A Happy Birthday for The Kids of Kane

From somewhere beyond the fringe of Hollywood, four cult classics emerge, trashing tired formulas and challenging the way we see movies

Fifty years ago last week, Hollywood was the home of the avant garde. RKO released an experimental film made by a 25-year-old novice who didn't know the rules, didn't care when his studio elders said, "You can't do that!" Outrageous, iconoclastic, with warning shadows and baroque camera angles, Citizen Kane told future moviemakers that anything was possible. If you were Orson Welles.

Alas, a career full of lost skirmishes with the moguls proved that even Welles couldn't shake Hollywood free of its romantic realism. It held then; it holds today. Except that now the old glamour has atrophied into formula: boy's...

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