It’s vaguely reassuring Deficiency.
The most obvious and immediately striking aspect of David Fincher’s biography is how deliberately the film is set in a particular time and place. Deficiency Set against the backdrop of the 1930s and 1940s, it follows screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who is inspired to develop (and actually writes) Citizen Kane. So much of the film is a conscious reminder of that time; Lots of inside jokes and cameos from Hollywood key figures, Erik Messerschmidt’s stark black and white camera and the way Fincher even takes pictures to commemorate that time.
However, all of these elements of the era are juxtaposed with a broader sense of modernity and timelessness. Deficiency is recorded in the same black and white style as Citizen Kanebut in a modern aspect ratio. The film shows cigarette burns and other features of classic cinema, but was shot entirely digitally. The film even offers an almost parodic, old-fashioned happy ending for most of the main characters, but tells a story that simply wouldn’t have been possible in this studio system.
The result is a movie that celebrates Hollywood without adoring it. Indeed what is different Deficiency from many others “Films about Films” to like The artist or Hugo is the way it mitigates its nostalgia. Deficiency doesn’t necessarily long for the past like most Hollywood productions do about Hollywood. This ambivalence towards nostalgia is not cynicism or futurism, but a tacit recognition that the past is still present. Mankiewicz may rub shoulders with players from another era, but the rules remain largely the same.
Indeed the real joy of Deficiency does not find his glorification of Hollywood titans or the products of the studio system, but in his celebration of the “Supporting players.” The story of the “Organ mill monkey” is discussed repeatedly, often as a metaphor for power in a hierarchy. Instead, Deficiency seems to suggest that the relationship is symbiotic. There is something striking in a film by such a revered director as David Fincher that so openly criticizes various Hollywood myths like that author Theory and her cousin “The tall man” Theory of history.
Deficiency is the story of a little man who is repeatedly called framed “The Jester” and who does little to suppress this characterization. As you can expect from a movie Citizen Kane, King Lear is a common point of reference. If so, Deficiency suggests that the fool have the best vision of all.
The timelessness of Deficiency shouldn’t come as a surprise. Even outside of its classic Hollywood setting, the film has come a long way to the screen. Jack Fincher wrote the script in the 1990s and his son David originally intended to direct The game. Unfortunately, Jack passed away in 2003 before the project could be developed. Jack Fincher was a screenwriter with a keen interest in Hollywood history. He famously wrote a screenplay for a biopic about Howard Hughes that was ultimately overshadowed by The aviator.
So the script for Deficiency is almost as much an artifact in Hollywood history as the production of Citizen Kane is for the script. Take the 1997 publication of The game as a marker the fifty-six years that separate publication from Citizen Kane von Fincher finished his work Deficiency is a little more than twice as long as the 23-year hiatus between Jack Fincher and his work Deficiency and the later release of the film on Netflix. To some extent, Deficiency not only documents Hollywood history. It is Hollywood story.
Naturally, Deficiency is a celebration of Hollywood history, packed with Easter eggs and shout-outs for cinephiles with eagle eyes in the audience. Production designer Donald Graham Burt littered the film with wonderful details from the time, while Fincher was sure to stuff as much Hollywood history into the frame as possible. the “Hollywoodland” A sign appears in the background as Louis B. Meyer is walking on the MGM property. Giant marquee posters hang out of the studio selling properties like Clara Bow.
Deficiency is so saturated with Hollywood’s history that it is interesting to wonder how the film is being played with audiences who are either less familiar or less enthusiastic about the era in question. All the details are perfect and elaborate, however Deficiency occasionally seems to get lost in his world. It’s indulgent, in a way that arouses cinephiles but rather alienates casual viewers. Mileage depends on the extent to which this loving yet slavish replica of a long-lost era is a sideline or the main attraction.
