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Obvious hint: your viewing of Mank will be more fruitful if you've watched Citizen Kane beforehand or remember enough about the film and its background story especially. There are a few clear references. It will pay off even more if you're acustomed to the studio system, 1940s and the depression era and it helps to be familiar with certain figures of early Hollywood; but it shouldn't be necessary to enjoy the film.
Having watched Citizen Kane the same evening, I do have the impression that David Fincher succeeds in reproducing a 1940s look with wonderful contrast and lighting. From a technical standpoint, it's often marvelous.
Citizen Kane being such a technical and historically important masterpiece, but not very emotionally responsive, I felt Mank came off even at least as cold while featuring similarly volatile timelines. A bit like if Zodiac was a 1940 biopic, only less thrilling.
With such viewing experiences, I often ask myself if I failed as a watcher or the director failed to properly engage me. I'd guess a rewatch would tell and await other opinions until then.
There were so many good elements, put together without much cohesion. For one, the movie absolutely does not stand on its own. I don't expect how anyone who hasn't seen Citizen Kane could possibly care about this movie. It certainly doesn't give you a reason to.
It never leads up to anything. There's no real good placemarkers or turning points or anything. He's just alcoholic and writing and then out of nowhere the movie is done and he gets an Oscar. It's actually very frustrating how little mention there even is of Citizen Kane itself. So even if you have seen Citizen Kane, it's not that satisfying.
Amazing performances, just wish they were presented better.
Classic film lovers (like me) are going to love all the cameos and references, that go from Chaplin to Cedric Gibbons. But as a whole, the film is very uneven. Technically impeccable, as expected from Fincher, but this is one of his weakest.
The biggest fault is the lack of focus. I couldn’t say what the movie was about other than “these things happened to this person” (a common problem with biopics). Maybe it’s about the unromantic portrayal of classic Hollywood, showing it as the manipulative machine that was and still is. But that is just one aspect of the film. Overall, there's no momentum. The middle of the movie about the election takes too much time, and it finishes with something that feels like a true climax. But after that, there's still half an hour to go, and we are left waiting for something to happen, and when it does it's just Gary Oldman ranting bit by bit through the plot of Kane in front of Hearst. We already got the idea, we don't need that. And then, the movie just sort of stops.
The film’s biggest punches are reserved, not for Hearst, but for L. B. Mayer who is portrayed as a disgusting and massive hypocrite. But the former was the target in real life, so this made him look almost as a side figure when he was not. Weird!
After drunk and high Sid Vicious; and old and cranky Churchill, this felt kinda automatic for Oldman. He was good but nothing we haven’t seen before. My favorite was Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies. Finally she’s shown as the happy-go-lucky character that is described in all those documentaries. As for Lily Collins, "she's there" at the beginning, but pretty much disappears in the second half.
The scene headings were kinda neat at the beginning but annoying as hell after 20 minutes (and they never stopped!). Also the coming and going between time periods always ended up interrupting the drama.
Mank isn’t entirely bad but it feels like wasted potential.
And I don’t know if there’s ever been any serious consideration for the debate about the writing credit of Kane but in the end Herman got his credit and his Oscar. At the same time, what Orson did without Mank's input, is so big and powerful, that I think he's unquestionably the biggest force behind the movie (and after that, he kept showing that he wasn’t a fluke). Orson’s on-screen credit as director and producer in Citizen Kane is shared with Gregg Toland as cinematographer. I guess that shows the collaborator that Orson thought as his most essential throughout the whole thing. By the way, Tom Burke as Welles pales against the portrayals by Christian McKay and Vincent D'Onofrio. It would have been better if he was left off screen. Orson’s aura should have been enough but I guess the movie wanted to make a point by showing him as a petty man. Maybe Fincher should've given a writing credit to Pauline Kael.
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #123 in Academy Award - Best Cinematography
This movie ranks #569 in Academy Award - Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #570 in TSPDT's 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films