Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

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willoneill
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#76 Post by willoneill » Mon Nov 30, 2020 12:27 am

Dylan wrote:
Sun Nov 29, 2020 11:07 pm
Joseph McBride on Mank
Obviously I should read the article before commenting, but it's tough to take seriously based on the editor's note alone:
Film historian Joseph McBride, who penned “Rough Sledding with Pauline Kael” in 1971, graciously offered to revisit the authorship of Citizen Kane for Wellesnet after screening David Fincher’s new Netflix movie Mank — the latest in a string of unflattering film portrayals of Orson Welles
Mank can't really be called an "unflattering film portrayals of Orson Welles" ... since it's not a film portrayal of Welles at all. He's barely a character.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#77 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Nov 30, 2020 1:16 am

willoneill wrote:
Mon Nov 30, 2020 12:27 am
Dylan wrote:
Sun Nov 29, 2020 11:07 pm
Joseph McBride on Mank
Obviously I should read the article before commenting, but it's tough to take seriously based on the editor's note alone:
Film historian Joseph McBride, who penned “Rough Sledding with Pauline Kael” in 1971, graciously offered to revisit the authorship of Citizen Kane for Wellesnet after screening David Fincher’s new Netflix movie Mank — the latest in a string of unflattering film portrayals of Orson Welles
Mank can't really be called an "unflattering film portrayals of Orson Welles" ... since it's not a film portrayal of Welles at all. He's barely a character.
McBride actually makes that clear in the article as well, but it doesn't conflict with his overall point.

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willoneill
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#78 Post by willoneill » Mon Nov 30, 2020 10:46 am

I read the article, and I'm sorry but I don't see this persistent Welles hatred that McBride feels exists. I don't know, I guess maybe that existed in the 70's? The impression I get from the article is that if a film doesn't portray Welles as an infallible genius, then it must be false and dishonest. Even in the scenes that are acknowledged as fictional (i.e. Ed Wood), McBride is still complaining that the content of the dialogue is still too fictional. The author is way too close to the subject, and his heavy bias clouds the whole article. (And calling Magnificent Ambersons the greatest American film ever made is the most ludicrous thing I've read this week - and Trump is still contesting the election)

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willoneill
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#79 Post by willoneill » Mon Nov 30, 2020 11:04 am

I'm been thinking about Mank a lot in the week and half since I've seen it, especially in light of this authorship discussion, which I'll admit had never been on my radar before. An interesting thought has developed in my mind: Mank isn't about Mankiewicz writing Citizen Kane on his own, it's actually about him writing the script titled American on his own ... the point at which the film ends (save for the coda), doesn't preclude Welles contributing a lot to the script as it morphed into Kane and then throughout production.

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JSC
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#80 Post by JSC » Mon Nov 30, 2020 3:52 pm

The Welles hatred had a long afterglow after he left Hollywood. Since the majority of Welles' work after Citizen Kane (until more recently) existed either in truncated versions, poor prints (with all the attendant sound/sync issues), or were simply out of circulation, this might have given the suggestion to many people that Kane was, in essence, some kind of fluke or one-hit-wonder and that Welles may not have been the be-all principle force behind the film. In some ways this reminds me of all the Shakespeare authorship debates and its' assorted conspiracy theory rubbish (and no, this is not an invitation to get into any of that!)

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Persona
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#81 Post by Persona » Fri Dec 04, 2020 10:30 am

Had to pause it about 45 minutes in this morning as my kids woke up but enjoying it so far.

The dialogue alone is a treasure trove. I get the complaints about the aesthetic but it is working for me and at times it is gorgeous. Editing really hums along. Performances are delightfully old-fashioned.

So far haven't got a whiff of why any Welles fan would be upset about it, that must be in the back half.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#82 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Dec 04, 2020 3:03 pm

Persona wrote:
Fri Dec 04, 2020 10:30 am
So far haven't got a whiff of why any Welles fan would be upset about it, that must be in the back half.
It involves really a few scenes, which makes it especially frustrating. Had they corrected the moments that perpetuated Kael's myth, it would've done nothing to undermine the heart of the film, which really deals with much greater issues.

