He is perfect. And then there’s almost perfect.
And as anyone who has ever scored 99% on a test can tell you, the two are not the same thing.
“Citizen Kane,” Orson Welles’ 1941 classic about the rise and fall of publishing mogul Charles Foster Kane, long had a perfect review rating on the Rotten Tomatoes movie website, which had collected 115 reviews. Until last month.
That’s when an article rediscovered by a critic who died decades ago played the spoiler.
The less-than-effusive 80-year-old journal titled “Citizen Kane Fails to Impress Critics as Greatest Ever Filmed,” resurfaced last month as part of a new archival project at Rotten Tomatoes. The review, which appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 1941 and was quietly added to the “Citizen Kane” page on Rotten Tomatoes in March, brought down the classic film, which is regularly placed at the top of the lists of America’s greatest films. , a peg or two.
“You’ve heard a lot about this photo and I can see from the commercials that some experts think it’s ‘the greatest movie ever made’,” wrote the reviewer, whose pseudonym was Mae Tinee. “I do not.”
The problem? It was a little too much fresh, apparently.
“It’s interesting,” the reviewer wrote. “It’s different. In fact, it’s bizarre enough to become a museum piece. But its sacrifice of simplicity for eccentricity robs it of its distinction and of its general entertainment value.”
The film’s black-and-white photography, which has been praised for years for its atmospheric and dark touch, has been criticized as “dark and spooky” by critics, who said it “gives goose bumps.”
“I kept wishing they would let in some sun,” she wrote. (She was, however, a fan of Welles as an actor, calling him a “zealous and efficient performer.”)
With the inclusion of his dissenting opinion, the film is now rated at just 99 percent “fresh” on the Rotten Tomatoes tomato.
This means that, according to the reviews site, there are now 63 films with at least 40 reviews that are now more universally admired by critics than “Citizen Kane”. The site’s “100% Club” includes predictable classics (“Modern Times”, “Singin ‘in the Rain”, “The Maltese Falcon”) and less predictable recent films (the first two “Toy Story” films).
A club member? “Paddington 2”, the children’s film about a bear which, according to the review site, “spreads joy and marmalade wherever it goes”. Its writer and director, Paul King, told The Hollywood Reporter that while he was happy the film was on the list, he wouldn’t take releasing “Citizen Kane” too seriously. “I won’t let this go to my head too much and immediately build my Xanadu,” he said.
Rotten Tomatoes, who may soon be taking critical notes of more classics on earth as older archival reviews are added to the site, previously acknowledged that “100% Club” members aren’t necessarily perfect.
“It’s a tough road for a movie to get 100% with reviews, full of perils,” says a page on the site devoted to Paragons of the Perfect Percentage. “What if a small plot hole was big enough to irritate a discerning critic?” What if the cinematographer didn’t show up that day for a crucial scene? What if there was a bum performance from one of the background extras? “
Mae Tinee’s opinion of “Citizen Kane” was a minority opinion at the time.
“Despite some puzzling gaps and strange ambiguities in the creation of the main character,” critic Bosley Crowther wrote in The New York Times after attending the film’s 1941 premiere at the Palace Theater, “Citizen Kane” is by far the best. the most surprising and cinematically exciting film to be seen here in many moons.
“In fact,” he added, “it’s almost the most sensational movie ever made in Hollywood.”
The film was also the recent inspiration for Netflix’s “Mank,” a biopic of “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, which starred Gary Oldman and won two Oscars on Sunday (but which reviews aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes only rated 83% Fresh).