Mank (12, 131 Minutes)
It is almost mandatory for an exceptional film to be crafted in the flames of despair. Problems plague large productions and, as years pass, they become the stuff of legend.
Ctitizen Kane is considered by many to be the best film of all time. But so little is known, particularly in my case, of its origins.
We know the basics – epic drama led by perhaps the most infamous man in Hollywood: Orson Welles, thespian extraordinaire and legend in himself. Metaphors wrapped in mise-en-scene, exceptional cinematography and a script written, as I believed, by Welles.
But what a fool I was not to know, after three years at film school, that the golden man of Hollywood was not the sole, credited writer of Citizen Kane, though I’m no stranger to battles over creative control. Believe me, it can get ugly even with your first, silly little low-budget flicks.
And that’s what Mank is about. The creative process for the Oscar snatching film which focuses less on Welles and more his co-writer, Herman J. Mankiewicz. Fresh from having his credit on The Wizard of Oz withdrawn, the sex and booze loving Mank is left bedbound with a broken leg after a horrendous car accident and has little in the pipeline.
That is until Welles visits him with a proposition. Mank is hired as a ‘script doctor’ for the star’s magnum opus. The film follows Mank’s process as he races to reach draft deadlines and creates characters based on family, friends and enemies. The argument over who really wrote the picture is still a big thing today, and I’m rather appalled not to have encountered the controversy before.
David Fincher is one of the biggest auteurs in modern cinema. He has an excellent eye for every element that makes a film great. I hold his previous hits, such as Gone Girl and Zodiac, in very high regard and Mank is no exception. Gary Oldman gives us, as always, a masterclass. There’s no doubt in my mind the actor will find himself nominated for an Oscar, only three years since his triumph as Winston Churchill.
Other faces standing out include Amanda Seyfried in an uncanny, and very cute portrayal of Marion Davies, Lily Collins as Mank’s secretary Rita Alexander (if you know Citizen Kane, I’m sure you’ll note who the female lead derives from) and, most exceptionally, Tom Burke as Orson Welles.
After a stint in Ibsen’s Rosmersholm last year, this is a big step up for the actor and his portrayal of Welles is frighteningly spot on. You may also know Burke for his role as one-legged detective Strike.
The biggest take away from the film, however, is the fact that instead of writing his own script, as is usual in the case of Fincher, he has instead opted to use one his father Jack wrote in 2003, prior to his death.
Undoubtedly, the driving force behind this film isn’t the debate regarding which of the two men actually wrote Kane, but rather the test of their friendship. This is another grand example of Fincher’s Midas touch and will, without a doubt, sweep up the Oscars.
In a year where there may be a lack of competition, a clear winner has reared its head.