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Persona
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#83 Post by Persona » Sat Dec 05, 2020 9:59 am

Okay, yeah... I loved this.

What a powerful, entertaining, and aesthetically rich depiction of an organ grinder's monkey. It's great fun and very sad.

And the film does actively reinforce that Welles must have done a lot of revising and shaping of the Kane script and doesn't preclude anything as far as what Orson brought to the story or how it was told. So the film shows what Mank felt about the screenwriting credit--honestly didn't bother me. The film is centered on Mank; he's in every scene, and at times the film leans into his subjectivity (like the brilliant election night montage). Orson and Mank feuded over the credit, that's a fact, and the film has a scene that sort of tries to sum up or represent that feud in a few minutes. Maybe they should have skipped that part entirely given the film's main focus and concern but I totally get why the Finchers didn't think they could skip it. And, frankly, that stuff still has a part in what the movie is about. Which is: Mank as a person and the things going on around him that went into the genesis of an idea, a dream, that was threatening to the very power structures propping up the dream factories.

Anyways, yeah, towards the top of the year and easily a top 3 Fincher for me, for whatever that's worth (I'm cool on half his movies but quite like Zodiac and Se7en and this one is up there with those two).

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TheKieslowskiHaze
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#84 Post by TheKieslowskiHaze » Sat Dec 05, 2020 10:23 am

Mank is interesting but not great. It works best as a portrait of a genius frustrated by the system he works within, his semi-quiet (until not quiet) rejection of the capitalist politics of his bosses ("Your competition are idiots").

But, in a clear attempt to mimic the fast-talking, clever dialogue of the time, there's a lot of on-the-nose speechifying. Some of it is fun; some of it grates. A scene, for example, where a Hearst dinner party becomes a scattershot discourse on 1930s global politics is impressively shot, edited, and written, but it just feels like too much cleverness.

I have mixed feelings about the cinematography. It's often gorgeous, sometimes not. I thought the more contemporary widescreen with the old fashioned (but not really all that old fashioned) black and white was a bit weird.

But I'm most frustrated by the ending:
SpoilerShow
I don't really have a horse in the Citizen Kane authorship race, but it was an odd pivot for the movie's final moments to focus on the Welles/Mank feud. That's not what the rest of the movie was at all about, so to jump to that as the closing coda doesn't work. AND that coda seems to take a stance that is outdated and debunked. The movie's final note is unfittingly sentimental. Odd choice. I also almost always hate having to read at the end of a movie (with the exception of Zodiac).
I'm being hard on Mank; it is actually good. But I'd been looking forward to this for some time, and it does not rank with Fincher's best.

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Persona
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#85 Post by Persona » Sat Dec 05, 2020 10:41 am

willoneill wrote:
Mon Nov 30, 2020 11:04 am
I'm been thinking about Mank a lot in the week and half since I've seen it, especially in light of this authorship discussion, which I'll admit had never been on my radar before. An interesting thought has developed in my mind: Mank isn't about Mankiewicz writing Citizen Kane on his own, it's actually about him writing the script titled American on his own ... the point at which the film ends (save for the coda), doesn't preclude Welles contributing a lot to the script as it morphed into Kane and then throughout production.
Yes, sorry to have ended up repeating your point here.

I don't understand the umbrage other than understanding that Welles (and I'm a fan) has some dudes always ready to go hard to the mat for him.

I understand the point about the ending feeling too tangential but I think it still has its place and a bittersweet matter-of-factness about Mank doing his best work and it even getting recognized but none of that having any real positive impact on his life, nor him getting to see any actual shift in the industry he worked in.

