Oscar time makes me nostalgic for prepandemic Mumbai.
Though I left the city nearly four years ago, I remember how there were Oscar weeks with back to back screenings of the main nominated films. Documentaries and foreign films that made the coveted list had to wait. This was before we all began to watch content on streaming platforms instead of the camaraderie of seeing films in theatres. A communally shared experience gradually receded into the penumbra of memory and films became a solitary pleasure, especially now that we can’t even host or attend watch parties.
This mini binge watching — with major misses because many are unavailable even to rent — brought back the pleasure of watching films, instead of getting used to series, the prolonged, finely detailed narratives that have the luxury of time to flesh out subplots and back stories. We relearnt an old lesson: film demands more from the maker, to fulfil our narrative expectations within a limited time and yet, give a complete viewing experience, whether the classic three act structure with a catharsis that left us emotionally cleansed, or the newer narrative forms that could be episodic and yet linear, or intriguingly cyclic. Like Mank, my favourite film of the year.
Mank comes with a huge back story and decades of expectations caused by the critical conundrums bequeathed by Citizen Kane. This classic to beat all classics, a landmark that rewrote narrative grammar, has divided film historians and critics, even though all agree that it is a masterpiece forever. The question is who deserves credit. Pauline Kael, the formidable doyenne who shaped writing on cinema for decades, took up cudgels on behalf of Herman Mankieweicz in her influential The Citizen Kane Book. Welles’ colleague John Houseman — you see much more of him in Mank than Welles who is almost a cameo — wrote his version in Run-Through. Both reclaimed literary authorship for the washed out Mankieweicz. He was despatched to a ranch with no access to alcohol in the custody of a stern caregiver, a German woman, and a young British secretary to type up his handwritten script.
Mank is a film history aficionado’s delight as legends walk in and out of the MGM Studio. Louis Meyer, Irving Thalberg, another boy wizard, William Randolph Hearst, fellow writers at the studio shooting the breeze with not much going around, are filmed up, close, and personal, all their flaws and foibles not glossed over.
Shot in B&W to keep to the ambiance of the ’30s, David Fincher’s filming of his late father’s script is both a homage and critique of the system where the studio dictates to the creatives. Mank is a film to delight people in love with film history, stories behind the stories, writers who wrote them, and the people on whom the stories are based. In the process, it also tries to demystify the aura around Citizen Kane, but without a single shot from the film that imbued the real life character on whom it is based with the tragic grandeur worthy of a Shakespearean hero.
In Fincher’s film, Hearst is a desiccated media tycoon who hardly says anything interesting, all the vivacity is reserved for his actress wife Marion Davies, as the couple preside over dinner parties with A-lister guests. Mankieweicz delivers wounding salvos with self-deprecatory gusto, as he is expected to: his job is to play court jester to the powerful, and provide entertainment. Gary Oldman’s performance is superb: he plays a man who is not likeable, willing to hurt others, and yet has a core of honesty that survives the ups and downs of Hollywood. His script with a killer deadline, the fact that the hero is based on Hearst becomes common knowledge, courtesy the usual grapevine. Regarding its intriguing episodic structure, Mank says: “the narrative is one big circle, like a cinnamon roll.”
