Citizen Kane and The Social Network
The director of The Social Network, which opens The New York Film Festival tonight, jokingly compares his film to Citizen Kane. And some critics and journalists have done the same. They're right, except that The Social Network is superior in many important ways.
This flick about new money versus old money is also, in contrast to Kane, about old genius versus young genius. Its middle-aged creators have a lot less to prove than did 25 year old Orson Welles, and a different kind of world to prove it to. There's a lot less going on in The Social Network than meets the eye, and that's the real genius of it.
Aaron Sorkin's screenplay contains no snark or cynicism here, just intelligence. Maybe it's too good for these times. It's not a superior feat of film-making to Kane in every respect, but in ways that I would argue are more vital to this current set of living Americans' understanding of themselves than was Orson Welles's sneaky portrait of William Randolph Hearst to Americans on the eve of World War II.