This loving resurrection of a long-lost Hollywood, however, is interesting in the context of how Deficiency approaches the industry by its title character. There is no shortage of films about Hollywood, and especially no shortage of films that sadly reflect on the volatile and rapidly changing history of the medium. The tendency in such films is to be wistful and nostalgic, sentimental and elegiac. Hollywood is constantly changing and evolving, and it is common for films to lament Hollywood’s past which has been lost with each transition.
Of course, it’s tempting to think of this as Hollywood’s uncertainty. Any version of A star Is Born dramatizes the myth that an older concept of fame must die in order for another to be born. Movies like Sing in the rain gave shape to Hollywood’s concern about the existential threat posed by the arrival of television using the metaphor of the transition from silent films to talkies. Movies like The artist and Hugo probably reflected concerns about the future of the medium in an increasingly digital age by looking back at its early days. In either case, the past is romantic, distant, and lost.
Deficiency takes a slightly different approach. Instead of emphasizing how things have changed and what has been lost, the film suggests how little has changed. Deficiency suggests Hollywood (and America) is not as far from the thirties and forties as observers might (or fear) admit. Instead, Hollywood is just a gigantic wheel that keeps turning and turning. Presenting what has changed as apocalyptic is to overlook the more important reality that may not have changed enough.
There is something strangely reassuring in this, especially at the end of a turbulent (and highly unusual) year, that there is some correspondence between past and present, that the world in which Mankiewicz navigates is not completely lost in history or obscured by memory . Instead, the basic structures remain, the laws governing the dynamics of the game remain largely unchanged, and the same arguments play out.
In an early sequence, a group of writers piles up in David O. Selznick’s office to release another franchise rate, which MGM responds to Frankenstein and The wolf man at Universal. It is a blatant and cynical exercise, calculated like any discussion of shared universes or building franchises, no matter how violently Mankiewicz may argue about it “B-Movie” is “Really about something.”
As Louis B. Meyer guides Joseph and Herman Mankiewicz through the studio, he articulates a number of basic truths about the mechanics of the film industry as an entertainment producer. “This is a shop where the buyer gets nothing for their money but a souvenir.” Meyer boasts. “What he bought still belongs to the man who sold it. That’s the magic of movies. “ It’s an interesting argument that was philosophically true in the 1930s, but feels even clearer at a time when film is being digitized and streamed.
Indeed, Deficiency specifically avoids the romance of pretending the past is necessarily better than the present – and the smug consolation of reassuring audiences that it is worse. The industry’s gears may have been better hidden, but Mankiewicz understands the machinations of 1930s Hollywood better than many modern entertainment journalists understand the system today. Hollywood didn’t exist in a vacuum even in the studio era. It existed neither independently of political operations nor separate from the power of American capitalism.
As powerful as the studios were at the time, Mankiewicz is smart enough to understand that larger audiences are all small fish. Louie B. Meyer is a Hollywood king, a legendary figure who cast a long shadow over showbiz town, however Deficiency makes it clear that this is only a matter of perspective. The studio may seem like a dream factory, explains Mankiewicz, but the legends Louie B. Meyer and Samuel Goldwyn “Just let it go for the money boys in the east.” It’s not far from the fact that modern studios are ultimately just part of larger conglomerates.
However, there is also an understanding of how much show business is like any other business. During a conversation, Marion Davies alludes to William Randolph Hearst “Choose the President’s Cabinet like a movie.” The studios later realize that their own ability to blur the lines between fantasy and reality has wider applications. These relationships are not necessarily hierarchical. Deficiency does not insist everything is show business. Instead, Deficiency suggests that everything is Companiesand certain universal constants carry over.
There’s no doubt a contemporary response to it Deficiencyand the film doesn’t shy away from it. Most of the scenes in the 1930s contextualize the instability of the industry as a result of the Great Depression, with Mankiewicz even emphasizing how contactless the Hollywood establishment must be from these indeed To suffer. The characters repeatedly and purposefully discuss the news from Europe, unsure how seriously to treat the rise of fascism while reassuring each other that it cannot be done in America.
