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Citizen Kane is often hailed as the greatest film ever made. I’m not sure that it quite deserves that accolade but it certainly is a superb film and an unparalleled directorial debut from Orson Welles.  It is also often thought of as the first film to use deep focus photography – this it most certainly is not.  However, it was the first film to use deep focus photography to such fantastic effect and because of this, a film that greatly benefits from the picture clarity that DVD provides.

Citizen Kane - Édition Collector
There’s so much that Citizen Kane can be said to be about, but for the sake of time (and my sanity) I’ll stick to the simplest of simple outlines.  The film opens with Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), a powerful newspaper magnate who, on his deathbed, utters the words "Rosebud," and then dies.  The film then follows reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) as he tries to discover what these dying words meant.  What the film gives us is five accounts of Kane’s life, all told the by five people who Thompson talks to.  Thompson never discovers what “Rosebud” actually meant, but by the end of the film, the audience does.  There! You can’t read the film any simpler than that.

Citizen Kane is, without a doubt, one of the greatest films ever made.  It broke all the rules in terms of filmmaking and provided a whole new set for future generations to follow.  Many of the cinematic techniques that Citizen Kane pioneered are still being used today.  It is most likely that if it weren’t for Citizen Kane, your favourite film (whatever it is) would never have been made.

Video
The video quality is the best I’ve ever seen Citizen Kane looking.  Considering the film was made in 1941, it’s quite remarkable how good it looks. It does have the occasional scratch from time to time, but this is surely to be expected.  It is certainly a lot better than our UK region 2 version.  I would have gone as far as to say that this is probably the best that we’ll ever see Citizen Kane looking, but for reasons explained in the final section of this review, I won’t.

Citizen Kane - Édition Collector
Audio
The audio is presented in the original English mono. Nothing remarkable but everything is nice and clear. No complaints.

Extras
When I first heard that French company Montparnasse was releasing a collector’s edition of Orson Welles’ masterpiece Citizen Kane, I was very excited. "Finally," I thought, "There’ll be a decent version of this fantastic film for me to own." From what my limited French could understand of the press release it was going to be modelled on the excellent Criterion laserdisc.  This got me even more excited and I immediately put my copy on pre-order.

Suffice to say I was disappointed.  The extras are two documentaries and a trailer-esque thing.  Both documentaries are French only.  It seems I was expecting too much from the Frenchies to actually exploit the medium of DVD and offer alternate soundtracks or even subtitles at the very least.  I certainly don’t recall the Criterion laserdisc being packed with French-only documentaries.  The only other extra on the disc is a kind of trailer presented by Orson Welles in which he walks around the studio introducing us to the cast members (who were unknown faces at the time).  This, at least, is in English (with optional French subtitles of course). Also included in the fancy looking box is a booklet – all in French (but with some nice pictures.)

Citizen Kane - Édition Collector
Overall
This French collector’s edition of Citizen Kane was released about a month before Warner announced that they were releasing a special edition in R1-land.  It’s likely that even if you speak fluent French and enjoy the extras on this DVD, the R1 will still surpass what this disc offers.  And according to Warner, their print will be taken from a newly discovered fine grain master - so even the perfectly nice picture quality of this French DVD will probably be beaten.  Of course, this is only speculation for the time being, but I’d still wait to read reviews of the R1 version before rushing out to buy this one.  If I’d known what Warner were up to when I was ordering this, I think I would have stopped myself.


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