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A weekly column by Abel G. Peña, best known for his Star Wars work.

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THE PHILODOXER for 08/13/2006
My Brother, My Enemy: Citizen Kane

Ever since I decided to introduce one of my closest friends to the supposed greatest movie ever made two weeks ago, I've been on a Citizen Kane binge, watching and re-watching the movie: with commentary, without, the two-hour documentary, the whole shebang.

Citizen Kane

I first saw the film when I was about twenty years old. At that time, I found it largely unremarkable (to this day, I've had a similar reaction to Blade Runner, though every few years I give it another chance). The story is a distillation of one of the most primitive and youthful motives: the accumulation and exercise of power.

This time though, the weight of the movie seems inescapable. The era is the late 19th and early 20th century. Charles Foster Kane is an idealistic young man who's inherited a fortune, based on real-life mogul William Randolph Hearst. Of all Kane's assets, his interest gravitates single-mindedly toward a newspaper firm. But Kane is idealistic and opportunistic, master of a keen savvy that favors wanton egoism. In a time before television, the power Kane accrues with his iron grip over American media undoes the fabric of his morality. Old and alone, he dies.

The uselessness of Kane's life is disturbing. Evil he may be, but we root nonetheless for his conquest. Larger than life, envy for Kane's utterly self-centered ethic curdles in our throats. His unconquerable will seems destined to assure his immortality.

Impossibly, Kane dies. We are satisfied, but against our wills, we pray for at least a figurative endurance.

Devastatingly, the world continues without him, no better and no worse. But the stamp of his existence, sad and destructive, is irrefutable. In a reality of inexorable entropy, if nothing else, perhaps at least the stain of evil can conclusively last forever.

Ambition is a dangerous commodity. Those lacking it can never condone it - by definition, absent is the very quality necessary to empathize. He who possesses it wages a terrible war within himself: submission to ambition guarantees success to its possessor. The requirement is merely the unscrupulous application of his will at the meager expense of wills not his own.

Confronted with the staggering authenticity of the absolute - called death, meaninglessness, or infinity - is the hedonistic pursuit of selfishness noble enough? Citizen Kane only postulates the question.

- Abel

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