There are times when it is almost unbelievable that Jack Fincher wrote the screenplay in the 1990s when he only claims the film for himself. When Meyer begins to manipulate local politics, Mankiewicz is appalled by the gross vulgarity of everything. Mankiewicz is shocked to see a newsreel showing actors appearing as concerned citizens. He does not do it I agree call “Fake News”, but the script stops only briefly. Mankiewicz protests, “It’s not news and it’s not real.”
Indeed, Deficiency occasionally feels a bit persistent in his political subtext when it comes to combining the chaos of the past with the confusion of the present. “I want to protect our way of life” states an actor in a commercial as the footage shows an army of “Invasive Hobos” that Mankiewicz correctly points this out is supposed to play on the xenophobia of the audience. It is a vivid reminder that the politics that defined America today are not new. (In fact, her modern incarnation actually hails from California.)
To be fair, while these items are from Deficiency occasionally they seem a bit stubborn or serious, they work in the context of a film that is set in the eerie valley between Hollywood’s past and present. This is most evident in the production of the film, which is reminiscent of classic Hollywood with a more modern twist. Although the film is shot in the crisp black and white associated with the Hollywood era of production code, characters are obviously allowed to do things they could never have on screen at that point in time. Joseph Mankiewicz is introduced to flush a toilet.
The seriousness and harshness of the film feel, as a tribute to the internal logic of these classic films, in such a way that it never feels too awkward or out of place. Much has been written about Pauline Kael’s story, who inspired the film and discussed the historical accuracy of this account of the scriptwriting battle between Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles Citizen Kane. Interesting, Deficiency doesn’t spend as much time on this particular conflict as he could, even if implicitly on the same side as Mankiewicz’s controversial account of events.
Again, this may be distracting or simple, but it fits easily into the context of the era in which Deficiency emulated. Jack and David Fincher create a world that is not I agree real, but that exists in the space between the image area brought to life by classic Hollywood and the world as it exists today. In that sense, the historical accuracy of Deficiency seems almost irrelevant. Jack Fincher even structures Deficiency to offer an almost implausible happy ending (including a short-term reversal of a very early moment of heartbreak) to evoke the cinema of the era.
It’s all very smart and very self-confident. There are moments when this shrewdness is almost alienated as the film seems to look similar to Mankiewicz himself “Always the smartest person in the room”even if that’s not necessarily the best. Structural and narrative, Deficiency Occasionally it feels like an exercise in abstraction, which is especially evident when Fincher Welles shoots at the characteristic low angles that Welles himself often uses.
And yet a lot of heart is supported Deficiency. There is a solid argument for that Deficiency is David Fincher’s most open humanistic and emotional work. This seems appropriate given the close personal history of the project to Fincher and the connection he has with the material. Deficiency is the story of a screenwriter written by a screenwriter and brought to life by the screenwriter’s son. However, the emotion that drives you Deficiency is more than just that strong personal connection.
Deficiency is practically a celebration for all the bottom line workers who exist on the periphery of the Hollywood myth and the Hollywood machine. Indeed, the film is arguably most charming as Mankiewicz blindly (and often drunk) stumbling through large-scale productions in which he is not only out of place but completely anonymous. When Mankiewicz arrives on the set of a western with Marion Davies, Meyer needs to be reminded “He made a Lon Chaney for us.”
At one point the script for discuss Citizen Kane With his brother, Mankiewicz focuses on Marion Davies. His brother argues that Davies’ treatment in the script is unfair and unreasonable. Mankiewicz replies, “You know better than anyone, not all characters are headliners. Some support players. “ He speaks of Davies, but also of himself. Mankiewicz is a supportive player by nature. Indeed, Deficiency suggests that his greatest accomplishment exists in the shadow of “The young genius” Orson Welles.
