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DC SURFERGIRL

Daily Dose of Darkness #8: Seeing You for the First Time (Scene from Mildred Pierce)

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This is, for me, a great choice to discuss in the context of noir and I agree with so many of the observations I have read this morning.

I love the domesticity of this film: a mother instead of a detective, a daughter instead of a street thug. It's great to see what a noir sensibility can do with this story, and Joan Crawford excels at this role. Even today, in a contemporary setting, I find Veda's attitude and behavior shocking, so I do think this film was subversive, in its way, and I can see the argument for it being noir.

 

 

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I have to admit I do pay a lot of attention to the psychology of the characters in film noir, these characters and human behavior do fascinate me.  I tend to pay more attention to the characters rather than the surrounding scenery and I am coming to realize that although they are affecting me subconsciously as a viewer, I need to bring them more into consideration in discussion.  I think the lighting effects and other aspects of cinematography in this film are quite unusual for a noir.  

 

There are a lot of excellent points being made in this discussion regarding the creative aspects of making the film and I think they are important to consider.  This particular film is one that is set in the suburbs.  In many instances lighting effects are quite bright and cheery, until we really start getting into the ugliness of this film.  In the scene we viewed this morning, I certainly feel that this house was "full of light".  It feels like a nice family home where Beaver Cleaver and his family could live.  It is the characters that bring the darkness to this scene.  

 

We must give credit here to the exceptional talent of Crawford and Blythe, but why did the director choose to keep this scene well-lit?  Did he recognize the power that both of these women possessed in their talents and felt like they could carry the weight of "bringing the darkness"?  I truly think that may have been the case.....these women carried it off exceptionally well and although the house stays lit and feels normal, we feel very differently about them after their confrontation.

 

We now despise Vida although we have known all along that she is a little beast.  Why do our minds change now?  I think it is because we are "with" Mildred and feel justified now to "confront and punish" this child because Mildred is now doing so.....

 

Perhaps it is because we are so surrounded by "light" in this movie that we just don't want to believe this little girl could really be so bad.....but it is inevitable, we as the viewer must despise what we now perceive as true human garbage.

 

I have watched this movie a number of times and the scenery throughout the film feels quite normal and everyday to me i.e. the family home, the restaurant MP creates, the great success of her business and the truly good and kind-hearted people that surround these few very dark characters. In this movie it is the acting that brings the aspects of noir to a strong and engaging point in this film.

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This is, for me, a great choice to discuss in the context of noir and I agree with so many of the observations I have read this morning.

I love the domesticity of this film: a mother instead of a detective, a daughter instead of a street thug. It's great to see what a noir sensibility can do with this story, and Joan Crawford excels at this role. Even today, in a contemporary setting, I find Veda's attitude and behavior shocking, so I do think this film was subversive, in its way, and I can see the argument for it being noir.

take it a little further......Zach Scott as the male fatale..........................

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Mildred Pierce - was more daughter dearest than mommy dearest.  The famous slap - no acting there.  Ann Blyth said once that Joan told her to really slap her.  The look on Joan's face at the point of impact doesn't look like she had to act.  Ann Blyth must have been petrified to do that to the great Joan Crawford.

 

As for the 'noir' aspects, the camera angles, the lighting and the music make this an eerie setting.  AT one point Joan towers over Ann; she will triumph.  Of course, that was before the slap.

 

I've seen this film several times but now I notice the shadows, especially of the window blinds on the wall.  They're both dressed in dark colors, presumably black, showing that this is a dark movie, a film noir.  

 

I love when Joan tears up the check.  So cool!  Joan went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress.  And, director Curtiz thought Joan as a 'has-been.'  Ha!  

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I've never really thought of Mildred Pierce as film noir before, but now I can see some influences of noir. It's shocking to see such a beautiful young girl be so ruthless in her actions and so violent when she slaps her mother. To me, that shock value is very film noir. Also, this film has great use of lighting and shadows as does any film noir.

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Well, first I have never seen Mildred Pierce but this is film noir in that the characters are in a sense of turmoil with each other. The daughter is treacherous, devious, and caniving. The daughter have resorted to deception to get money for her own needs. In addition, the lighting is true noir. There is the "black and white" element but also the lighting that adds to the mood of the scene.

Both characters alternate from a dominant to vulnerable position. The daughter sitting on the couch without a care in the world is confronted by her mother and then moves to a position whereby she can reveal her true feelings about her mother. She feels as if she has nothing to lose by revealing these true feelings.

