David Fincher reclaims ‘Citizen Kane’ with political spin on father’s ‘Mank’ screenplay

Gary Oldman and camera operator Brian Osmond (Nikolai Loveikis)

Bob Strauss
December 2, 2020
Datebook (San Francisco Chronicle)

Technically, “Mank” is the story of how the script for what’s often considered the greatest movie ever made, “Citizen Kane,” may have been written. But there’s a lot more to David Fincher’s deep-focused, black-and-white, flashback-filled Netflix movie, which starts streaming on the service Friday, Dec. 4.

Built on a screenplay written by the director’s father, the late Bay Area journalist Jack Fincher, “Mank” is a speculative swirl of 1930s Hollywood and California history. The new film has already rekindled the controversy over whether veteran screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman) or 25-year-old, first-time director/star Orson Welles (Tom Burke) was the primary author of “Citizen Kane.”

The main show, however, revolves around alcoholic Mankiewicz’s memories. Some of those involve his friendship with the actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and, at more of a remove, her powerful lover, newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). The model for Welles’ fictional Charles Foster Kane, Hearst — whose company owned the San Francisco Examiner at the time and now runs The Chronicle — famously exerted his considerable clout to have “Citizen Kane” squelched before it was released in 1941.

Speaking to The Chronicle by phone from Los Angeles, the Marin County-raised Fincher responded nimbly when informed he was talking to a Hearst publication.

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