There is something encouraging about all of this in the way that Mankiewicz is not a power broker or author. He is not a visionary or a leader. Indeed for most DeficiencyMankiewicz’s influence is an understatement. His casual expressions inspire others while he positions himself as a marginal figure. It is repeated as the framed “Court jester”and the parable of “The organ grinder’s monkey” serves an important thematic purpose. Even his “Platonic Affairs” do not go to completion. In that sense, the film’s recurring emphasis on union politics and solidarity is a compelling thematic element.
“How many gangsters does the average American meet in his life?” asks William Randolph Hearst when he first met Mankiewicz. “How many families are like the Marx brothers?” So much of the myth of show business is the affirmation and celebration of the individual, the creation of myths about great men. After all, even a film that is explicitly built around Mankiewicz understands the story of Citizen Kane will largely reduce the narrative to a fight between the twin titans Hearst and Welles, characters so tall that he’s caught in their gravity.
Mankiewicz’s life in relative darkness is contrasted with the false modesty of the more mythical and legendary characters around him. At his funeral, the audience is told that Irving G. Thalberg “Was a humble man.” The pomp and the ceremony around Thalberg’s funeral stand that indeed Anonymity occupied by the writers and directors who work in the dark and hope for a long break and decent living conditions. ((Deficiency This is contrasted rather bluntly by contrasting the funeral with an earlier sequence involving one of Mank’s friends.)
In this sense, Deficiency is an interesting project for David Fincher. Fincher is probably one of the few true moderns Authors. His name is used to sell projects and he has a clear and distinctive visual style. Fincher, however, is very much a director. As much as his films are very clear his Fincher does not write films of his own. Back in time se7enWriter Andrew Kevin Walker has praised Fincher for his collaboration, which goes against the cliché of classic Hollywood author.
As such, this is another of the delightful contradictions in which it is played DeficiencyAdding a layer of complexity and nuance to the film. Fincher is a stylist and isn’t trying to dial that in Deficiency. Instead, he uses it in the service of his father’s script and to feature a scriptwriter who has been somewhat overlooked. One could imagine that a director as distinctive and confident as Fincher would be drawn to Welles, the mythical figure and one of Hollywood’s great legends. (After all, Netflix has revived its The other side of the wind.) Instead, Fincher seems to be suspicious of the man and his legend.
It helps that Fincher has put together a fine cast. The film is owned by Gary Oldman, who plays Mankiewicz as that classic idiot with a heart of gold. He’s a mess, but he’s also a decent man – though of course he’d be the last to admit that. Once again, Deficiency is full of narrative developments that feel like a tribute to classic cinema of the thirties and forties, with the film relentlessly insisting that Mankiewicz is a good person despite his shortcomings and in the face of a hostile world.
It’s impressive how little soil there is Deficiency surrenders to the mythical figures around him. This can also be seen in the way Fincher makes the film. Although countless classic Hollywood stars appear, Fincher rarely positions his frame in such a way that he puts them in the foreground. In fact, they often appear in bulk or out of focus, occasionally even in silhouette. Meanwhile, they are constantly being confronted with the more secular workers. For example, when the stars gather around Louie B. Meyer’s proposed wage cuts as the handles and gaffers realize they may be starving.
Charles Dance impresses as William Randolph Hearst, but only appears in a small handful of scenes and only gets a few moments as the focus of attention. Similarly, Fincher casts the relatively unknown Tom Burke in the role of Orson Welles, but refuses to let Welles kidnap this narrative as effectively as he would have done in real life. The only supporting character who can make a real impression is Marion Davies, played by Amanda Seyfried, who is presented as a counterpart to Mankiewicz as a mythical figure who could wrest control of the narrative away from him.
Deficiency is a nice piece of work, but most interesting for the clever juxtaposition of form and function. Deficiency is a film of carefully positioned opposites that play off each other in a convincing and engaging way. It is essentially a author Piece about how filmmaking has always been “A team sport.” It is an affectionate recreation of classic Hollywood with modern technology released through a streaming service. It also insists that so many of the forces at play in this distant time and place are still at work today.
Deficiency brings Hollywood’s past and present together and suggests that – for better or worse – they are not as far apart as it seems.