Say it ain’t so. Maybe the Mayans are right. Have I really lived long enough to see “Citizen Kane” supplanted as the greatest film ever made? This could just be the film geek equivalent of the apocalypse. Even if your personal choice as the all-time best wasn’t actually “Kane”, if you had any idea of what you were talking about, you knew it was the logical choice. It’s respected for a reason, and Orson Welles certainly paid his dues in making it. In fact, he paid it for the rest of his life…thanks to an infuriated William Randolph Hearst(if you don’t know the two meanings of “Rosebud”, I’ll tell you that not knowing one is forgivable, and not knowing the other means you’ve never watched “Citizen Kane”…so shame on you.). Most people don’t even realize that regarding “Kane” as king is based on the highly respected Sight & Sound film magazine poll. It is a British monthly that has been tabulating this list every 10 years since 1952. That inaugural list was topped by Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 “The Bicycle Thief”(now commonly referred to as “Bicycle Thieves” by most film scholars and purists, as it is considered the more accurate translation from the original Italian), with the 1941 “Citizen Kane” receiving an 11th place runner-up status tied with two other films. And since then, every poll, headed by an international list of film professionals comprised of critics, academics, and renowned directors has sat “Kane” atop that lofty perch. Until now. So, who’s the upstart? The great Alfred Hitchcock is to be blamed—along with the ever-increasing high regard for his 1958 “Vertigo”…the new #1. So, while “Kane” may have appeared to be the untoppable Goliath after holding the championship throughout the 1962, 1972, 1982, 1992 and 2002 polls(more than my entire lifetime, as I approach my 47th birthday), “Vertigo” has made a slow, steady climb towards the once thought unreachable summit, since first appearing on the 1972 tally in a 6-film tie for 11th place. By 1982 it was in a 3-film tie for 7th(which included Welles’ second film, “The Magnificent Ambersons”). Then in 1992 it stood alone in fourth place. And in 2002 it was second to Orson’s 1941 debut. And now, though it may drive some purists nuts(this blogger included)…the King is dead. Now, don’t get me wrong…”Vertigo” is a marvelous film. And I’ve reluctantly come to call it my number one Hitch(although I’ll always have a soft spot for 1960’s “Psycho”). But telling me that “Kane” has been knocked out, is like learning that there’s no Santa Claus. It’s going to sting for a little while, but I guess I will have to accept it. Even though I’ve taken to telling people for the last few years that Carol Reed’s 1949 “The Third Man” is my personal favorite. That was just a diversionary tactic. It felt silly to answer “Citizen Kane” to the question. Now I feel ashamed. Of course, “Kane” is the greatest film ever made…I mean, how could it be any other? 2022 feels like it’s one hundred years away now instead of just ten. Can I demand a recount? Oh well, I’ll wrap with my most satisfying inclusion on this year’s list. In 2001, I first watched a film(at a now demolished Paramus, New Jersey art house)that would go on to become my favorite of that year. By the end of the last decade, it was anointed as my choice for the top of the previous ten years. And now in 2012, it has received its initial mention in the Sight & Sound list. “Mulholland Dr.” from the genius David Lynch has popped up at #28, ahead of such luminaries as “Taxi Driver”, “Bicycle Thieves”(the former champion!) and “The Godfather, Part II”. So, after touting this to the naysayers in my circle, as brilliant, even superior to(and more mature than)Lynch’s 1986 “Blue Velvet”, for almost 11 years…I have even more ammunition. Everyone thinks they are a critic, but very few have worked to garner the knowledge, understanding and taste it takes to interpret the most difficult works. You know who you are…and there are quite a few of you. Maybe it’s time to admit that you need to talk less and listen more.
Shocker! “Vertigo” conquers “Kane”!