From Madonna to Mank: Why David Fincher’s Greatest Film is an Erotic Pop Music Video

The Gone Girl director is known for the psychological depth, visual symbolism and pulpy thrills of his films but all roads lead back to his tempestuous – and mysterious – collaborations with Madge.

Adam White
November 6, 2020
Independent

It was in the winter of 1993 that David Fincher murdered Madonna. The crime scene: a music video for one of the latter’s greatest singles, “Bad Girl”, and what would be the last of the pair’s four collaborations. In its wake, Fincher would become one of cinema’s most revered directors, the prickly genius behind Se7en (1995), The Social Network (2010), Gone Girl (2014) and the forthcoming Mank. But it’s “Bad Girl” that remains Fincher’s most important venture. It is a short, stylish erotic thriller that begins and ends with Madonna’s lifeless corpse; a video that nods toward the filmmaker Fincher would become, and a final act of artistic symbiosis between two titans of pop culture.

Back in the Nineties, Fincher was coming to the end of a luminous eight years as a music video visionary. The likes of Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun” and George Michael’s supermodel-filled “Freedom ‘90” were gorgeous exercises in style and short-form storytelling. Little was more thrilling, though, than his work with Madonna – from the grandiose myth-making of “Vogue” and “Express Yourself” to the richly personal “Oh Father”. They both recognised the cinematic potential of the form, even if it came at a cost – all of their collaborations rank among the most expensive videos ever made.

That trilogy of music videos – which came before “Bad Girl” and were shot over the course of 10 months between 1989 and 1990 – would reflect a fruitful creative tussle between the pair. Despite Fincher’s relative lack of clout in the industry at the time, and especially compared to Madonna’s cultural ubiquity, they would approach their work as somewhat begrudging – and almost flirtatious – equals.

In interviews, Fincher recalled expressing mock outrage when Madonna asked him if he had heard of Metropolis, the landmark sci-fi film she wanted to replicate for “Express Yourself”. Madonna sneered at his idea to have her crawl across the floor, lick milk from a bowl, and then pour it over herself in the same video, assuming it might look like a student film. It turned out to be one of the video’s most memorable set pieces. The visual for “Oh Father”, meanwhile, a psychological wormhole into Madonna’s childhood and the emotional toll of her mother’s death, only came about at Fincher’s insistence. Madonna had been unsure it would even work as a single. Fincher, though, saw it as ripe for visual accompaniment, and captured her vulnerability like no other.

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Fotogramas: Ciudadano Fincher

El primer y único guion que escribió su padre. Un proyecto con el que ha soñado más de 30 años. La leyenda detrás de la, quizás, película más mítica de la historia. Todo eso y mucho más es ‘Mank’, una mirada –en glorioso blanco y negro–a la figura de Herman J. Mankiewicz –un glorioso Gary Oldman–, y el film más personal de David Fincher. FOTOGRAMAS tuvo la suerte de compartir con él una extensa, divertida y exclusiva charla.

Roger Salvans
Noviembre 2020
Fotogramas

David Fincher (Denver, Colorado, 1962) tiene fama de perfeccionista y de no andarse con rodeos. Mejor: de tener una atención al detalle rozando la obsesión que es directamente proporcional a su nula capacidad de tolerar a todo aquel que: a) le impida materializar su punto de vista creativo; b) ose hacerle perder el tiempo, ya sea un mandamás en traje o la estrella de turno con la que comparta rodaje. Pero si alguien puede permitirse esa imagen es él. Fincher es autor –un término que, veremos, no comparte–de un cúmulo de obras que han marcado el pulso y también el camino del reciente cine contemporáneo. Así, cuando, una tarde de otoño, FOTOGRAMAS descolgó el teléfono para entrevistarlo, esperábamos encontrar a ese Fincher cuyos sets, según Robert Downey Jr., son como gulags. El director de las 100 tomas de media. El de los rifirrafes con los estudios. Y no, no fue así. ¿Hola? Soy David. Es alucinante. He conseguido conectar sin equivocarme, le escuchamos decir. ¿Es realmente David Fincher? ¿Dónde está el acostumbrado filtro del equipo de publicistas y relaciones públicas? Soy yo de verdad. No tengo agentes de prensa ni relaciones públicas porque todo el mundo sabe que no me relaciono en público, dice entre risas. Esa fue la primera carcajada. Toda una sorpresa. Y vendrían más.