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barryconvex
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#86 Post by barryconvex » Sat Dec 05, 2020 10:28 pm

After a slow opening twenty minutes this really came to life and covered not just the authorship of an iconic movie but also, rather brilliantly, the political landscape of 1930s America ** (California in particular). Gary Oldman's never been my cup of tea and he does nothing to change my mind about him here but if he doesn't win his second Oscar for this I'll be shocked, what a character he's given to play. Mankiewicz- the perpetual smartest guy in the room, court jester at the most powerful court in the history of the country, hopeless drunk, compulsive gambler, washed up screenwriter rallying what's left of his talent to create his magnum opus- nobody writes parts like these for movies anymore. It's the arc of several seasons of a tv show compressed into two plus hours of glorious black and white photography and peppered with uniformly great supporting performances. The dialogue is razor sharp and frequently plays like the Coens minus the cheekiness, Jack Fincher is another shoo in for an Oscar. I need to digest a bit more but I definitely liked this a lot.







**How little has changed in GOP propaganda and campaign ideology in the last 85 some years!

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#87 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Dec 06, 2020 12:14 am

willoneill wrote:
Mon Nov 30, 2020 11:04 am
An interesting thought has developed in my mind: Mank isn't about Mankiewicz writing Citizen Kane on his own, it's actually about him writing the script titled American on his own ... the point at which the film ends (save for the coda), doesn't preclude Welles contributing a lot to the script as it morphed into Kane and then throughout production.
willoneill, I like that phrasing. The film doesn’t explicitly remove Welles’ credit but instead focuses its aims on a kind of disconnected celebration of the thankless job of an artist, who if willing, can make efforts to puncture systems and take great risks to deliver Truth. Nitpicking over facts seems like the same dead ends one finds if they do the same with The Social Network. Regardless of who wrote what, Mank did something destructive, dangerous, and unimaginable in order to create a safe place for people to think critically. However, what this film is most interested in is placing this in front of the audience and asking to what degree it makes a difference?

To do this, Fincher weaves in addiction themes (plucked from the superficial behaviors of wild gambling and alcoholism, loud and without apology!) of self-defeating conduct, the comic absurdity and existential austerity intertwined in the character of a provocateur, to paint ironies on the walls of history. By playing with the notion of ethics, beliefs, intentions and action, he validates Mank’s subjective drives while also neutralizing their objective value in defining an icon. Mank is a human being, not a hero to worship, and like many other men he has wasted a sizable chunk of his life away, and within that life his most valuable actions have gone unknown (the throwaway reveal of his part in saving an entire family is sobering, and tragic in its minimization at once). Fincher has the decency- or an empathetic type of cruelty- to show all: the authenticity, the self-destruction, the harm and the good our weaponized egos instigate. We are more than one action, we are the sum of our parts, but that also means we are much less special than we want to be seen as- icons, history-makers, activists. Fincher sees Mank, recognizes him, and ultimately shows that he- like all of us- is alone, without the cameras rolling to dramatize ourselves into superhumans. Being the “smartest guy in the room” or “a rare bird” doesn’t actually matter as much as we may think. This is sneakily Fincher’s most humanistic work, certainly his most playful, and also, subtly, perhaps his most devastating.

Fincher has never been a stranger to evoking the darkness in humanity's place within its milieu, and delivering these ideas to us through classic cinematic techniques, most notably in Panic Room’s borrowings of Hitchcock. Here he goes back to early Hollywood to forge the same audience-relationship via screwbally self-reflexive lighting-witted dialogue and sequential gags constructed from cheeky interplay, with plenty of innuendo provoking audiences into playing catch-up as the pace doesn’t wait around for hand-holding. Over the course of the film, these light and funny scenes become solemn and harrowing in their implications, using the very same tools. I’m struggling to believe that Fincher’s father was such a sleeper genius writer so as to concoct this stratified script independently, but however this came into being in its finished form, it’s thrilling to behold. The Finchers self-consciously skewer the 1% Men At The Top just like Mank aimed to with Kane, and like that film, it was made possible by those very people (this movie only happened because of the Netflix empire’s willingness to grant Fincher’s vision), an irony that’s twisted further by the realization that neither film, and nothing out there, will affect such a system in an objective sense. Dangerous art might provoke our minds and hearts, and for that we can be eternally grateful, but just like Mank’s significance dwindles depending on perspective, so does the impact of art on the bigger picture. It’s a toxic dose of humility to swallow.

