Jump to content

Mank


Recommended Posts

I think fincher is just off base with his idea he can shoot on Digital and emulate looks in post.

he did the same thing with a fake anamorphic look on mindhunter that looked totally fake. 

that said I think this sorta plasticy look is part of his thing. Gone girl and his other films have it too and it works in those cases. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Albion Hockney said:

I think fincher is just off base with his idea he can shoot on Digital and emulate looks in post.

he did the same thing with a fake anamorphic look on mindhunter that looked totally fake. 

that said I think this sorta plasticy look is part of his thing. Gone girl and his other films have it too and it works in those cases. 

I feel like most directors' approach is to make the vfx look more like real life.

And Fincher's approach is to make real life look more like vfx.

Haven't seen Mank yet, and in the past (Mindhunter's anamorphic treatment) this style hasn't always been for me. Sometimes I like it (Zodiac, Dragon Tattoo) and I strongly suspect the uncanny quality is intentional if not downright "subversive." 

The Calvin Klein Rooney Mara ad seems to have a similar style, and I thought that was great.

But it's funny with these titans. Maybe no one tells them no? 

I listen to how Vlado Meller mixes a Chili Peppers album (too much compression) and it sounds bad, there's no way this is intentional. But then Kanye and Rick Rubins mix their album super loud and the rumor is he knows what he's doing, he wants a louder album than Jay Z.

Maybe as a creative you need to think outside the box, and entertain (and sometimes act upon) bad ideas.

When is too much too much? Or is it just a matter of taste? 

My favorite Kaminski and Richardson movies would almost certainly qualify as having "too much" diffusion. When Domino came out I felt like the color work was a little much, but now it looks ahead of it's time to me, so I suppose it's also a matter of context.

Edited by M Joel W
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
1 hour ago, Albion Hockney said:

I agree with all of that, But I' i think Fincher is falling into the trap of being wowed by what digtal tech is capable of. its good at some things like the face replacements in social network, but not good at other things like imitating the feel of an old b/w film. 

I think for Fincher, his preference for digital capture is mostly a practical workflow and budget thing. He shoots a lot of takes, he uses a lot of VFX, he wants to see the final image on set, and he wants to have total control over the image in post. He also likes to shoot with minimal light levels and with small crews. Shooting on film would make that much more expensive and in some cases impossible. 

To some extent, it would also hand back control over the image to the DP, the film lab, and the risks associated with shipping and handling exposed film. I suspect the last thing he wants is to work that hard to achieve a perfect take and discover later that the shot was slightly out of focus, or have the negative damaged by airport X-rays or an accident in the lab processing. 

I think he’s also probably not as big of a ‘celluloid look’ purist as some people think - he does try make his films look like they could have been shot on 35mm or with anamorphic lenses, but I think he is more after the general feeling than an exact recreation of a particular film stock or lens. I understand it, but at the same time I wonder how great a film like ‘Mank’ could look if he worked with a DP like Jarin Blaschke and just let him do his thing. I suspect that’s why (in my opinion) his later films have never looked as good as his early celluloid films shot by Darius Khondji and Harris Savides. Just my $0.02 though...

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My $0.02 worth too, I've always had the gut feeling that when Fincher switched to video at the time he did (I believe with Collateral) he severely damaged his grosses - they all seemed to underperform.

Edit: didn't know he did Gone Girl and Dragon Tattoo. Gone Girl was big hit I think, maybe Dragon Tattoo also. 

Edited by charles pappas
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oops, shouldn't trust my gut. 

I looked up his filmography now, and it seemed to me at the time that Zodiac, Ben Button, Social Network and Dragon should have grossed higher. Panic Room was before those and successful I think, not sure if film or digital.

Worth no more that 2 cents.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

yea @Satsuki Murashige

I think he's a control freak! I think there are good bits and bad bits to that, but I do miss the looks of his older movies.

Even social network to me looked better then the newer ones even though Cronenweth shot both of those. 

@charles pappas Zodiac was shot on the viper (same camera as collateral) ....but Savides shot it and you can tell alot of his tastes are involved in how it looks....IE why it looks so good! It does have some of that cold fincher vibe that newest stuff has, But I think Savides added a sense of realism to it that meshed really well. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
1 hour ago, Albion Hockney said:

Zodiac was shot on the viper (same camera as collateral) ....but Savides shot it and you can tell alot of his tastes are involved in how it looks....IE why it looks so good! It does have some of that cold fincher vibe that newest stuff has, But I think Savides added a sense of realism to it that meshed really well. 

