Last week we saw the release of a tease trailer for the new film by David Fincher Mank (2020). This film is written by Fincher’s father Jack Fincher and is about “screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his battles with director Orson Welles over screenplay credit for Citizen Kane (1941)”. Films that portray other films, Hollywood or deal with film-making in general are curious since they provide an insight into their own industry. In this vein, we can recall Fellini’s 8 1⁄2 (1963), Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1988), Hazanavicius‘s The Artist (2011), Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks (2013), Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! (2016), and, more recently, Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). In the list below, I am focusing on 5 similarly-themed films that usually escape this categorisation on the Internet. In no particular order:
I. A Star Is Born 
Arguably, this film showcases Judy Garland’s phenomenal acting ability the best. Here, Esther Blodgett (Garland), later, Vicki Lester, finds her desired career of a singing actress skyrocketing after she meets already almost forgotten, disillusioned and alcoholic movie star Norman Maine (James Mason). The film by George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story (1940)) clearly demonstrates the pitfalls and disillusionments associated with wanting and trying to be an actress in a movie industry, as Blodgett/Lester tries to navigate tricky behind-the-scenes action and movie studios’ unscrupulous management, being torn between hope and despair, love and hate.
II. Mulholland Drive 
One may think that this film-conundrum from David Lynch has little to do with film-making per se, but it is actually one of the films that showcases the movie business to the fullest, satirising everything – from studio auditions and final decisions of picking up actresses for roles to Hollywood itself and the American Dream. In this movie, Betty (Naomi Watts) arrives from a small town to LA to begin her dream of being a movie actress. David Lynch’s vision here is unique, and, apart from other psychological elements this movie is known for, it also clearly shows the aspirations and traumas involved in becoming a famous actress in Hollywood.
III. Berberian Sound Studio 
This film comes from Peter Strickland (In Fabric (2018)), an original film-maker who is not afraid to think radically and outside the box. In Berberian Sound Studio, one man (Toby Jones) arrives from England to Italy to begin his job of being a sound engineer and help to provide sound for a horror film. He quickly realises that his mental state may not be quite up to the job he was assigned. Berberian Sound Studio is far from being a perfect film, but it remains an interesting one in a way it portrays the business of providing sound for films.
IV. The Aviator 
Hughes: “Silent pictures are yesterday’s news, so I figure we gotta re-shoot Hell’s Angels for sound”. Dietrich: “How much of it?” Hughes: “All of it.”
The Aviator is a biopic from Martin Scorsese about a business magnate, pilot and philanthropist Howard Hughes (1905 – 1976), and the film has more than enough inside about Howard Hughes as a movie-maker. Unlike A Star is Born and Mulholland Dr. above, the point of view here is the movie director Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) and we see him making and then gaining recognition for such films as Hell’s Angels (1930) and Scarface (1932) (him being producer in the latter). Hughes’s handling of the Censorship Board Motion Picture Association in the film, as well as his romantic encounters with no other than Katharine Hepburn (played by Cate Blanchett), are some of the most memorable scenes in the film.
V. The Bad & The Beautiful 
Jonathan: “Look. Put five men dressed like cats on the screen, what do they look like?” Fred: “Like five men dressed like cats”.
Winner of five Academy Awards and initially titled Tribute to a Bad Man, Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and The Beautiful tells the story of a movie producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) as he navigates the uneasy and treacherous road of movie business, using an actress, a writer and a director along the way to gain the results he wants. The cinematography by Robert Surtees, the intense character study of Jonathan Shields and the great performance from Kirk Douglas are just some of the standouts from this old picture.