The era-specific score and cinematography emulations are as sensational as one would expect, and while I can understand why this film may leave some people feeling alienated by presenting as aloof and disengaging, that’s part of the point. The drama matches that of the movies, as does all the film language, and in a metacontextual manner we remain as removed from the enigmatic character as we were from Welles’ Kane, just as we are drawn in by all the narrative and stylistic flourishes in the same film. This may not be an easy film to love, but it’s one of the most intelligently-constructed films I can think of offhand, and one I hope will only reinforce its layers of brilliance upon returns.

Just like the sled was rooted in an emotional seed of yearning for the past that’s impossible to return to, Mank’s reason for writing the script is paradoxically sourced in resentment, exploding from a determinist failure to achieve personal and political idealism, culminating in an incident with those he feels furious at, and is powerless to contend with in any other way but his one skill and trade. The production of the script mirrors the shameful drunken rant from the past, that nevertheless succeeds at delivering sharp jabs with the spoken word, which half a decade later would be transformed into the written word, and transmitted into permanence via celluloid; a desperate attempt to make a change. What is meaningful: the attempt or the result? Fincher says both, but to what degree we must muse on in flexible terms.

The self-destructive nature of these actions feel like part-drawn from principles and part-grasp for martyrdom as a form of semi-conscious suicide. I respectfully disagree with those who take issue with the ending and find it out of step with the themes, as the desire for credit is crucial for the story the Finchers are telling: the existential need to exercise our agency to try to escape absolute impotence, and be more important and dignified than an organ grinder’s monkey. Isn’t this what we all want- to matter; to matter more than we do in the cosmic swamp of the amoral shining stars; to escape the parable Hearst defines him as under his thumb; to be independent from his shackled music box that is unconsciously sewn to his skin; to get what we feel we have “earned” when it’s possible that it may only mean something to us? Are we all rats in the traps of our own constructions, and if so, are those traps exactly what we set to give our lives the meaning the impartial world around us fails to do? If so, may we bless and curse the traps at once. And remember what Mank says at the very end: history can be changed through the magic of the movies. It can work both ways, and if one wants to take it at face value as a jolt to Welles they can, but that would be an empty purpose, too thematically inconsistent, and a false note to leave the film on; especially uncharacteristic for a perfectionist and smart provocateur (sound familiar? Is this partially a self-portrait or confession of an egoist both celebrating his own desires and orbiting the ambivalent, painful humility in acceptance of his value?) like Fincher to settle for simplification and dilute the power of such a complex work. Fincher has never been interested in doing this, and I don’t know why he would start now.

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knives
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#88 Post by knives » Sun Dec 06, 2020 8:38 am

I thought Henry Jaglom made a Safe Place?

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Roger Ryan
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#89 Post by Roger Ryan » Sun Dec 06, 2020 3:09 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Dec 06, 2020 12:14 am
... This may not be an easy film to love, but it’s one of the most intelligently-constructed films I can think of offhand, and one I hope will only reinforce its layers of brilliance upon returns...
This is quite high praise, and I can see that Mank has resonated with you considerably. I'm feeling that maybe I'm missing out on something because I found the film to be surprisingly slack. To me, the flashbacks appear almost arbitrarily and lack an impactful juxtaposition with the contemporary scenes of 1940. Mank really comes alive during all of the scenes involving the 1934 California gubernatorial race, but I feel the momentum becomes diluted every time we return to Mankiewicz in bed in Victorville. As the cinematography attempts to evoke Gregg Toland (it succeeds at being appealing the majority of the time, although the digitally-added lens flares were too precious for my tastes), the film's flashback structure appears to want to emulate Kane without having the sturdiness or excitement that Mankiewicz and Welles brought to that film. Watching Oldman make the most of his role (and he is good), I kept thinking of another film in which Oldman played a real-life writer. That film, Prick Up Your Ears (1987), had a really great screenplay (written by Alan Bennett) that seemed even more closely inspired by Kane by jumping around in time and having the story told from multiple perspectives. The result was dynamic. Mank, on the other hand, begins awkwardly, has numerous good scenes treated as flashbacks, and then peters out with an overly sentimental ending.