I think ‘Zodiac’ is where it started to go downhill.  I know many people think it is a masterpiece, and maybe it is. But it’s where the signature gross underexposed yellow/green fluorescent look started. I watched a video recently where Fincher said the look developed from his extreme distaste for magenta skin tones and his love of playing with warm/cool color temperature. I get why he would use it in ‘Zodiac’ or ‘Dragon Tattoo’ but it seems like an odd choice in ‘Benjamin Button’ or ‘The Social Network.’

The scenes that look the best to me in ‘Zodiac’ are the creepy basement interior where Jake Gyllenhaal thinks he’s been cornered by the Zodiac killer, and the interior of Robert Downey Jr’s trashed houseboat with the shafts of blue daylight streaming in and the bounce under-lighting their faces. Basically just warm/cool and just cool. 

I think Savides’s work in ‘The Game’ is stellar though, so classic and slick, yet also gritty. Khondji’s work in ‘Se7en’ has so much texture and richness, it feels like you can touch every image (eww!). Ditto for Jeff Cronenweth’s work in ‘Fight Club’ though it was a bit more uneven - the paper house was fantastic, the office interiors a bit underwhelming. And the cinematography of ‘Panic Room’ might be my favorite - I feel the level of difficulty is extremely high to maintain a ‘no light’ night interior look for a whole movie while still building contrast into every frame, making ‘ugly’ practical sources look good, and always keeping it interesting. All while performing complicated camera moves and integrating VFX. Khondji and Conrad W. Hall did a wonderful job. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member

I got about 30min into ‘Mank’ last night and ended up turning it off. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for that style of writing, but it wasn’t working for me. I feel like one has to go in knowing who all these people are in order to understand what’s going on. And I’ve read the ‘Making of Citizen Kane,’ so I can’t imagine what a non-cinephile would make of it.

Cinematography-wise, a bit uneven. Some shots lit with high contrast look great. But some wider interiors (especially the party at Hearst Castle) felt underlit, murky and flat. Probably looked good in color but doesn’t work in B&W to me.

The scene in Sam Goldwyn’s office (I think?) appears to have been shot with multiple cameras, which looks out of place with the period vibe to me. 

Some of the deep depth of field day exterior CUs looked odd. I think it’s because in older movies, the key would be brighter and thus the background darker, whereas here it was a bit more balanced. More realistic perhaps, but it didn’t work to draw my eye to the face - instead my eye was drawn to some bright sunlit wall the in background. Maybe the film just wasn’t for me, but I didn’t get it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

I think ‘Zodiac’ is where it started to go downhill.  I know many people think it is a masterpiece, and maybe it is. But it’s where the signature gross underexposed yellow/green fluorescent look started. I watched a video recently where Fincher said the look developed from his extreme distaste for magenta skin tones and his love of playing with warm/cool color temperature. I get why he would use it in ‘Zodiac’ or ‘Dragon Tattoo’ but it seems like an odd choice in ‘Benjamin Button’ or ‘The Social Network.’

The scenes that look the best to me in ‘Zodiac’ are the creepy basement interior where Jake Gyllenhaal thinks he’s been cornered by the Zodiac killer, and the interior of Robert Downey Jr’s trashed houseboat with the shafts of blue daylight streaming in and the bounce under-lighting their faces. Basically just warm/cool and just cool. 

I think Savides’s work in ‘The Game’ is stellar though, so classic and slick, yet also gritty. Khondji’s work in ‘Se7en’ has so much texture and richness, it feels like you can touch every image (eww!). Ditto for Jeff Cronenweth’s work in ‘Fight Club’ though it was a bit more uneven - the paper house was fantastic, the office interiors a bit underwhelming. And the cinematography of ‘Panic Room’ might be my favorite - I feel the level of difficulty is extremely high to maintain a ‘no light’ night interior look for a whole movie while still building contrast into every frame, making ‘ugly’ practical sources look good, and always keeping it interesting. All while performing complicated camera moves and integrating VFX. Khondji and Conrad W. Hall did a wonderful job. 

