All fair points, though I think that similarly to how the monster movie pitch is emulating screwball comedy self-reflexively, the political scenes are also derivative of the thinly conservative throwaway lines of old cinema. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Citizen Kane, but I recall there being comparably passive mentions of political opinions and hot takes on history in the newsroom as the characters move through time posturing at air, which I never took for obnoxious or goofy half-measures so much as a Hollywoodized reductionist plant to serve the story that is economically paced toward different aspirations (and if that film didn't do this, how many films from the golden-age period did execute these ideas plainly in rote ideology? I think many). Of course we have different expectations from modern cinema, which is a good thing, but I firmly believe that one's enjoyment of this film is directly proportional to how willing we are to locate ourselves onto a new wavelength that combines old cinema with new, resigning our conditioned expectations of a 2020 film for an adventure into not only film history but the process of how those films operated. The way I see it, this film prompts us to gravitating towards a very uncomfortable space rooted in the fact that there isn't a predictability to when we’re going to get the artificial trope or the postmodern piercing truth, much like the unpredictability of how we move through the world psychologically suppressing certain information and sobering up to realizations that destroy our senses of self by exposing such mechanisms. It’s a very unsettling position to put oneself which is partly why I loved this movie- and why the second viewing was even better, for even after I knew what was coming there were more Easter eggs to uncover and the same amount of uncertainty to trigger existential unease.Never Cursed wrote: ↑Fri Feb 12, 2021 4:50 amAlso, and I don't know which scenarist should be shunted with the credit for it, but I haven't cringed watching a movie in some time like I did during the explicitly political scenes, my god. To be clear, I am willing to give a film lots of rope in ignoring the hard-and-fast literal truth of events or attitudes so long as they hit some level of emotional verisimilitude or there is an interesting point to those manipulations. This film mostly does that when it comes to the actual film industry within which its principals operate, but hearing Amanda Seyfried go "gee, that Hitler guy sure is creepers!" and then hearing Charles Dance respond "no no, the Germans are a kind people, he surely won't be around for long" followed by Gary Oldman doing the dialogic equivalent of smug eyeroll to camera was something else entirely. Jettison every line that makes reference to Hitler or Upton Sinclair (along with the unreal, second-hand embarrassing reveal of the actor playing Sinclair) and you instantly have a better movie. I didn't hate this, but man is it a disappointing end to the hiatus of a talented director. There is a more interesting take on this milieu coming.
This unevenness can be seen as a flaw of the film, whether it’s by design or not, but I have and will continue to argue that it reflects the state of consciousness of Mank the character. The film celebrates these comfortable conventions of superficiality (be them quick-witted dialogue that inspires momentary confidence, or the frivolous interplay between social groups at the Hearst dinner parties, deceptively distracting our attention away from the depth of what's going on as we are aligned with our unreliable narrator's self-delusion) because they provide safety via eliminations of complexity to hide behind. However, along with celebration the film also exposes them as unsustainable because of their superficiality outside of the movie (or inside of this one). Mank is both a love letter to cinema and a deconstruction of it, as well as a validation of our defenses that protect us from painful self-reflection and a forced confrontations with those difficult truths, and the tools Fincher uses to demonstrate this existential crisis extends to these self-aware political simplifications just as anything else. The treatment of politics is another example of intentionally shallow treatment of topics as seen in ‘old’ movies, and resembles the conventions that allow Mank to exist blindly in faux anti-complex world, one that retreats from "reality." Part of Mank wants to live in that cookie cutter world where he can give a "smug eyeroll to the camera" and be the superior protagonist in his own story, condescending to the complacent rich, but part of him also acknowledges (and at the end, is forced to acknowledge) that he himself is complacent and delusional about this power he wants to hold. Mank's personal crisis within the political backdrop presents a fragment of the man who wants to break free without the skills to do so, reinforcing his trapped state into a world where he is a supporting player.
I'm definitely starting to get a bit delusional myself in my thinking that Fincher made this esoteric movie for me alone, but I've probably defended this one into the void enough here to resign and just be grateful that I love this film, which I continue to believe is one of the most intricate thematic pieces of art I've ever seen.