Part of the problem seems to be that the genesis of the Kane screenplay is simply not established properly and a viewer not familiar with the backstory will have difficulty understanding why the material is relevant to Mankiewicz. Mank creates a somewhat fictional version of the birth of the screenplay whereas I think a more historically accurate depiction would have been more dramatic and thematically consistent...
SpoilerShow
The film opens with Mankiewicz, Houseman, and secretary Rita Alexander arriving in Victorville to begin work on the Kane screenplay while suggesting that Welles is not involved because he is preoccupied with pre-production work on his adaptation of Heart of Darkness. In reality, the Heart of Darkness project, which Welles had hoped would be his debut as a feature film director/actor, had been cancelled months before Mankiewicz was hired to write the first draft of Kane (he had previously been on the Mercury Theater payroll writing episodes of Welles' Campbell Playhouse radio show). In the interim, Welles tried mounting a spy thriller which failed to get the green light from RKO and there was an urgency setting in to put something before the camera. Welles had liked the idea of doing a story of a powerful man told from multiple perspectives (something he had attempted with his John Brown stage play Marching Song six years earlier); Mankiewicz had the perfect subject for such a film: Hearst. If you'll excuse me for second-guessing the Finchers, I think an opening scene showing Welles bringing in Mankiewicz to develop a screenplay quickly, which both establishes Mankiewicz's insider knowledge of Hearst and the arrangement with Mercury Productions that he forgo a screenwriting credit, would go a long way to set up the film's central conflict and the theme of loyalty/disloyalty that is at the heart of Mank. It would also better prepare for the final confrontation scene between Mankiewicz and Welles at the end.
As mentioned in the post by "TheKieslowskiHaze", that ending now feels out-of-place with the rest of the film, and the little sentimental reveal
SpoilerShow
that Alexander's husband has survived
seems a real disservice to the film as a whole. A far better closing scene would be...
SpoilerShow
... Mankiewicz's drunken "update of Quixote" movie idea he spells out for Hearst's benefit followed by that magnificent "organ grinder's monkey" anecdote delivered so well by Dance.
I will say that Mank has really good performances throughout, especially from Oldman and Seyfried. I also thought Tom Burke did a great job as Welles, and wish he had more to do. As to Fincher's exacting eye, his 1930s Hollywood looks amazing. That drive through the streets of Tinseltown circa 1934 (presumably done with CGI) delighted me.

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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#90 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Dec 06, 2020 4:30 pm

Those are interesting criticisms though I don't think they're fair to the film the Finchers are trying to make, but I'm seeing that my interpretations of the themes are quite different than others', so I guess I'm just grateful I saw the film as I did. "Loyalty/disloyalty" doesn't seem nearly as thematically relevant as an individual's desperate need to be important. Mank makes wild bets, disrupts dinners, self-destructs constantly to make some mark on others, in order to fill the hole in himself. His ego is treated with empathy, and that ego trying to tread water in a sea of disloyalty is what I see more in this film. He gets small doses of grace in social reciprocity that makes him feel good about himself in his early talk with Marion Davies, but not enough to feel whole in the grand scheme of oppressive systems, that are going to make him feel oppressed- even outside of the specific politics- by the very nature of him being the role of the monkey in the parable. As for your alternate beginning with Welles coming to Mank with the story, which would establish his relationship with Hearst... well, that completely ruins the beauty of the film for me. Discovering the depths of his relationship as so emotionally tied to his existential powerlessness is the Rosebud of this story, and to me that would be like asking for Citizen Kane to be recut with a zoom-in on the sled's title in the first flashback, and then continue the narrative with the characters trying to discover what this mysterious Rosebud is, playing catchup with the audience's knowledge for two hours rather than engage us in the journey. My engagement with the film is almost entirely rooted around this gradual reveal of one's fragility of significance, a desire to be seen, heard, and important, and ultimately the film follows a similar trajectory to The Social Network's tragic crescendo, also through empathizing with the universal feelings evoked by an aloof protagonist.
SpoilerShow
I also actually really like the 'happy ending' with the reveal of Alexander's husband, and Mank and her, arms around each other, staring out and smiling. This final image in the narrative reinforces your typical Hollywood ending in its framing, to juxtapose with this thematic pathos. Fincher isn't making a wholly depressing film, but one that as I said before celebrates these moments, connections, successes, and also honors the devastation of our place in the big picture (other great examples are the screwbally harmonious writer's pitch with the group wielding their intelligence to von Sternberg, contrasted with the reality that the writers are taken for granted, impotent, and dispensable in this structure; or the earlier coin-flip high-stakes gambling fun with the later self-flagellating politics bet). It's beautiful to show a sweet moment, a good thing happen, and believe that these occur inside and outside the magic of the movies, and then insinuate the human tragedy of the traps we find ourselves in also occur in this movie and in real life. The quote of Mank falling into the "trap of my own construction" also acknowledges that, even though these systemic forces are objectively present, it's our inability to accept them that finds ourselves setting our own traps to fall into- self-fulfilling prophecies of tragedy born from an innate social drive to matter.

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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#91 Post by The Narrator Returns » Sun Dec 06, 2020 4:48 pm

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The two consecutive "happy" endings are maybe my most positive takeaways from this movie (which I really liked). The Alexander one especially, it ties so perfectly into the running theme of Mank being present for life-changing events and always having a quip ready but not actually doing anything about them (hence why Hearst can love his presence at his parties); in that last moment, he's fully reduced to the comic relief sidekick in the movie of his own life. I thought at first blush that the movie would've been stronger if it ended there, but I've come to love the Oscar coda as well, for how little the reward actually gives to Mank and for the unspoken irony of the genesis of the Oscars being Louis B. Mayer trying to crush Hollywood unions. Even when he thinks he's fought against his former employers, he still ends up in their pocket.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#92 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Dec 06, 2020 6:09 pm

FWIW, Ben Kenigsberg of the New York Times wrote a piece setting the record straight with participation from all sides.

An excerpt:
[Historian Harlan] Lebo, who has done his own analysis of the scripts and posted various versions of the screenplay online for easy comparison, noted that even the closest thing we have to a final script — the Museum of Modern Art, which holds one of two known copies of that draft, calls it the “Correction Script” — is still filled with strange things that didn’t end up in the movie.

“The final film is not really at all like the final script,” he said. “Every script goes through revisions during production, but this one much more than most, and what Orson Welles did to it, probably literally at the last second during production — just as he did with his theater productions — that’s what made the movie the movie we remember today.”

...

While [Mank producer Douglas] Urbanski said that Kael’s argument had been discredited by historians, he added: “You could equally say that our film is 100 percent accurate if, and here’s the if, you accept that you’re looking at it through Herman Mankiewicz’s alcoholic perspective, because that changes everything.” Mankiewicz, he said, was the “motor” of a movie that functions on several layers.

McBride, who defended moviemakers’ right to dramatic leeway, nevertheless views Mank as a gross distortion and a missed opportunity to capture what was already an interesting relationship between Mankiewicz and Welles.

“They both worked on it, they both contributed their talents and they were better working together than they were alone,” he said. “You could show that. It wouldn’t detract from Mankiewicz’s genius and Welles’s genius.”

To Fincher, the point of Mank isn’t who wrote what. He said through a representative: “It was not my interest to make a movie about a posthumous credit arbitration. I was interested in making a movie about a man who agreed not to take any credit. And who then changed his mind. That was interesting to me.”

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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#93 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Dec 06, 2020 6:35 pm

Thanks hearthesilence, I really like that reading, particularly the "alcoholic perspective" I tried to touch on above, which is really expanded into the human rollercoaster of comfort in the complacency and passivity of doing the grind, and then soberly confronting the uncomfortable truth in our desire to mean something and the limitations of that need.

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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#94 Post by TheKieslowskiHaze » Sun Dec 06, 2020 7:46 pm

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I liked that Alexander letter scene, actually. In a movie heavy with clever dialogue and unsubtle insider politics, I wish it had more genuine character moments like that. Ditto the scene when Mank claims to be washed up, and his brother (who has made it clear that Mank should not have written American) responds by telling Mank that "American" is the best thing he's ever written. One of my problems with Mank is that it too often feels like an essay rather than a film, but those moments stand out for seeming genuine.

