Monday, 15 February 2021

David at the movies: Alcohol-fueled masterpiece




Always a joy to see a new black-and-white movie. Mank has luminous cinematography – the best I can recall since Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon (1973). It’s a “Making-of” story, or more precisely a “Writing of” story about Herman Mancievicz’s writing of the screenplay for Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane, which was to win "Mank" an Oscar in 1941.

Gary Oldman’s Mank writes in a booze-filled haze, drawing on memories of his years of friendship with William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and the magnate's mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) to create cruel parodies of them in his script. Orson Welles (Tom Burke) makes only a small contri-bution to the writing process, we’re told, although he shared the Best Original Screenplay award, the only Oscar Kane won despite going on to be hailed as a movie masterpiece.

Like the 1930s pictures it evokes, Mank is very theatrical, more talk than action. Oldman is at his seedy and brilliant best, and Seyfried invests Marion Davies with more depth (and talent) than she is usually credited. Writer/director Jack Fincher gloriously recreates the spirit and the texture of the era of Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg, Hollywood’s Golden Age. A splendid tribute to a high spot in cinema history.

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