Double Feature: The Crossing (2018) & Mank (2020)

The last double feature for 2020 is here! Today is a big day like previous years so this is the first post, a little different since I usually just have that one post for the annual wrap-up which will be the adventures post coming up a little later. This pairing was a little tough but I had to review Mank at some point (since the David Fincher season for Movies and Tea still has a way to go before we get to that episode) and I’ve paired it up with probably one of my favorite discoveries this year and that’s 2018’s The Crossing.

Let’s check it out!

The Crossing (过春天, 2018)

Director (and writer): Xue Bai

Cast: Yao Huang, Sunny Sun, Carmen Soup, Elena Kong, Hongjie Ni, Kai Chi Liu

*Originally posted on Movies and Tea – Friday Film Club*

The Crossing is a 2018 coming of age drama about a 16 year old student Peipei (Yao Huang) who makes plans with her best friend Jo (Carmen Coup) to go to Japan during Christmas break but struggling to raise funds due to her living situation, she ends up getting caught up with her best friend’s boyfriend Hao (Sunny Sun) who works for a lady Hua (Elena Kong) who is the business of smuggling iPhones across to Mainland China. Being someone who lives in Shenzhen but goes to school in Hong Kong, Peipei crosses the border everyday unsuspectingly making her a great asset to their operation while being able to make lots of money for her Japan trip so that she can finally see snow. However, when she realizes that the operation is more than just phones and Hao has other plans and she has a growing connection with Hao, things start to fall out of her control.

The Crossing is a solid directorial debut for Chinese female director Bai Xue. Its a slow-burn, quiet and subtle sort of film that explores youth from a fresh angle. It looks at the straightforward desires of being young and not caring about other things but being single-minded focused on certain goals while also looking at the relationship of youth and money. At the same time, it looks at the landscape and situation between the border of Shenzhen as a connection of Mainland China and Hong Kong and the smuggling situation. Whether its the characters and their relationships, a lot of it is between the lines and discovered through Peipei’s observation as the movie is shot from her point of view. There is a good shift and development from her character and Hao from the beginning to the final moment.

One of the standout point of the film is in its arthouse style of cinematography playing a lot with lighting and focusing on sounds and choosing a decent soundtrack and pairs well with the scene playing out. Not to mention there’s this great scene of tapping cell phones to their body that is much sexier than it should ever be. The dialogue also is well-written and matches to their young characters and the more young adult characters Hao. However, there is some great veterans here like Elena Kong and Hongjie Ni (playing Peipei’s mother) in supporting roles.

I probably should note that The Crossing isn’t an easy movie to find. I’ve only found it on the Tencent app/viewer after depleting all other possibilities (with English subtitles for those interested). Maybe its been distributed in other countries but at least for Canada, I haven’t found it anywhere else. However, if you do find it, this one is a hidden gem.

Mank (2020)

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tom Pelphrey, Arliss Howard, Tuppence Middleton, Joseph Cross, Charles Dance, Tom Burke

1930’s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane (1941). – IMDB

My Mank review will be a little different from others. For someone like myself who hasn’t seen Citizen Kane or know of the screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, Mank is less of a biopic and more of simply a film for exactly what it is. With that said, it saves all the comparisons that others might have. Mank is also a very different film in David Fincher’s filmography. Visually stylistic along with some beautiful outfits set in a black and white film, Mank does deliver on style alone as well as the quick dialogue between the characters also delivering a much wordier film than usual in Fincher’s films but perhaps it had a lot to do to keeping the essence of the screenplay written by his late father, Jack Fincher.

One of the standout elements of the films definitely does go to the cast that embodies these characters. Can you call them characters if it is based on real people? I don’t know but you get what I mean. They definitely do come to life as Gary Oldman delivers a stellar performance as Herman J. Mankiewicz surrounded by an array of people whirling in and out of his life running on the past and present, cleverly portrayed with timestamps whenever it hops from one place to the next. Other than Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried’s portrayal of Marion Davies is absolutely charming particularly the one scene where Marion and Mank has a walk in the garden. Marion is married to Hearst which becomes a rather big topic as Hearst does have an interesting character that creates some contrast and incredibly well done by Charles Dance even if the role is a little more in the backdrops. Of course, there are other roles by Lily Collins as the secretary typing up Mank’s screenplay and Joseph Cross playing Charles Lederer and the list goes on. Because of the heavey dialogue, the characters play a huge part in the movie’s enjoyability and for the most part the quick conversations do add quite a bit.

With that said, Mank is a tad on the long side. It almost feels like it could be cut down a little bit to give it a tighter execution. Very rare movies make me feel like its worth over 2 hours of watch time without it wearing on its pacing a little (but that is definitely my own issue). There is no doubt that Mank has great production value and the movie itself has a lot of charming elements and there’s something much deeper here. I do wonder whether watching Citizen Kane and having a greater knowledge of the source material and what the biopic revolves around would make it a more or less enjoyable experience. As of now, as a standalone piece without any comparisons, its definitely one that I would recommend seeing as its pros almost outweigh its cons.