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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#95 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:01 pm

TheKieslowskiHaze wrote:
Sun Dec 06, 2020 7:46 pm
One of my problems with Mank is that it too often feels like an essay rather than a film, but those moments stand out for seeming genuine.
I agree with this in the context that we're accustomed to being fed prompts to understand characters and feel emotion, which is another clever contrast whereby Fincer uses film language to give us carbon-copies of what we expect from history including the cozy aspects, and also distance us from the idea that we can 'know' anyone, which only cements their own loneliness (just like Mank and Welles did for Kane). There's something very genuine and humanistic about these isolating effects, even if they may cause the viewer to need to do more work to escape this alienation via meeting it on its level of truth. I suspect this will be the most divisive Fincher film, and it's certainly his most challenging film to like, but I find a warmth in the feeling of humility we get from a distance.

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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#96 Post by TheKieslowskiHaze » Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:10 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:01 pm
I agree with this in the context that we're accustomed to being fed prompts to understand characters and feel emotion, which is another clever contrast whereby Fincer uses film language to give us carbon-copies of what we expect from history including the cozy aspects, and also distance us from the idea that we can 'know' anyone, which only cements their own loneliness (just like Mank and Welles did for Kane). There's something very genuine and humanistic about these isolating effects, even if they may cause the viewer to need to do more work to escape this alienation via meeting it on its level of truth. I suspect this will be the most divisive Fincher film, and it's certainly his most challenging film to like, but I find a warmth in the feeling of humility we get from a distance.
I guess I wish I saw the amount of complexity and ambiguity in Mank as it seems you did. I saw pretty clear indignation for an unfair system and equally clear hagiography for the guy fighting that system.
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For example, scenes with Louis B. Mayer grabbing his crotch during an aggressive walk-and-talk (followed by a grift of his own employees) pretty obviously telegraphs to us that he, and the system he represents, is "bad." Whereas expository dialogue about how Mank saved an entire village of Germans from WWII (worst scene in the film, if you don't count the coda) obviously telegraphs to us that Mank is "good." Subplots regarding Mank's moral complexity (e.g. his screenplay's making collateral damage of his friend, Marion Davies) are under-explored.
I wouldn't say this is a major failing of the movie; the indignation feels passionate, knowledgeable, and on-point. It was fun to watch. It had interesting things to say. I just wouldn't rank it up there with Zodiac and The Social Network, though it's definitely better than The Game (and I don't care what Slant Magazine says about that).

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swo17
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#97 Post by swo17 » Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:25 am

Button above Gone Girl? :shock:

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#98 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:42 am

TheKieslowskiHaze wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:10 am
I guess I wish I saw the amount of complexity and ambiguity in Mank as it seems you did. I saw pretty clear indignation for an unfair system and equally clear hagiography for the guy fighting that system.
I saw this as well, but the latter point is only half of the coin. I'm surprised you felt like it was an equally-simplistic split dichotomy where Mank was afforded such black-and-white hagiography, rather than a presentation of two contrasting truths that are not mutually exclusive: that he should be celebrated, but that he also struggles out of self-pity from not accepting life on life's terms. It's not a call for surrender, but it's a realistic look at the self-destruction and, worse, potential insignificance in fighting one's place as an organ grinder's monkey. I thought this was pretty clear, and even the famous "trap" quote at the end is included to hammer it home, though Fincher sees this tragedy with empathy when he admits the impartial systems, and a neutral sense of dogmatic justice, won't.
TheKieslowskiHaze wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:10 am
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For example, scenes with Louis B. Mayer grabbing his crotch during an aggressive walk-and-talk (followed by a grift of his own employees) pretty obviously telegraphs to us that he, and the system he represents, is "bad." Whereas expository dialogue about how Mank saved an entire village of Germans from WWII (worst scene in the film, if you don't count the coda) obviously telegraphs to us that Mank is "good." Subplots regarding Mank's moral complexity (e.g. his screenplay's making collateral damage of his friend, Marion Davies) are under-explored.
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Again, I think you're totally right on your first point, because Fincher isn't interested in exploring the humanity of the Mayers, but again I think you're being unfair to the info-drop of Mank saving the family. It's not merely to telegraph to us that Mank is "good" (though it is playing into that exact type of scene from The Movies on a self-reflexive level), but it communicates that man's greatest accomplishments often go unreported, unnoticed, and that this both matters exponentially and also not at all. There's a tragedy in how publicly brief and insignificant this act is, in the narrative of the film and in real life, for how little of an effect it had on Mank's life and how it fits as a small pin on a man who spent the majority of his existence boozing, gambling, and losing. It's no coincidence that the first three flashbacks involve him powerless and unglamorous: the first drunk, unable to take off his clothes or say anything smart, with his wife unable to rationalize why she puts up with him, an early signal at the many hours he wasted in his own and others' lives; the second with him unable to stop a car accident, victim of the forces beyond his control; the third gambling stupidly, relatively 'innocent' here but a sign to come for the late-act gamble that affects his wife greatly as a hostage along for the lifelong ride of suffering Mank's defects (Poor Sara indeed). Life would be a lot easier if it was like the movies and we could do one good thing and be labeled "good," but this film isn't interested in doing that. It's interested in people who want that, which is most of us.