Zodiac is my favorite Fincher film but the fake anamorphic flares were the beginning of the end for me. I like how it’s lit, though, it feels naturalistic but looks so much better than actual available light would. There’s almost a hyperreal quality that matches some of the CGI-enhanced camerawork. Curious how to get that look and curious how much of it was shot on stages. Seems mostly top lit but with soft sources and bounce from below, mixed color temperature but in a controlled way that never goes too extreme, maybe that’s the basic idea. Whereas Seven feels more Classical to me, more like three point lighting almost or at least more dramatic.

Someone was telling me how Rodrigo Prieto’s style is using a ton of light to create something that looks simple and natural. I’ve heard Savides kept it more minimal. So I am really curious how Zodiac was lit.

I also really liked Social Network and Dragon Tattoo despite not caring for the Red MX sensor’s look generally. I think Dragon Tattoo is the best looking thing shot on that sensor.

I prefer the Dragon sensor, but Gone Girl looked worse to me. And despite a beautiful pilot, I couldn’t deal with the anamorphic look on Mindhunter and tuned out. But I don’t like Netflix content that much. I am curious what the difference is between how Netflix develops something and how more traditional networks do. It’s great in theory that Netflix allows near-complete authorial control (over everything except camera choice, apparently), but there’s an almost amateurish quality to a lot of their content, even the expensive stuff. At least to me. I’m both ecstatic and really worried that they greenlit a David Lynch series. I didn't think the Return was beautifully shot, but I thought it was perfectly shot for the show. The again I was worried when I read it wouldn’t be 35mm (Indland Empire didn’t do it for me). Those worries were misplaced. Given the thematic importance of the passage of time in that show, the decision to use a contemporaneous style is perfect.

But Inland Empire was not for me... 

And I do overall prefer the look of Fincher’s work on film (and know others who are more aesthetes than I am who shrivel at my love for Zodiac). And I miss Bay’s collaborations with Schwartzman.

Starting with Robert Rodriguez (and maybe Inland Empire?), and I think culminating with a lot of the prominent Red early adopters (Bay, Fincher, Soderbergh), I think there’s been a lot of excitement about how digital obviates the need for a cinematographer–or at least gives the director more leverage and control. I actually like some of the stuff Rodriguez shot himself but I don’t like where this trend seems to be going.

So maybe this is just a knock against authorial control in general.

On the other hand, Fincher’s recent stuff is all better than Alien 3.

And I agree about magenta skin tones… not for me...

Edited by M Joel W
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I certainly didn't expect that amount of criticism. Fincher is one of the only directors actually doing great work with digital,  he surely has a style and feel to his films that not everyone is down with I guess. Zodiac is incredible. 

Love Mank but it's REALLY not a film for everyone. It's very dense, a lot of inside baseball stuff that one has to know about, otherwise they might be lost. You can appreciate it on a surface level but there's a whole political slant to it, many references, a lot of context that might discourage some people. But it's great, got me to research some of it to fully understand the piece and it's definitely going to be a film one has to watch multiple times. 

It is however NOT a film about Citizen Kane's making, but rather as the following article says:

"That’s a lot of background just to understand a movie like Mank. But it also suggests something important: Mank is not really a movie about who really wrote Citizen Kane. Nobody suggests that Mankiewicz doesn’t deserve his writing credit, not even Welles. And since Mank skips right over the actual production of Citizen Kane, it’s not super interested in the film itself.

Rather, Mank is a movie about a man who left a career in journalism and the theater to write for Hollywood, and found it to be almost stupidly easy. He develops drinking and gambling habits, and he makes friends in high places who love his keen wit. But then he falls out of their good graces and starts to feel uncomfortable with Hollywood hypocrisy, including his own. He catapults his own life into ruin, and he knows it. So he makes good the only way he knows how: by refusing to be deterred from writing a movie about the man, his former friend, whom he believes harbors a pathos more pathetic than his own."

 

https://www.vox.com/culture/21618200/mank-citizen-kane-netflix-kael-auteur-welles-hearst

Messerschmidt's work is superb, crazy to think this is his first feature, and as always with Fincher, it's going to be very exacting and precise. Granted, it would have looked better actually shot on film but it did feel to me, whether visually, sonically (simulating a mono sound) like a film from the 30s. There's compression (and perhaps it'll be more obvious on the inevitable Criterion disc) but I would have liked more grain there. A cool touch was the grain increasing as it transitioned from scene to scene. 

