A few weeks ago, Ava kept asking me why I haven’t watched “Minions” yet. After being asked the same question a few times, I finally replied “Why haven’t you watched ‘Citizen Kane’ yet?
She’s four, so of course she hadn’t seen it. She asked what it was about, and I said it was about a man who lost a sled as a little boy and grew up to run a newspaper empire. She asked if we could watch it on our next Daddy & Ava Day. I said sure, figuring she would forget about it.
But a week or so later she said “Can I watch the movie about the kid with the snowboard who made a magazine about his life?” Since we didn’t have anything else to do, I broke out my DVD.
When I was a kid, my parents had an old projector and would check out old movies from the library. They were abbreviated version of silent films like “The Phantom of the Opera” and “The Three Musketeers,” along with a few talkies, like the Universal monster movies.
I mention this because it ingrained an appreciation of black and white films in me from a young age. I sometimes encounter people who are put off by the idea of watching a film without color, and I’d like to get Ava used to the idea that some of the best films she’ll ever see will be in shades of gray.
Predictably, the lack of color was the first thing she noticed: “Was this movie made before any other movies with color were made?” I explained that there were a few color movies at the time, but they were more expensive to make.
During the shots of Xanadu: “This is a spooky movie. Who lives in this house?”
When we first saw Charles Foster Kane: “Is he a nice man?” I explained that it’s kind of complicated.
“Why did the boy never see his sled again?” This was a tough one to talk through, since Kane’s parents more or less abandoned him. Thanks to Disney, she’s used to orphaned heroes, but other than in Bambi the the orphaning process is rarely shown.
She seemed pretty interested in men wearing hats all the time. She asked if it was to make them look handsome.
“Was this movie made before we were alive?”
After Kane slapped his wife: “Is he a good person?”
She also asked what happened to Kane’s son, who died in a car accident with his mother offscreen. She really knows how to latch onto questions that have heavy answers.
The non-linear storytelling also threw her off a bit. I remember talking to friends who had issues following “Pulp Fiction” the first time they saw it in the 90s, but we see glimpses of multiple time periods in Kane’s life in the first half hour.
Surprisingly, she watched the entire film, though there was some wandering around the room and picking up of the occasional toy.
When I was a kid, I would watch Looney Toons and not get the references to people like Peter Lorre, Liberace, James Cagney and others. Lately, Ava has been watching Animaniacs, and I’m sure references to things like Goodfellas, Nancy Kerrigan and a male President Clinton are just flying over her head.
To tie this all back together, Maurice LaMarche’s voice for The Brain is a pretty dead on version of Orson Welles from later in his career. He did a younger version of Welles on The Simpsons and dubbed over Vincent D’Onfrio’s performance as Kane in Ed Wood.
My only regret is young Welles voice is different enough from what The Brain is satirizing that she didn’t make the connection between the two. Oh well, maybe we’ll have to watch “F for Fake” next.