I can also respect the frustrations with how under-explored some of these elements we want are- though this feels like both a reflection of Kane's own narrative, and some modesty in showing us a few digestible, yet detached, scenes to appreciate Mank's character without spoonfeeding us the koolaid into believing he was this blanket-"good" hero. That would cause us to turn our peripheral vision off to the external milieu which plays a huge role in his limitations and objectively right-sized importance. So these very scenes you dislike are the reasons why Fincher is rejecting that "good" vs "bad" reading.
This isn’t my favorite Fincher either, but c'mon now, he didn't suddenly decide to paint two-dimensional characters and make his first-ever thematically-streamlined film after a six-year hiatus.

In fact, the theme of a man (or woman) desperately vying to matter against a cold and ignorant society is woven throughout Fincher’s filmography, from Jack finding solace in the self-help meetings to a couple serial killers demanding attention to a gone girl willing to make a mark even through death to Zuckerberg’s drive to belong through conformist selfishness, which ends with its own similar Rosebud.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#99 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Dec 07, 2020 1:48 am

swo17 wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:25 am
Button above Gone Girl? :shock:
I wasn't a fan of either, but I'd be tempted to do the same. At least in memory, there's a poignancy in Button that wasn't completely lost in its sentimental drivel, so I can appreciate it for that, but Gone Girl seemed too much like cheap cynicism.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

#100 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Dec 07, 2020 2:35 am

I just rewatched this again with the subtitles on, which revealed many more clever inserts, gags, and self-reflexive information as expected. A key scene stuck out this time that reinforced my reading
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when Irving explains the grey world to Mank in the "I know what I am" speech, he punctures a brutal truth in Mank's character by essentially declaring that his silly, erratic behavior is contradictory to him pretending to be "above the fray," and that his refusal to accept his is synonymous with a lack of action in step with his beliefs. Of course we've seen Mank poke the bear and show care, and this propels Mank into chasing after Marion in the Good Guy heroic role, but as hearthesilence's linked article upthread states, this is subjectively in his own mind and heart as reflected in Fincher's vision (yet still all fizzles out in the inept stupid gesture of the election night bet). Even if Irving is the "bad" guy in Mank's story, there's a bitter authenticity in his statement of admission via self-awareness that skewers Mank for his self-delusion. That doesn't mean we should like Mank less, of course, but it does make things a bit grayer than they are in Mank's fantasies of his golden credibility.

I also love how Mank's genuine compassion for his micro-circle in Marion and Shelly is contrasted with the sacrifice of the former's friendship for a chip on his shoulder from the past that threatened his ego (which upon another watch is even more obviously the most pathetic anticlimax, a drunken rant born of frailty without the power imagined in the alcoholic's mind). The source of his drive is validated by Fincher, but it's a very conservative and bold move to appreciate this self-gratification complex side-by-side with empathy.

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