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‘Mank’ is a top-notch tale of old Hollywood’s plans and dreams

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Mank

Rated R. In Kendall Square Cinema on November 20 and streaming on Netflix on December 4

Grade: A

Mank’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood meets Citizen Kane.

The monaural black-and-white, big-screen bio-film tells two love stories: that between legendary screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) and his screenplay for Citizen Kane; and between director David Fincher and Hollywood legend and lore.

Mankiewicz just broke his leg badly when we meet him. The film, which was written by Fincher’s late father Jack, is a maze of Kane-ian memories based on true Hollywood history and starring the most important and dominant figures of the 1930s.

Among these are the demonic gnome and MGM chef Louis B. Mayer (a delicious Arliss Howard), 24-year-old prodigy Orson Welles (Englishman Tom Burke), to whom producer David O gave full freedom to make the film he likes. Selznick; the genius of the scheming boy Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley); William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and his mistress and queen of his pacific coast castle dispatched from Europe, the charming down-to-earth Marion Davies (an ever better Amanda Seyfried).

Arliss Howard as Louis B. Mayer and Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst in the movie “Mank”. (Netflix / TNS)

The movie begs the question: RKO Pictures producer Selznick (Toby Leonard Moore), Welles and Mankiewicz, who was head of Paramount’s screenwriting department and made $ 5,000 a week during the Depression, will get their thinly veiled fictional biography and shockingly accurate of Hearst on screen?

We know the answer, of course. But his portrayal in the film is a fascinating descent down a 1930s Hollywood rabbit hole, where even the 1934 gubernatorial race between Republican Frank Mirriam and Bernie Sanders, Democrat, socialist and Jungle author Upton Sinclair took place. reveals to be a dry match between Mankiewicz and the film industry’s power brokers, Hearst included, who all back the Republican. Mank supports Sinclair, victim of dirty studio tricks.

Mank, the flawed and lovable genius of the film, spends most of the film in bed in a large cast on a ranch in the Mojave Desert, where he was sent by Welles to complete the script in 60 days, a difficult quest, and, yes, Don Quixote will be invoked. Welles thinks Mankiewicz, an alcoholic, won’t drink alcohol in boonies, which are dry. But Mankiewicz can, and he can drink and write at the same time. He does so with the help of his young British secretary Rita Alexander (Lily Collins), whose missing husband is in the RAF; and cook and physiotherapist Fraulein Frieda (Monika Gossmann), an immigrant from Germany, who owes a secret debt to the writer. Hitler is darkly hooked on the debates even as far west as Los Angeles through terrible movie news.

Numerous witty and whipping literary monologues are delivered as the characters stroll through richly reconstructed period studios teeming with life, a hectare table in Hearst’s San Simeon (the home base of Citizen Kane’s’ Xanadu ), and the land and gardens of the same pseudo-Versailles, with monkeys, elephants and giraffes. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provide the music as usual. Tuppence Middleton is wonderful as Mank’s ironic and funny wife, Sara. A few years after a definitive Winston Churchill, Oldman puts the Mankiewicz in Mank. Magnificent.

(Mank contains profanity, obscene references and drug addiction)

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