La sombra de una duda

Desaparecido de la gran pantalla desde esa pérfida vuelta de tuerca al thriller y la comedia romántica que es Perdida (2014), Fincher firma con Mank su film más clásico, y también el más personal: un retrato íntimo de Herman J. Mankiewicz, experiodista, alcohólico vocacional, novelista frustrado y toda una personalidad entre los bastidores de la Edad de Oro de Hollywood que firmó, junto a Orson Welles, el guion de Ciudadano Kane (1941). Esa colaboración y un acercamiento sobre el proceso creativo y sus fuentes son el corazón de una trama que bebe de una de las polémicas más publicitadas sobre la autoría artística. En los 70, Pauline Kael, la referente de la crítica estadounidense, publicó en The New Yorker una serie de artículos –editados después en el ensayo Raising Kane (publicado en España por Cult Books como El libro de Ciudadano Kane)– en los que se aseguraba que Welles no participó en absoluto en la escritura del film. El mérito era solo de Mankiewicz, decía. Poco después, Peter Bogdanovich, íntimo amigo de Welles, respondería con otro texto en el que desmentía, con testimonios y las anotaciones del propio cineasta, la versión de Kael. La duda, sin embargo, quedó. Pero ni esa disputa ni tampoco su resolución, como si de un serial killer a cazar se tratara, están en el origen del proyecto. Lo que convierte este film en algo personal para Fincher es que se trata del único guion de Jack, su padre. Y el Rosebud de Mank, evidentemente, tenemos que buscarlo en su infancia.

Lee la entrevista completa con David Fincher en el número de Fotogramas de noviembre, ya a la venta en los quioscos

¿Seguirá ‘Mindhunter’ en Netflix? David Fincher nos responde en exclusiva

El director, que estrena en la plataforma la película ‘Mank’, nos habla sobre el futuro de una de las series más aclamadas de los últimos años.

Roger Salvans y Rafael Sánchez Casademont
Octubre 27, 2020
Fotogramas

Premiere: Pourquoi David Fincher n’a pas tourné de film depuis six ans ?

“Que voulez-vous, je suis lent”, répond le réalisateur avec humour dans Première.

Léonard Haddad
Octobre 28, 2020
Premiere

Mank, le prochain film de David Fincher sortira le 4 décembre sur Netflix. Au cours d’un long entretien, le réalisateur détaille dans le nouveau numéro de Première (n°512 – novembre 2020) la création de ce film en noir et blanc qui plonge les spectateurs dans le Hollywood des années 1930, plus précisément au coeur de la fabrication de Citizen Kane, le premier film d’Orson Welles réalisé à partir d’un scénario de Herman J. Mankiewicz.

Gone Girl, le dernier film de David Fincher, était sorti en France le 8 octobre 2014. Six ans se sont donc écoulés depuis cette adaptation du thriller de Gillian Flynn avec Rosamund Pike et Ben Affleck. Soit la plus longue pause de la carrière de David Fincher, un an de plus que la période déjà interminable qui avait séparé Panic Room (2002) de Zodiac (2007). Le cinéaste n’a pas bullé pour autant, travaillant sur une série sur les serial killers pour NetflixMindhunter, et produisant, toujours pour la plateforme, l’anthologie animée de Tim MillerLove, Death + Robots. Il voulait aussi tourner la suite de World War Z avec Brad Pitt, son acteur de Seven (1995), Fight Club (1999) et L’Etrange histoire de Benjamin Button (2008), mais ce projet a fini par tomber à l’eau. Dans Première, le réalisateur détaille pourquoi son retour à la mise en scène d’un long métrage a mis autant de temps.

Extrait:

Première : Gone Girl date de 2014, ça commençait à faire long, non ?