Finally, I believe Mildred Pierce is important to film noir in that it lends credibility to the genre. Joan Crawford, was an A list star that made this movie a classic. The film industry, I believe, began to see the importance of including elements of film noir in major studio pictures and took the best of the genre and incorporated into movies during that time period.

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If this were pure melodrama, the daughter would  not be guilty of lying about a pregnancy and blackmail; she would just want money to buy things, and to present a better 'face,'   We have a feeling that Veda is obsessed with money, not that she just wants a better life.  Both actresses wear black and have severe hair styles, worthy of noir, but this makes them look harsh.  This is especially true of the young Veda; you don't expect a young girl to look so severe.  In most of Veda's closeups you also see the side of Mildred's face; this is so until her last closeup on the stairs, where she is higher than her mother until her mother takes command finally.  Throughout, Mildred is seen straight-on, she stands straight and moves deliberately-- she is Upright.  Veda slouches, stretches, moves more sinuously.  Veda is not what you would expect in a typical young woman, to put it mildly.  This is noir in characterization and psychology.  Veda is a dark character.

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SPOILERS!!!

 

-- How do you feel the noir influence operates in this scene from Mildred Pierce?

For years, I felt Mildred Pierce was a meldrama until I read somewhere Veda is the femme fatale that is when the light bulbs come on.. Veda loves money, Just like Lisbeth Scott in Too Late for Tears, Jane Greer in Out of the Past, Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indeminty, Vera in Detour, Yvonne Decarlo in Criss Cross.

Not only that, all the men in Mildred's life aren't on the up and up, Her Husband, Wally, her second husband.

The ending is bleek, her daughter is going to prison for murdering her husband. This is household noir.

 

-- How does Curtiz arrange these two actresses to heighten the tension of the scene? Pay attention to how they move and how they are framed in the scene, especially the use of close-ups. 

It's clear Veda is in control, look how non chalant and self assured she is.

 

-- In what ways can this scene from Mildred Pierce be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?

Mildred Pierce is a top noir, not obvious at first, but it is textbook noir

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This clip from “Mildred Pierce” really lays bare the sordid human emotion of greed, which we see in a lot of film noir, and which tends to drive the protagonist to his or her doom. Veda is almost like the personification of greed, and she is also the quintessential femme fatale, a fact especially chilling, since she is still just a teenager. Like the femme fatale in many films noir, she is cruel, double-crossing, utilizes sex to her advantage, and is driven by a desire to get ahead at any cost. Her mother even says to her during the clip, “You’d do anything for money, wouldn’t you?” The disillusionment with American ideals, a concept linked closely with the emergence of film noir, is also apparent here. Veda’s mother has embraced those American ideals such as hard work and determination, but her daughter doesn’t see the value of such things. If Mildred stands for the hard-working, dedicated American middle-class, then her daughter, ironically, stands for the complete rejection of those values. Other noir influences I see in this clip are the use of black to set a somber tone (they’re both wearing black), the use of shadow (especially behind Mildred while they’re on the stairs), and the specter of murder that is introduced in the scene (when Mildred says to Veda, “Get out before I kill you!”), perhaps foreshadowing an actual murder later in the film. With regard to the way the two women move around the scene, I thought the same thing that some other people have already noted: They seem to circle each other like wary animals or prize-fighters in the ring.

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I feel that noir has influenced Mildred Pierce not only by the darkness and camera angles that are evident throughout the film, but I do feel that Veda is a perfect femme fatale.  What it must have been like for moviegoers in the 40's to witness this spoiled, hateful, callous, smug daughter(enough adjectives?).  I'm sure they hadn't seen this kind of mother/daughter relationship before in the movies. The shot on the staircase with Veda on the higher step delivering that slap to Mildred is so powerful.  You're stunned.  The closeups tell us everything we need to know about what these two women are feeling.  I love Joan Crawford in this movie, but I do think that Ann Blyth gives a performance to match.

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From the standpoint of its overall storyline, I don't consider Mildred Pierce to be a noir, even though its theme does cast a shadow on the validity of the American Dream.

 

Yet if you separately view its opening scenes--from the sudden murder that violates the quiet of the night all the way to Mildred beginning her flashback in the police station--the film has all the look, feel, and drama of a textbook noir. Any enthusiast seeing this movie for the first time, and having no idea where it's going, would be drawn into this murder by an unseen killer, the flight from the house, the attempted suicide off a dark pier, the apparent luring of a patsy into the murder scene, the initially unseen dead body, the police shooting at the man fleeing the house, and the cold and agonizing silence required at the police station. Is Mildred an innocent woman or a femme fatale? The viewer wonders. 

