Despite nearly eighty years having passed since its release, Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) is never far from the centre of cultural discourse. Aside from the fact that it tops ‘greatest movie’ lists with monotonous regularity, Citizen Kane often comes into view in somewhat quirky ways as it relates to today’s world. For example, there was Donald Trump’s much-publicised and much-derided misunderstanding of the film’s message, and few years ago there a the strange report of Welles having been posthumously ‘forgiven’ by the family of William Randolph Hearst, the wealthy press baron who inspired the character of Charles Foster Kane.
The mythology and mystique around Citizen Kane have grown to the point that the film seems to have developed its own cultural gravitational pull. Into its orbit are drawn scholars, critics, artists, musicians, novelists and filmmakers seeking to celebrate or reinterpret it. Mank, director David Fincher’s first film since Gone Girl (2014), is the latest instalment. Based on a script by Fincher’s father, Jack, who died in 2003, this is a labyrinthine, dizzying onslaught of non-linear storytelling that juggles various plotlines, none of which is really dominant. Mank also features a large and disorienting cast of characters, and is replete with witty and arch dialogue that moves at bewildering speed.