Peter: I'm willing to cut Jose Luis Borges some slack because he came from another culture, and was writing from a distant place, in 1941. But as a review, it suffers from the same failings he attributes to CITIZEN KANE. His piece is diffuse, ideasyncratic, sketchy, and irritating. [Sounds like D.I.S.H., what I suffer from.]
I have never read a review of CITIZEN KANE, the picture itself, which succeeds in putting it down. Borges review is no exception.
He seems not to appreciate that the film is indeed essentially a jigsaw puzzle, and that the picture, if we had the last piece of the puzzle, is that of "A Great American" -- the kind of person we like to say represents "The American Success Story." In creating his story with such incredible skill, Welles has insured that Charles Foster Kane still stands for "The American" and Americans in general, 65 years after it was made. Perhaps for centuries into the future.
Borges apparently regards the picture's "magical" (genial) qualities as a drawback. Yet they are what help keep the film fresh.
He also does not appear to recognize that there is actually something in the center of Kane's labyrinth. Borges has simply overlooked or discounted it. What is there explains a life Kane never quite understood in the conventional terms of the philistine he was raised to become, the person he was at war with, the man he tried unsuccessfully to escape. And when he could not, tried to free others in his stead. He failed in that, too, as Susan Alexander Kane would attest to. What is at the center of Kane's childhood labyrinth stands for the loss of his mother who, even in her despair, might have given him what he needed to become fully human; in the way that Welles at a very young age knew that he had been crippled by the loss of his own mother.
Really, it is not vital that the loss mean the same thing to us, only that it meant something like that emotionally to him [to them?], and the impact of that realization is endlessly heartbreaking, if we have a heart to break.