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
When Luxury goes Electric
The Mercedes EQS sets the standards for combining luxury with electric mobility
The Burst And Business Of CLOUD KITCHENS
When the pandemic locked us all down to test our cooking skills and burn banana breads, the sprouting of cloud kitchens rescued us from our own cooking dilemma. Even after restaurants being back in action, albeit shortly, the cloud kitchen industry is in no mood to stop
The Little, Big Things About Mithila Palkar
She was an OTT face before OTT became the place to be. Mithila Palkar has shown a knack of being in the right project at the right time and reveals the part where her off and on-screen persona collide
THE ENIGMATIC VANRAJ BHATIA
Music composer Vanraj Bhatia, who passed away at 93, was surely a musical genius, but behind it all, he was an amusing, quirky, eccentric, offbeat man, living on a tangent
Make Thy Bod
While working out should be an all year round activity, even more so given the limbo of the pandemic, the summer body is still somewhat of a fitness goal. We get fitness trainers to share a well-rounded guide for your vision board body
The Charming Appeal of Ashish Chanchlani
As one of the first content creators to pick up on homegrown humour, Ashish Chanchlani paved the way for a lot of what we enjoy on the internet today — and plans to take it to Bollywood too
FOUR FACES, 11 COMPLICATIONS
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 is a marvel of watchmaking. With four faces (also known as Quadriptyque) and eleven complications, it is arguably the most complex production wristwatch ever created
Cinematically Speaking With SHONALI BOSE
Writer-director Shonali Bose is a big believer of real to reel. As one of the appointed jury members of BAFTA’s Breakthrough Initiative in India, Bose talks about honours, awards, and her deep connection with her actors
The Rise, Fall, And The Comeback Of Rishabh Pant
The electrifying wicketkeeper-batsman has had an action-packed induction into international cricket — enviable highs followed by painful lows, and a dream comeback. And he is still just 23
Coolest Electric Cars In The World
Though Tesla is the first name that pops up in any discussion on electric cars, in reality, every global car maker worth its name is pushing hard into the world of electric mobility, as was seen at the recent Auto Shanghai motor show
GOLD CUP NORTH CENTRAL
If there is one good thing about this year’s Covid closures of states and counties, it is that tracks that might not normally have gotten a shot at hosting a National or Gold Cup event, were now given that opportunity.
MASTERS OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
WHEN COMPANIES FIND CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT TO BE A TOUGH CLIMB, THEY TURN TO REDPOINT GLOBAL.
'ऑक्सीजन उत्पादन में 10 गुना बढ़ोतरी'
प्रधानमंत्री ने अपने दूसरे कार्यकाल के 2 साल पूरे होने पर मन की बात में सरकार की बताई उपलब्धियां
स्पूतनिक वी के लिए मैनकाइंड की रूसी कंपनी के साथ साझेदारी!
स्पूतनिक वी के आवेदन की मंजूरी की समीक्षा के लिए एसईसी आज करेगा बैठक
मानव जाति के आदर्श श्रीराम
आदर्श, करुणा, दया, त्याग, शौर्य और साहस इन सारे गुणों का प्रतिबिम्ब है एक नाम, श्री राम', जिनका सम्पूर्ण जीवन ही जनमानस के समक्ष एक आदर्श प्रस्तुत करता है तथा हमें प्रतिपल कुछ नई सीरव अवश्य देता है। कौन हैं श्री राम, क्यों कहलाए वह मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम राम व जनता के आदर्श? जानते हैं इस लेव के माध्यम से।
Gary Oldman steps into familiar real-life-character territory
The Mark of Kane
A biopic of Herman Mankiewicz, the man who wrote Citizen Kane, Mank is a labour of love
EN EL LABERINTO DE ORSON WELLES
Agustín Sánchez Vidal regresa a la narrativa con Quijote Welles de la mano de editorial Fórcola. El historiador del arte, ensayista y novelista ha publicado estudios que van desde el cine de Florián Rey hasta el de Carlos Saura, así como ficciones como Nudo de sangre (2008) o Esclava de nadie (2011), entre otras. Con esta nueva obra nos sumerge en las obsesiones y anhelos de un creador inclasificable.
MankNEW Genre: DramaAvailable: Fri 4 Dec Runs: 132min
THE KANE EVENT
Everything is Orson? Well, maybe not. David Fincher’s Mank explores the origins of Welles’ magnum opus, bringing his own Hollywood experience to bear on a 30-years in-the-making black-and-white masterpiece that feels like it could have been found on a shelf next to Citizen Kane. Total Film meets Fincher and cast to talk Hollywood past and present.