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kottke.org posts about Orson Welles

Donald Trump is modeling his life after Charles Foster Kane

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2016

Last year, back when he was only one of more than a dozen GOP candidates, I discovered Citizen Kane was one of Donald Trump’s favorite movies via a video filmed by Errol Morris.

Trump acquits himself pretty well on Kane and its lessons — although I would not characterize Kane’s fall as “modest” — and his commentary about the film is probably the first actually interesting thing I have ever heard him say. But I watched all the way to the end and he shoots himself in the foot in the most Trumpian & misogynistic way — it’s actually perfect.

Spurred by a recent re-watch of Citizen Kane, Anthony Audi digs deeper into Trump’s misunderstanding of the film and finds that the course of Trump’s life has followed that of Charles Foster Kane.

He understands instinctively that by controlling the press, he can shape opinions on a mass scale — bending the truth as he sees fit. Over time, and through his marketing savvy, he develops a powerful media empire. Because that’s not enough, he then turns his sights to politics, running for New York governor as a stepping-stone to the White House. At campaign rallies, Kane gleefully brags about his poll numbers, and vows to lock up his opponent Jim Gettys, whom he condemns as an establishment tool. “Here’s one promise I’ll make,” he finally thunders. “My first official act as governor of the state will be to appoint a special district attorney to arrange for the indictment, prosecution, and conviction of “Boss” Jim W. Gettys!”

Kane never gets to fulfill that pledge. Instead, he loses the election-his campaign derailed by a last minute sex scandal. His editors know what to do, and the following day their headlines scream: “FRAUD AT POLLS!”

The piece is entitled Donald Trump Modeled His Life on Cinematic Loser Charles Foster Kane. Consciously or not, Trump does seem to be following Kane’s playbook here, right down to the fascism.

Specifically, Citizen Kane was a vision of what fascism might resemble in America. Both men knew better than to expect Hitler or Mussolini on our shores. They knew that our demagogue would be glossier, more entertaining-more American; and the man they conjured, inspired by real-life plutocrats like William Randolph Hearst, happened to look an awful lot like Donald Trump.

Read the whole thing…this is right up there with the best explainers of why Trump is the way he is. And part 2 is coming soon, an interview with Morris about Trump’s love of Kane.

Update: Audi’s interview with Morris was posted a couple of weeks before the election. Morris says Trump suffers from Irony Deficit Disorder.

Somehow he identifies clearly with Kane. Kane is Trump. And it’s not the kind of identification that I would make if I were Trump. Of course that issue — if I were Trump, what would I do, what would I think, what would I say? — it’s one of those counterfactuals I’m probably not equipped to address. But, if I were Donald Trump, I would not want to emphasize that connection with Kane. You know, a megalomaniac in love with power and crushing everything in his path. The inability to have friends, the inability to find love. The moral that Trump takes from Kane — I mean, it’s one of the great lines that I recorded. I ask, “Do you have any advice for Charles Foster Kane, sir?” You know, let’s get down to the psychiatric intervention. How can we help this poor man? He’s obviously troubled. How can we help him? Donald, help me out here!

And Donald says, “My advice to Charles Foster Kane is find another woman!” And you know, I thought, is that really the message that Welles was trying to convey? That Kane had made poor sexual choices, poor marriage choices?

We Work Remotely

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2015

For the one-year anniversary of Every Frame a Painting, Tony Zhou goes meta and talks about how to structure a video essay, using South Park and Orson Welles’ F for Fake.

Happy anniversary EFAP!

New Orson Welles film?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 26, 2011

The Observer reports that an unfinished film shot by Orson Welles in 1972 will be completed and shown to the public.

The Other Side of the Wind portrays the last hours of an ageing film director. Welles is said to have told John Huston, who plays the lead role: “It’s about a bastard director… full of himself, who catches people and creates and destroys them. It’s about us, John.”

(via df)

Orson Welles doesn’t like Rosebud

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2009

I’m ashamed of Rosebud. I think it’s a rather tawdry device. It’s the thing I like least in Kane. It’s kind of a dollar book Freudian gag. It doesn’t stand up very well.

Even calmly answering interview questions and sipping on tea from fine china, Welles is an imposing presence. (via clusterflock)

Update: Here’s the first part of the full 50-minute CBC interview from which the snippet above was pulled. Part two, part three, part four, part five, and part six. (thx, blake)

Live re-broadcast of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2009

Inspired by my Apollo 11 broadcast, the folks behind Me and Orson Welles (dir. by Richard Linklater) have arranged for a “live” broadcast of Welles’ War of the Worlds 71 years after it originally aired. The broadcast begins on Oct 30 at 8pm EST. (thx, jake)