David Fincher : J’ai fait les deux saisons de Mindhunter et… Au départ, je devais juste aider à mettre la série sur des rails, il n’était pas prévu que je sois showrunner. Et puis, par défaut, je le suis devenu, avec deux autres personnes. Et disons qu’il est possible que ce ne soit pas mon point fort, finalement. Je dois être trop obsessionnel et tatillon pour tenir ce rôle

Au final, ça fait quand même très peu de films signés David Fincher…

Que voulez-vous, je suis lent. Quand j’ai le sentiment qu’un truc est prêt à être tourné, ça peut aller très vite. The Social Network, tout était en place, on n’avait plus qu’à choisir les acteurs. Mais ces situations-là sont rares, les cas où tu lis un script et où tu dis : « OK, les gars, écartez-vous, on s’y met. » Vers 2007-2008 puis 2010-2011, j’ai enchaîné relativement vite, en tout cas selon mes standards habituels : Zodiac et Benjamin Button puis The Social Network et Millénium. Mais je ne suis pas certain que cela ait été une si bonne chose que ça au final. En tout cas, j’avais besoin de recharger mes batteries. Maintenant, si j’ai signé ce deal Netflix, c’est aussi parce que j’aimerais travailler comme Picasso peignait, essayer des choses très différentes, tenter de briser la forme ou de changer de mode de fonctionnement. J’aime l’idée d’avoir une « œuvre ». Eh oui, j’admets que ça me fait bizarre, après quarante ans dans ce métier, de n’avoir que dix films à mon actif. Enfin onze, mais dix dont je peux dire qu’ils sont à moi. Oui, objectivement, c’est un constat assez terrifiant

Propos recueillis par Léonard Haddad

L’interview complète de David Fincher est à retrouver dans le nouveau numéro de Première. Voici son sommaire:

Mank : David Fincher a un contrat d’exclusivité de 4 ans avec Netflix

François Léger
Novembre 11, 2020
Premiere

The End of David Fincher’s Mindhunter: Back To Square One

The viewership of Mindhunter, irrespective of its near-cult status on the web, was evidently not enough to inspire its own creators to continue the journey.

Rahul Desai
October 27, 2020
Film Companion

One of the most significant things to hit the web last week was the trailer of Mank. Global Film Twitter went into overdrive, and understandably so. Think of the context. This was American director extraordinaire David Fincher’s first movie since Gone Girl (2014), so it was a long-awaited return of sorts. Add this to the fact that Mank is a black-and-white movie about the movies – a biographical drama anchored by screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz’s battles with Orson Welles over screenplay credit for Citizen Kane – and that Fincher’s latest passion project is based on his late father’s screenplay. The hype machine is oiled and ready to fire.

Yet, only a day later, the excitement for Mank was replaced by the grief for Mindhunter. In a fascinating Vulture interview, Fincher, who served as an executive producer, director and de facto showrunner of Mindhunter, confirmed that there is likely to be no third season of the acclaimed true-crime thriller. The second season dropped on Netflix last September, two years after the first. Most Mindhunter fans had suspected the worst ever since the contracts of the cast weren’t renewed earlier this year. With Fincher looking to concentrate on Mank, the series was indefinitely put on hold. The global pandemic, of course, added to the uncertainty. Which is to say that the signs were there. So the show’s demise was no blinding bolt from the blue. But the real reasons are unsettling.

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CBS News Sunday Morning: “Mank” and the writer behind “Citizen Kane”

Ben Mankiewicz and David Fincher

Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz reports on the film about his grandfather.

Ben Mankiewicz
October 25, 2020
CBS News Sunday Morning

It is arguably the most famous word ever spoken on film: Rosebud. And it comes from what many consider the greatest movie ever made. “Citizen Kane,” Orson Welles‘ 1941 masterpiece on the rise and fall of Charles Foster Kane, a ruthless capitalist mostly based on newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst.

With its deep focus camerawork and bold lighting techniques that use shadows to direct the audience’s attention, “Citizen Kane” is a cinematic landmark.

So it’s only fitting that the story behind it is equally compelling.

And that’s the story director David Fincher tells in his new Netflix film. I spoke to Fincher on Stage 19 at Paramount Studios, where Welles made Citizen Kane 80 years ago.

“When you look at a movie that is cohesive, as ‘Kane’ was, from the authorship standpoint, it fires on all cylinders,” Fincher told me.

Fincher’s film is called “Mank.” Oscar winner Gary Oldman stars as Herman Mankiewicz, who Welles hired to write the screenplay for “Kane.”

Full disclosure, Herman Mankiewicz was my grandfather.

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Watch the story in full quality

Nerding Out with David Fincher

The filming of Mank. (Miles Crist/Netflix)

The director talks about his latest, Mank, a tale of Hollywood history, political power, and the creative act.

