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Mank

Mank is a film of loving but never hagiographic homage. Shot in pin sharp monochrome and with titles that mimic those of the 1930s, David Fincher’s investigative portrait of screenwriter Herman ‘Mank’ Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) dives into the complex bravado of classic Hollywood with the director’s trademark precision. Working from a screenplay by his father Jack, Fincher’s film is not to be taken as truth and indeed draws attention to its status as artifice and creation. This is appropriate as the narrative follows Mank’s creation of what would become Citizen Kane, interspersed with Mank’s encounters with Hollywood heavyweights including Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard), Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), David O. Selznick (Toby Leonard Moore) and, of course, William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and Orson Welles (Tom Burke). This fragmentary structure echoes Fincher’s earlier work such as The Social Network and Gone Girl, as well as Kane itself. Like those films the storytelling is impeccable, as Trent Rezvor and Atticus Ross’ score blends with Kirk Baxter’s editing with an elegance comparable to Mank’s writing if not the man himself, a thoroughly sozzled protagonist who bumbles from one social embarrassment to the next. Oldman is electrifying in the lead role, he and the rest of the cast performing like characters from the 30s, and the film’s attention to artifice suggests that the personas we see are themselves performances and remnants of the real people are somewhere inside. This gives the film a bittersweet taste and, while much of it is humorous, come the end there is a genuine sense of pathos and indeed bathos for the balance between creativity with conscience. 

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