 

Of course the spell is broken once the flashback gets underway, with its sunshine and a homey suburban backdrop. The viewer is awakened to the fact that this is a different kind of movie. But the initial noir situations, scene structuring, and lighting show that by 1945 filmmakers seemed to know how to do that stuff, and exploit it for other purposes. 

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Totally agree this is woman's noir, i'm calling it household noir,, but woman's noir is the right place for it

I'm more visually oriented in defining Noir and this one is very dark in sequences, but that said Mildred Pierce has all the other crucial elements, the murder, the obsessed characters, the betrayal, it's just that they are not as heavily emphasized as the conflict between mother and daughter. Another classic Noir The Naked City, is very filled with light comparably to Mildred Pierce but it is filled with a plethora of on location sequences. 

 

This film belongs to that Women's Noir classification (some others are Gaslight (1944), Possessed (1947), A Woman's Secret (1949), The Reckless Moment (1949), No Man of Her Own (1950), Sudden Fear (1952),  .

 

Most color Neo Noirs are comparatively light filled, but some of the best are still darkly lit and still show the noir stylistics, the Dutch angles etc., along with a strong noir storyline, when they get all of these right  they hit on all cylinders.

 

Again being visually oriented, one interesting observation I've made is that a good color equivalent in Neo Noir's to the use of shadows in Classic Noirs is the use of subtly clashing colors, red against green as an example, they give that same uneasy feeling that something is off, another off setting factor is the use of some modern architecture, some of this has odd angles, cantilevered floors, spirals, etc., etc., lol.

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I feel that noir has influenced Mildred Pierce not only by the darkness and camera angles that are evident throughout the film, but I do feel that Veda is a perfect femme fatale.  What it must have been like for moviegoers in the 40's to witness this spoiled, hateful, callous, smug daughter(enough adjectives?).  I'm sure they hadn't seen this kind of mother/daughter relationship before in the movies. The shot on the staircase with Veda on the higher step delivering that slap to Mildred is so powerful.  You're stunned.  The closeups tell us everything we need to know about what these two women are feeling.  I love Joan Crawford in this movie, but I do think that Ann Blyth gives a performance to match.

Watching this today, it is very disturbing.  This film breaks away from the usual film noir relationship of femme fatale and protagonist by having it about a mother and child in a wonderfully, creepy and upsetting way!

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The daughter is very lax and cavalier while the mother was physically stiff with concern. That was until the mother expressed disapproval of her daughter's plans. At that point, the daughter became stiff and fidgety with belligerence. The womens' movement throughout the room was like a dance that culminated with an off balancing slap and a sharp reprimand. Very dramatic, and given the subject matter of blackmail and faked (or maybe not faked but aborted) pregnancy, is all pretty dark. Like much of the subjects in Film Noir.

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I see the noir influence here in how the scene is set up with the furniture and the staircase, how the actors move around the scene and how the scene is lit and filmed. I think this references the mise-en-scène which takes us from mildly inquisitive to a stark revelation of "I'm seeing you for the first time..."

 

I feel this uses the noir style in that the scene begins by starting the daughter on the sofa, reclined and self satisfied, with the mother standing. Then bringing them around the sofa to the table, the scene intensifies, more on equal footing as the daughter begins to reveals her true self. Using the over-the-shoulder close-ups emphasizing the building confrontation, climaxing on the staircase with the daughter slapping the mother from a position of dominance. This all works to provide the mother with an ever increasing loss of control and helplessness to the point she disowns the daughter for which she has sacrificed so much.

 

I think this is important as it deals with a relationship outside of cops and robbers. As I've heard often, you can pick your friends but you can't pick your family. A good example of what not to do in our own lives.

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From the standpoint of its overall storyline, I don't consider Mildred Pierce to be a noir, even though its theme does cast a shadow on the validity of the American Dream.

 

Yet if you separately view its opening scenes--from the sudden murder that violates the quiet of the night all the way to Mildred beginning her flashback in the police station--the film has all the look, feel, and drama of a textbook noir. Any enthusiast seeing this movie for the first time, and having no idea where it's going, would be drawn into this murder by an unseen killer, the flight from the house, the attempted suicide off a dark pier, the apparent luring of a patsy into the murder scene, the initially unseen dead body, the police shooting at the man fleeing the house, and the cold and agonizing silence required at the police station. Is Mildred an innocent woman or a femme fatale? The viewer wonders. 

 

Of course the spell is broken once the flashback gets underway, with its sunshine and a homey suburban backdrop. The viewer is awakened to the fact that this is a different kind of movie. But the initial noir situations, scene structuring, and lighting show that by 1945 filmmakers seemed to know how to do that stuff, and exploit it for other purposes. 