Mark Harris
October 23, 2020
Vulture

David Fincher’s 11th feature film, Mank, is a passion project like no other on the director’s résumé — a drama, shot in black-and-white, about the formative years of Hollywood’s sound era, the agony and the ecstasy of what he calls “enforced collaboration” between directors and writers, and the political ruthlessness of Golden Age studios, told through the journey of an unlikely hero — Herman J. Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman), the newspaperman turned screenwriter who co-wrote (or wrote, depending on your POV) the screenplay for Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane. Every frame of the movie, which opens in select theaters November 13 and will hit Netflix on December 4, brims with the director’s loving but unsentimental view of film history and of filmmaking — and also carries an unexpected wallop of political resonance with media manipulation and the creation of “fake news” disinformation that couldn’t possibly have been anticipated 30 years ago, when his late father, Jack, first wrote the script. Mank is an unusually personal film for Fincher, not only because it memorializes his work with his father (who died in 2003), but because, in a way, it continues a passionate conversation about movies that began between the two of them when Fincher was a young boy. Its history also spans Fincher’s entire feature career — the original draft was written just before he went off to direct his first film. In two interviews over a long weekend, the director talked about bringing it to the screen.

Read the full interview

The Mank Production Images by Miles Crist

Miles Crist (Instagram)

“Excited to share these images which I have been working on for the past year in support of Mank. Thank you to David Fincher and Ceán Chaffin for the opportunity to witness and photograph the production of this incredibly unique film. Scorsese said that the most personal is the most creative, and as such, Mank is Fincher’s best film yet.” [1]

“I shot everything digitally, 95% of it on a Leica Q2. I spent a lot of time making everything look like 4×5 – scanning vintage negatives to place around the images, decreasing depth of field/softening the photos by adding Gaussian blur in Photoshop, adding shadow and highlight halation, dodging and burning every image to get the best tonality out of the files while emulating panchromatic film, adding vignetting, and the right amount of grain. I could never have achieved these shots using 4×5, and it was David Fincher’s idea to do this all digitally, and in the process make something that looks even better than film.”

“The reason I chose the Q2 was for its high resolution, as well as its ability to achieve shallow depth of field on a wide angle lens, which I then augmented even further in post.”

“I didn’t push the ISO very often, shooting at f1.7 helped. I don’t like to go above base (50) on the Q2. For Mindhunter I used the Q, as the Q2 wasn’t out yet.” [2]

thewhitewinecameupwiththefish.com

Mank: Official Trailer

Netflix

Starring Academy Award Winner Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke, and Charles Dance.

Directed by David Fincher.

𝙸𝚗 𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚎𝚌𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝙽𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚗 Netflix 𝙳𝚎𝚌𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝟺

Mank: “The White Wine Came Up with the Fish”

The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics“. By Sydney Ladensohn Stern:

One of his most-repeated wisecracks originated at a dinner party hosted by Arthur Hornblow Jr., a cultured and talented producer so sophisticated that he and Myrna Loy celebrated their divorce with a party at the Mocambo nightclub. The elegant Hornblow was known for lavishing care on his food and wine, but on that occasion, Herman drank so much that he had to bolt from the table to vomit. “Don’t worry, Arthur,” he airily told his host afterward. “The white wine came up with the fish.”

thewhitewinecameupwiththefish.com

Images by Miles Crist
Additional images by Gisele Schmidt & Gary Oldman, Nikolai Loveikis

𝙸𝚗 𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚎𝚌𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝙽𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚗 Netflix 𝙳𝚎𝚌𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝟺

Mank: Poster

Netflix

Design by Neil Kellerhouse
Key Art by Anna Park (Instagram)

Netflix International Pictures Presents

Gary Oldman in

Amanda Seyfried
Lily CollinsArliss Howard
Tom Pelphrey Sam TroughtonFerdinand Kingsley
Tuppence MiddletonTom Burke Joseph Cross
Jamie McShane – Toby Leonard MooreMonika Gossmann
and Charles Dance

Casting by Laray Mayfield
Sound Supervised by Ren Klyce
Music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Gowns and Costumes by Trish Summerville
Film Edited by Kirk Baxter, A.C.E.
Production Designed by Donald Graham Burt
Photographed in Hi-Dynamic Range by Erik Messerschmidt, ASC
Produced by Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth, Douglas Urbanski
Screen Play by Jack Fincher
Directed by David Fincher

MPPDA – Recorded in Mon((o))scapeI.A.T.S.E. – Rated R. Some Language

𝙸𝚗 𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚎𝚌𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝙽𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚗 Netflix 𝙳𝚎𝚌𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝟺