The Frickin' Little Circle: Mank

REVIEW/SHOTS
by Naya Guseva, Sandra Kuznetsova,
Anastasia Ageeva
20.12.2020
To whom it may concern,

As our editorial team tends to focus on points that no one else notes, we feel obliged to explain the unfamiliar name of the Round Table's column this time. For about two days we've speculated about a circle appearing in the top right corner of the film every 15 minutes.

Unraveling: Mank (2020) is completely stylised for the Hollywood 40s, and back in those times the length of the film was 15 minutes on average. Such spots were called 'cigarette burns' and indicated when to switch the film on.

Naya Guseva
I have been waiting for Mank since it was first announced. The waiting period had faith, hope and fear in it. I was confident that David Fincher, who is the one and only for me, could not let us down. I hoped that a mixture of Fincher's father's script, a biography of a Hollywood hero and a stylisation of the old days would be a great cocktail. And I was afraid to set high expectations – so far no picture I've waited for with a huff has collected the bingo.

But Fincher once again reminds us of his virtuosity and makes a real-life story of Herman Mankiewicz – the unannoying character whose extravagance contrasts with the colourless film. I don't know how, but with each film Fincher manages to beat an emotion out of me – I didn't know it even existed. Mank reminded me that I shouldn't care about others' opinions about my work. And I don't give a damn about money, so did Mankiewicz, for whom the main thing was to convey the meaning to the viewer, even without mentioning his name in the credits.

For some this film is bound to seem boring, but for me it was two hours of peace. It was as if I was made aware that there are people who have pursued the same journey against all odds – and even achieved the desired success. All the phantasmagoria happening on the screen somehow reassures me: I am not the only one who is blindly pursuing the goal, ignoring my well-being and the outside world.

Disregarding the conflicting interests of dozens of characters aside, David Fincher has managed to create one of the best films about how great cinema is made – always in spite of, not because of. Every film that happens and sounds decades later is the collective magic of hundreds of people of varying giftedness, created in the gaps between monetary settlements, bad habits, broken relationships, gossips and failed encounters. Each customer imagines himself as an organ-grinder, keeping obedient artistic monkeys on a leash.
Sandra Kuznetsova
First of all, I want to say that Mank is a film for a rather specific audience which is aware of this story at least in general terms. To understand what the scenario is about you need to watch not just one movie, but two, at least to appreciate how similar Mank is to Citizen Kane (1941) – a black-and-white movie shot in the form of flashbacks.

Mank is an abundance of names, dates, places, circumstances, and details that only confuse the untrained viewer (and the prepared one, too). Hitler, Governor of California election ( it is not clear what kind of election it is though), the Great Depression... Constantly appearing to people to whom the viewer hasn't been introduced, they disappear just as quickly, only to show up again when the viewer has already forgotten about them.

Everything is quite chaotic, incomprehensible and... untrue. In my opinion, there are too many scenario fictions in the film. Of course, they are bright and dramatic, they add some spice to the story, but this is not true, and this is what can and will mislead the audience. On the one hand, the film does not claim to be a complete biopic. Whatever the media says. You generally should not trust even those films that present themselves as true biopics entirely. Sadly, the concept of truthfulness is apparently not appreciated in the movie. On the other hand, the director is so skillful in pretending to be trustworthy that after watching the movie you don't think about checking the facts. But maybe you should.

For example, the fact that Herman Mankiewicz was an avid gambler and really had problems with alcohol is true. He actually once bet $1,000 in a heads-and-tails game and lost everything. And the car accident that resulted in a broken leg is also from real life. As well as the fact that Louis B. Mayer halved the salary of Studio employees during the banking crisis of 1933; then Mank was against the formation of the screenwriting Union and the screenwriters Guild. There is also one controversial fact about Orson Welles offering Mankiewicz $10,000 to keep his name out of the film's credits. These rumors come from the article 'Raising Kane' by Pauline Kael (The first part and the second part. The site will try to prevent you from reading the second part, but you can still do it). It is relatively true that the scene in which Mankiewicz makes a note in his notebook after Orson Welles throws a box of cigarettes and bottles against the wall. A similar episode became a part of Citizen Kane, but Mank spied it under very different circumstances and much earlier – Welles threw a lit primus at John Housman the same way when something enraged him in the kitchen of the Victorville ranch. That's where the truth in this movie ends.

First of all, Mank didn't save an entire German village. What a nonsense. Of course, German Jew by nationality, he helped some emigrants move and settle in America, but that's it.

Almost everything related to the election in the film is not true. Mank was a conservative, and there is no evidence that he had any sympathy for democratic gubernatorial contender Upton Sinclair. In the film, the character refuses to sponsor the anti-Sinclair foundation, but in reality it was exactly the opposite – Mankiewicz, like most Hollywood figures, voluntarily donated money to the gubernatorial campaign of the incumbent Republican governor Frank Merriam. And, of course, Mank didn't make any bets about the outcome of the gubernatorial election with Mayer and Thalberg. It is also not true that Irving Thalberg was inspired to make political videos by Mank. In those videos different people were asked whom they would vote for and whether people who spoke for Merriam were real and whether those supporting Sinclair were the actors who played ragamuffins. None of the memoirs mention that Mank even spoke about his attitude to the pro-Sinclair fake videos. This was not a very elegant parallel between Hearst, who sponsored these videos, and the main character of Citizen Kane. None of Mank's close friends who participated in the shooting also regretted what they had done. The director of these videos, Shelly Metcalf, is a fictional character. In fact, no one suffered from remorse or shot themselves after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. On the contrary, for the real director Felix Feist Jr. these sketches were the first steps in big movies.

In the film Mank tries to persuade Marion Davis to influence the release of these videos. In fact, Davis left MGM for Warner Bros after the videos were first shown, and she was not involved in it in any way. As well as in the release of Citizen Kane. There is nothing about her request not to release the film in Mankiewicz's diaries or in Davis' own memoirs "The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Hearst". Moreover, she writes that she did not read the script and did not watch the film when it was released. However, she did treat Hearst with the same tenderness that was shown in the movie, and the moment with the sale of jewelry (as well as shares and bonds) to save Hearst from bankruptcy is also true.

Finally, the climactic scene of the entire film – where Mank throws out his idea of Citizen Kane to Hearst's guests, and then Hearst politely tells him the parable about the monkey – is just another figment. Certainly a very successful one, but still fiction.

I must say that the film's many inconsistencies do not make it a bad one from the script or the director's point of view. It's still a movie by both Finchers, with all their charm. However, I think they had to realize that after watching their film people might believe in everything that was shown. Changes on this scale require at least some hints on the fact that more than a half of the film is based on the screenwriter's imagination.
Anastasia Ageeva
The screenwriter Herman Mankevich is, indeed, not the most pleasant character (and, maybe, even a person). He is an alcoholic addicted to gambling of any kind, and he will never do what others expect from him. He always swims against the tide, as Louis Meyer says. But what people do expect sometimes hurts and insults them. Mank is so witty that it doesn't benefit him. "My tongue is my enemy," the famous Russian proverb fits his life credo accurately.

So why did David Fincher shoot Mank? Just because it was his father's idle script? Does he hide his features as a director? Not at all. Undoubtedly, this is a very personal film where Fincher openly demonstrates his attitude towards Hollywood. But not the classic Hollywood, but the contemporary one, the one that has not gone far from the 1930s in its capitalist actions.

Mank takes revenge on his offenders in an extremely elegant and sophisticated way. He equips the characters of Orson Wells' future film with the qualities of real people who, in Mank's opinion, treated him quite harshly. His mind should be applauded. By the age of 43 (although until the very end we believed he was older), he had accumulated such an amount of knowledge that he still makes references to Bible allegories being drunk as a skunk. Herman is aware of the entire inner kitchen of this cinema world, despising and not allowing it to dictate him what to do. It turns out that even a person who is so smart in some areas can be completely helpless in others.

Mank is about the relationship between the system and the man placed in it, about the game of tennis where victory will change hands all the time. But there is still joy for those who watch. So, the goal is achieved.
 
The Frickin' Little Circle: Mank
REVIEW/SHOTS
by Naya Guseva, Sandra Kuznetsova,
Anastasia Ageeva
20.12.2020
To whom it may concern,

As our editorial team tends to focus on points that no one else notes, we feel obliged to explain the unfamiliar name of the Round Table's column this time. For about two days we've speculated about a circle appearing in the top right corner of the film every 15 minutes.

Unraveling: Mank (2020) is completely stylised for the Hollywood 40s, and back in those times the length of the film was 15 minutes on average. Such spots were called 'cigarette burns' and indicated when to switch the film on.
Naya Guseva
I have been waiting for Mank since it was first announced. The waiting period had faith, hope and fear in it. I was confident that David Fincher, who is the one and only for me, could not let us down. I hoped that a mixture of Fincher's father's script, a biography of a Hollywood hero and a stylisation of the old days would be a great cocktail. And I was afraid to set high expectations – so far no picture I've waited for with a huff has collected the bingo.

But Fincher once again reminds us of his virtuosity and makes a real-life story of Herman Mankiewicz – the unannoying character whose extravagance contrasts with the colourless film. I don't know how, but with each film Fincher manages to beat an emotion out of me – I didn't know it even existed. Mank reminded me that I shouldn't care about others' opinions about my work. And I don't give a damn about money, so did Mankiewicz, for whom the main thing was to convey the meaning to the viewer, even without mentioning his name in the credits.

For some this film is bound to seem boring, but for me it was two hours of peace. It was as if I was made aware that there are people who have pursued the same journey against all odds – and even achieved the desired success. All the phantasmagoria happening on the screen somehow reassures me: I am not the only one who is blindly pursuing the goal, ignoring my well-being and the outside world.

Disregarding the conflicting interests of dozens of characters aside, David Fincher has managed to create one of the best films about how great cinema is made – always in spite of, not because of. Every film that happens and sounds decades later is the collective magic of hundreds of people of varying giftedness, created in the gaps between monetary settlements, bad habits, broken relationships, gossips and failed encounters. Each customer imagines himself as an organ-grinder, keeping obedient artistic monkeys on a leash.
Sandra Kuznetsova
First of all, I want to say that Mank is a film for a rather specific audience which is aware of this story at least in general terms. To understand what the scenario is about you need to watch not just one movie, but two, at least to appreciate how similar Mank is to Citizen Kane (1941) – a black-and-white movie shot in the form of flashbacks.

Mank is an abundance of names, dates, places, circumstances, and details that only confuse the untrained viewer (and the prepared one, too). Hitler, Governor of California election ( it is not clear what kind of election it is though), the Great Depression... Constantly appearing to people to whom the viewer hasn't been introduced, they disappear just as quickly, only to show up again when the viewer has already forgotten about them.

Everything is quite chaotic, incomprehensible and... untrue. In my opinion, there are too many scenario fictions in the film. Of course, they are bright and dramatic, they add some spice to the story, but this is not true, and this is what can and will mislead the audience. On the one hand, the film does not claim to be a complete biopic. Whatever the media says. You generally should not trust even those films that present themselves as true biopics entirely. Sadly, the concept of truthfulness is apparently not appreciated in the movie. On the other hand, the director is so skillful in pretending to be trustworthy that after watching the movie you don't think about checking the facts. But maybe you should.

For example, the fact that Herman Mankiewicz was an avid gambler and really had problems with alcohol is true. He actually once bet $1,000 in a heads-and-tails game and lost everything. And the car accident that resulted in a broken leg is also from real life. As well as the fact that Louis B. Mayer halved the salary of Studio employees during the banking crisis of 1933; then Mank was against the formation of the screenwriting Union and the screenwriters Guild. There is also one controversial fact about Orson Welles offering Mankiewicz $10,000 to keep his name out of the film's credits. These rumors come from the article 'Raising Kane' by Pauline Kael (The first part and the second part. The site will try to prevent you from reading the second part, but you can still do it). It is relatively true that the scene in which Mankiewicz makes a note in his notebook after Orson Welles throws a box of cigarettes and bottles against the wall. A similar episode became a part of Citizen Kane, but Mank spied it under very different circumstances and much earlier – Welles threw a lit primus at John Housman the same way when something enraged him in the kitchen of the Victorville ranch. That's where the truth in this movie ends.

First of all, Mank didn't save an entire German village. What a nonsense. Of course, German Jew by nationality, he helped some emigrants move and settle in America, but that's it.

Almost everything related to the election in the film is not true. Mank was a conservative, and there is no evidence that he had any sympathy for democratic gubernatorial contender Upton Sinclair. In the film, the character refuses to sponsor the anti-Sinclair foundation, but in reality it was exactly the opposite – Mankiewicz, like most Hollywood figures, voluntarily donated money to the gubernatorial campaign of the incumbent Republican governor Frank Merriam. And, of course, Mank didn't make any bets about the outcome of the gubernatorial election with Mayer and Thalberg. It is also not true that Irving Thalberg was inspired to make political videos by Mank. In those videos different people were asked whom they would vote for and whether people who spoke for Merriam were real and whether those supporting Sinclair were the actors who played ragamuffins. None of the memoirs mention that Mank even spoke about his attitude to the pro-Sinclair fake videos. This was not a very elegant parallel between Hearst, who sponsored these videos, and the main character of Citizen Kane. None of Mank's close friends who participated in the shooting also regretted what they had done. The director of these videos, Shelly Metcalf, is a fictional character. In fact, no one suffered from remorse or shot themselves after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. On the contrary, for the real director Felix Feist Jr. these sketches were the first steps in big movies.

In the film Mank tries to persuade Marion Davis to influence the release of these videos. In fact, Davis left MGM for Warner Bros after the videos were first shown, and she was not involved in it in any way. As well as in the release of Citizen Kane. There is nothing about her request not to release the film in Mankiewicz's diaries or in Davis' own memoirs "The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Hearst". Moreover, she writes that she did not read the script and did not watch the film when it was released. However, she did treat Hearst with the same tenderness that was shown in the movie, and the moment with the sale of jewelry (as well as shares and bonds) to save Hearst from bankruptcy is also true.

Finally, the climactic scene of the entire film – where Mank throws out his idea of Citizen Kane to Hearst's guests, and then Hearst politely tells him the parable about the monkey – is just another figment. Certainly a very successful one, but still fiction.

I must say that the film's many inconsistencies do not make it a bad one from the script or the director's point of view. It's still a movie by both Finchers, with all their charm. However, I think they had to realize that after watching their film people might believe in everything that was shown. Changes on this scale require at least some hints on the fact that more than a half of the film is based on the screenwriter's imagination.
Anastasia Ageeva
The screenwriter Herman Mankevich is, indeed, not the most pleasant character (and, maybe, even a person). He is an alcoholic addicted to gambling of any kind, and he will never do what others expect from him. He always swims against the tide, as Louis Meyer says. But what people do expect sometimes hurts and insults them. Mank is so witty that it doesn't benefit him. "My tongue is my enemy," the famous Russian proverb fits his life credo accurately.

So why did David Fincher shoot Mank? Just because it was his father's idle script? Does he hide his features as a director? Not at all. Undoubtedly, this is a very personal film where Fincher openly demonstrates his attitude towards Hollywood. But not the classic Hollywood, but the contemporary one, the one that has not gone far from the 1930s in its capitalist actions.

Mank takes revenge on his offenders in an extremely elegant and sophisticated way. He equips the characters of Orson Wells' future film with the qualities of real people who, in Mank's opinion, treated him quite harshly. His mind should be applauded. By the age of 43 (although until the very end we believed he was older), he had accumulated such an amount of knowledge that he still makes references to Bible allegories being drunk as a skunk. Herman is aware of the entire inner kitchen of this cinema world, despising and not allowing it to dictate him what to do. It turns out that even a person who is so smart in some areas can be completely helpless in others.

Mank is about the relationship between the system and the man placed in it, about the game of tennis where victory will change hands all the time. But there is still joy for those who watch. So, the goal is achieved.
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