November 23, 2020

CINEMA | Citizen 'Mank' – David Fincher Raises 'Kane'

"You could always produce."
Gary Oldman David Fincher | Mank on Netflix
Netflix International Pictures
Contemporary auteur David Fincher celebrates the life of famed Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, played boisterously by an acerbic Gary Oldman, and his peril writing that film as partially inspired by New Yorker critic Pauline Kale's controversial article "Raising Kane" claiming Mankiewicz as Kane's true author.

The alluring Mank follows his later professional and personal life in stark black and white as it explores his notorious friendship turned feud against media mogul and thinly-veiled Charles Foster Kane stand-in, one William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). It reveals itself more of a psychodrama about dominant male personalities bickering over status, authorship, credit, and talent.

Employing a flashback structure, not unlike Citizen Kane itself, and dramatizing many 1930s screen celebrities, audiences might be surprised how much the film is concerned with the minutia of California state politics including Hollywood's influence in the messy 1934 gubernatorial election—casting Bill Nye as socialist author Upton Sinclair in a cameo is perfectand Hearst targeting the social democratic movement through cinematic propaganda.

Amanda Seyfried David Fincher | Mank on Netflix

While Oldman's boozy performance as the famed raconteur anchors the showy Hollywood atmosphere of Mank, the film's supporting cast is top-notch. A glowing Amanda Seyfried steals much of the show as Hearst's longtime mistress Marion Davies while Brit Tom Burke does a suitable Orson Welles impression as the young prodigy about to peak.

Written by David's father, screenwriter Jack Fincher decades ago, the younger Fincher's fidelity to recreating 1930s filmmaking using contemporary cinematic tricks makes the whole experience uniquely engaging. Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt's lush visuals make Mank a particularly fitting love letter to screenwriting by juxtaposing the lavish life of the screen with its creative inception.

Fincher's absorbing Mank is just as cold and removed, but also exactingly precise, as his usual, more darker fare despite the showy Golden Age of Hollywood setting. It remains a richly-layered character story about the writing process and questioning of the confidence of Americans in a capitalist dream.

Mank screens as part of the Vancouver International Film Centre's year-round programming at Vancity Theatre before being available to stream on Netflix starting December 4th.


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