There are several really arresting scenes visually where it's especially moody. 

Edited by Manu Delpech
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
11 hours ago, M Joel W said:

Zodiac is my favorite Fincher film but the fake anamorphic flares were the beginning of the end for me. I like how it’s lit, though, it feels naturalistic but looks so much better than actual available light would. There’s almost a hyperreal quality that matches some of the CGI-enhanced camerawork. Curious how to get that look and curious how much of it was shot on stages. Seems mostly top lit but with soft sources and bounce from below, mixed color temperature but in a controlled way that never goes too extreme, maybe that’s the basic idea. Whereas Seven feels more Classical to me, more like three point lighting almost or at least more dramatic.

Someone was telling me how Rodrigo Prieto’s style is using a ton of light to create something that looks simple and natural. I’ve heard Savides kept it more minimal. So I am really curious how Zodiac was lit.

Fair enough, though there are also fake anamorphic flares in ‘Panic Room’ in the SOS scene.

I feel like ‘Zodiac’ is a continuation of the toppy soft-lit ‘Panic Room’ look rather than the more classical big backlight + wet-down + soft key look of ‘The Game.’ But in ‘Panic Room’ the film negative still feels rich and colors in the shadows still have depth and saturation. The digital ‘negative’ feels thin in a lot of Fincher films, like there’s not much color information there. I think the snowy landscape and high contrast interiors of ‘Dragon Tattoo’ and sunny New Orleans location of ‘Benjamin Button’ helps to balance that somewhat. But when you have large office windows on location that you have to balance to, I feel like maybe they had to underexpose more than they would have for color negative, leading to a thinner look. Of course pretty much everything except for the exteriors in ‘Panic Room’ were shot on stage where they could control the light levels. 

Apparently, Savides was not a fan of the Viper camera. Lowry Digital did a de-noise pass on the whole film and I believe they added film grain on top. 
 

11 hours ago, M Joel W said:

I also really liked Social Network and Dragon Tattoo despite not caring for the Red MX sensor’s look generally. I think Dragon Tattoo is the best looking thing shot on that sensor.

I prefer the Dragon sensor, but Gone Girl looked worse to me. And despite a beautiful pilot, I couldn’t deal with the anamorphic look on Mindhunter and tuned out.

And I do overall prefer the look of Fincher’s work on film (and know others who are more aesthetes than I am who shrivel at my love for Zodiac). And I miss Bay’s collaborations with Schwartzman.

I think location has a lot to do with it - a lot of the later films/projects like ‘Gone Girl’, ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Mindhunter’ take place in a much more ‘ordinary’ world than many of the older films. I guess I prefer the more fantastical worlds of the grimy, rain-soaked streets of ‘Se7en’ or the cold, glossy mansions of ‘The Game’ and ‘Panic Room.’ 
 

Quote

Starting with Robert Rodriguez (and maybe Inland Empire?), and I think culminating with a lot of the prominent Red early adopters (Bay, Fincher, Soderbergh), I think there’s been a lot of excitement about how digital obviates the need for a cinematographer–or at least gives the director more leverage and control. I actually like some of the stuff Rodriguez shot himself but I don’t like where this trend seems to be going.

Robert Rodriguez shot his own films before ‘Desperado,’ but I do think his middle period movies when he was working with Guillermo Navarro and Enrique Chediak still look the best to me. 

The thing is, directors like Fincher, Rodriguez, Steven Soderbergh, Michael Bay, and PT Anderson are very accomplished cinematographers (even if they won’t claim the title) that probably could have had great DP careers if they didn’t take up directing. So it’s not odd that they would shoot their own projects (I don’t think Bay has yet). But I do think some quality gets lost without the dynamic tension of collaboration with a strong DP like Darius Khondji, Harris Savides, John Schwartzman (or Gordon Willis) who is going to insist on putting their stamp on a project. At least, that’s my take on it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member
11 hours ago, Manu Delpech said:

I certainly didn't expect that amount of criticism. Fincher is one of the only directors actually doing great work with digital,  he surely has a style and feel to his films that not everyone is down with I guess. Zodiac is incredible. 

