronicle the 1941 work, and the '96 documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane is duly included in this new two-disc set. Battle is a pretty Burnsian, PBS-y affair, informative background material for the uninitiated that'll make you want to reach for better sources like David Thomson's Welles study Rosebud, David Nasaw's Hearst biography The Chief, Robert Carringer's The Making of Citizen Kane, or Pauline Kael's invaluable The Citizen Kane Book.

Kael's famous "shallow masterpiece" remark is cited by Roger Ebert in his highly informed, nonstop commentary to the movie itself. "I never get tired of it," he says, and the guy's encyclopedic enthusiasm is infectious—enough to make you forgive his thumbs-up review for Hearts in Atlantis.

Welles' great friend and defender Peter Bogdanovich occupies a second audio track. Knowing a little something about the theme of prodigy-and-professional-disappointment, the writer-director mixes personal recollections of Welles with valuable technical analyses of various shots and scenes. (Make sure you slo-mo back through Kane's meticulously framed dissolves to appreciate Bogdanovich's comments.)

The greatest attraction here is the stunning video transfer job accorded Kane, which honors both Welles and his brilliant cinematographer, Gregg Toland. Black-and-white movies generally lose their gray-scale tonalities on video; here the background details and deep-focus compositions are breathtakingly sharp.

OCTOBER ALSO sees DVD releases of several other old films, including special editions of From Here to Eternity, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, On the Waterfront, Funny Girl, and Jabberwocky. All presumably boast extras, while the latter two are enjoying theatrical rereleases to whet consumer appetites. (Jabberwocky plays this week; Streisand's Girl is expected this fall.) Due Oct. 9, the five-disc Godfather trilogy also merits a big-screen revival—or at least its first two installments do, sans George Hamilton.

Brian Miller

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