Mank ★★★★½

You cannot reduce a man to a word, and you also cannot reduce a film to a man. It is impossible to capture all that is Citizen Kane within the story of one man. Mank is not about Citizen Kane, it is about the world of Herman J. Mankiewicz, and that world is one of wealth and infamy, politics and art, power and control. The intersection of all media cynically converges on the powerful, who manufacture any narrative they want. In an ironic sense, Mank is metatextually a part of that. It is based on a lie by vindictive hack Pauline Kael, and if Mank falters, it only does so in the final ten minutes when it treats her position more seriously than anyone should. Though, beyond even that, we should not treat Mank as the true story. It is not. Yet it does gives new perspectives on Citizen Kane and the cooking pot of influences that factored into its creation.

Mank doesn't talk down to its audience, expecting dedication and intelligence from us as the film picks apart 1930s politics through the lens of classical Hollywood. The film is exposition heavy, but no amount of exposition could explain all the context, references, and history. Instead Mank becomes a swirl of dialogue that never loses steam and always has soul. The film has a structural approach reminiscent of Citizen Kane, used to build a portrait of Mankiewicz and his time similar to how Kane explored its titular character. However Mank is truly made perfect by its intoxicating style. It completely feels like a facsimile of a 1930s film, yet it plays itself more dynamically. This is a fully heightened sensory experience, and deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible. Every second is immersive and hypnotic.

To some extent Mank is a bag of screenwriting tricks, but that is just right for this project. All the funny moments and dramatic tropes are part of the examination of filmmaking, because this isn't about reality, it's about a dream of how the life of one Herman J. Mankiewicz collided into a place where he could co-write one of the greatest stories ever told. Despite its biased narrative, the screenplay of Mank is almost perfect. Mank is not top tier Fincher at all, and likely his weakest film in over a decade, but it is a masterful examination of time and the forces of man. It is, like Citizen Kane, a perfect combination of screenplay and style. Cinema is lies at 24 frames a second, yet Mank makes those lies into something truly special.

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