Love Mank but it's REALLY not a film for everyone. It's very dense, a lot of inside baseball stuff that one has to know about, otherwise they might be lost. You can appreciate it on a surface level but there's a whole political slant to it, many references, a lot of context that might discourage some people. But it's great, got me to research some of it to fully understand the piece and it's definitely going to be a film one has to watch multiple times. 

It is however NOT a film about Citizen Kane's making, but rather as the following article says:

"That’s a lot of background just to understand a movie like Mank. But it also suggests something important: Mank is not really a movie about who really wrote Citizen Kane. Nobody suggests that Mankiewicz doesn’t deserve his writing credit, not even Welles. And since Mank skips right over the actual production of Citizen Kane, it’s not super interested in the film itself.

Rather, Mank is a movie about a man who left a career in journalism and the theater to write for Hollywood, and found it to be almost stupidly easy. He develops drinking and gambling habits, and he makes friends in high places who love his keen wit. But then he falls out of their good graces and starts to feel uncomfortable with Hollywood hypocrisy, including his own. He catapults his own life into ruin, and he knows it. So he makes good the only way he knows how: by refusing to be deterred from writing a movie about the man, his former friend, whom he believes harbors a pathos more pathetic than his own."

It’s an odd script, that’s all. If you’re going to drop the audience into a dense plot with lots of backstory in medias res like that, we need something to grab onto until we get our bearings.

Look at the brilliant pilots of ‘The Wire’ or ‘Game of Thrones’ for example: so many characters to introduce, so much backstory to exposit, so much plot to set up - they both set up understandable key character conflicts immediately and give you characters to root for and despise, whilst doing the work of setting up the rules of the world and laying out the board in the background.

If instead you’re going to tell a leisurely meandering character study, then you might need to simplify a bit. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member

If you study the way Fincher makes his movies, it's nearly entirely in pre production and post production. The shooting on set is almost like creating some sort of "reference" rather than what is being seen in the final movie. He manipulates every frame to a level of insanity in post production. Moving characters around in the frame, changing their eye movements, changing art direction and backgrounds. They practically re-light entire scenes in post as well, which is why ALL of his digital films look like plastic. I have a few friends who have worked with him and they would never do it again. Which is disappointing to me because I always looked up to him as a younger filmmaker, but once he had bigger budgets, it went to shit. 

Where I haven't watched the entire movie, I have previewed it a bit and will probably watch the whole thing soon. I really was disappointed with the look they choose. You can very easily make digital black and white look good, but they weren't willing to take any risks. It's very flat and lacking the look of real black and white. Again, very plastic looking and the amount of effects is overload. I feel like he's shooting quite a bit on soundstage with green screen backgrounds and small set pieces that people can touch. That look just doesn't really work well unless it's sparse, but when you use it all the time, it really gets annoying. The lighting is very much modern "color" style, not what they would have done in the past either.

It's just sad he went out to make a "classic" black and white film and kinda ruined it.

I'll watch the whole thing and discuss the story at some point. So far I'm not impressed with that aspect either.  

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member

And yet, he asked Gary Oldman to do 100 takes in the reception room scene, apparently. What’s the point of that if you manipulate everything in post anyway? Not that there is any point in doing 100 takes of anything in the first place. 

Edited by Uli Meyer
Link to comment
Share on other sites

42 minutes ago, Tyler Purcell said:

You can very easily make digital black and white look good, but they weren't willing to take any risks. 

Perhaps you can elaborate on where they went wrong.

43 minutes ago, Tyler Purcell said:

It's very flat and lacking the look of real black and white.

Which particular "real" black and white are you referring to?

45 minutes ago, Tyler Purcell said:

It's just sad he went out to make a "classic" black and white film and kinda ruined it.

Though as you say, you haven't yet seen it.

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

Looked great to me, and fairly high in contrast in a number of scenes. It's not ALL high-contrast, there are natural variations.

I really liked the way it looked also. Erik Messerschmidt has said in a couple of interviews that they weren't looking to emulate any particular style of b&w photography (although the deep focus look is an obvious nod). They seem to have gone for a variety of different looks. The studio offices in 1934 have a sharp, noirish quality to them, whereas some later scenes in 1940 are noticeably diffused, and have an almost IR film luminosity. At the same time, they evidently weren't too concerned with period accurate lighting. There's a fair amount of soft toplight going on, and at least one scene (election night 1936) which is lit entirely with practicals. I think it's a great combination of the old and new.

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...