 

Fred your point about the opening, although we didn't see it in our clip this morning, is an excellent one and something I hadn't considered before..

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This is, for me, a great choice to discuss in the context of noir and I agree with so many of the observations I have read this morning.

I love the domesticity of this film: a mother instead of a detective, a daughter instead of a street thug. It's great to see what a noir sensibility can do with this story, and Joan Crawford excels at this role. Even today, in a contemporary setting, I find Veda's attitude and behavior shocking, so I do think this film was subversive, in its way, and I can see the argument for it being noir.

 

An excellent point about this film......it remains a seriously shocking scene even after the decades have passed in our society.

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The scene on the stairs is great - the daughter stands above Joan, very symbolic, since Veda considers herself above her mother. Quite some paralells between this film and Joan's relationship with her own daughter.

 

Interesting take and I have seen this same thought from many posts this morning.....it seems to me they have an interchanging struggle for power in this scene.  It is Vida who has been in control of things to this point.....then we see a change.....Vida rises from the couch and openly insults mom, mom stops her and takes (what we think) will be her last stance as a weak mom by grabbing Vida's handbag and tearing up the check, Vida slaps her and them mom once again takes charge by ordering Vida out of the house (with a threat of death no less)......we see a moment where the insolence in Vida's eyes switch over to fear and uncertainty.....(HOW DID SHE DO THAT?)  I think the struggle continues on between these two through the end of the movie......incredible....

 

There is no denying the extremely powerful acting forces at work in this film......and yes, I saw a comment on Crawford taking that slap.....WHEW!!!!  I'll be she was a little ticked and had no problem acting the part at that point.....WHO dares to slap the great Joan Crawford?  One of the most powerful scenes I have ever witnessed in all my movie viewing.

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What struck me about this scene was the choreography, almost like a dance. Turn around each other, face away, face together, hold, turn again... like a French apache dance, including the slap at the end.

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There has been quite a bit of discussion on whether or not Mildred Pierce is a film noir. This is one of my favorite films. I've always called it femme noir because it is strikingly different from traditional noir styles. Generally the voice-overs and protagonists in both hardboiled fiction and films noir are men. In this film, the main character is a woman whose adversary is not a man but a femme fatale; her own daughter.

 

In this particular scene we see the stark moral contrast between mother and daughter in both posture and wardrobe attire. Veda is the cold and calculating femme fatale who will do anything to achieve money. She lacks a moral compass and all compassion for the people she hurts. Her non-chalant posture highlights this as she is cool, calm and flippant about her lies. Mildred is more the matron who is ethical and wants to restore order as she appears more rigid yet refined. She stands straight as opposed to Veda's more flowing (and hand wringing) posture. The choice for each character's wardrobe is deliberate in showing the contrast. Notice the sharp lines in Mildred's dress that gives her more of a square, straight-edge appearance while Veda's dress defines her curves more (dangerous curves ahead).

 

Once Veda is ready to reveal why she wanted the money, the camera zooms in closer much as person would when they are eager to hear the truth (or an interesting story). We tend to lean forward for a better listen. Ann Blyth gives a great performance and her facial expressions make her believable as an evil woman. Both women are at an equal sparring position face to face. Veda challenges her mother's morals, ethics and hard work.

 

As mother and daughter run up the stairs, Veda puts herself at a higher step to give the appearance of power leading up to the slap. Once Mildred regains her footing, she takes a step up and threatens her daughter and it is only then that we now see Veda as truly powerless and we see her for the fraud that she is. It is the only time we see her looking up at her mother with true fear.

 

Such a great and powerful film.

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Wow.. there are so many things happening in just this short clip. 

From the beginning we are watching the slow realization of Mildred's that her daughter isn't at all who she thought she was. From the placement of Veda laying prone on the couch while talking with her mother who's standing in the 'power' position. We watch as the women draw nearer to each other and Veda starts to raise in position while telling the truth about the fake pregnancy and blackmail scheme. At first she fails to confront her mother face to face and Mildred pulls her towards her to tell her exactly what she thinks of Veda. We watch as Veda twists and plays with her ring as she paces and justifies her getting the money. As Mildred realizes the depths that Veda will go to for money, she calls Veda out on her cheapness and greed, asking why? It's then that Veda comes into a tight shot with Mildred and basically gives her both barrels of her reasons for needing money. We are shown Mildred's face in close up at her reaction to Veda's viciousness and Veda's level of disgust at Mildred's 'commonness'. Veda now gets a close up to show the equalizing of the power balance as she rants about everything wrong with Mildred. She flees to the staircase and we are shown the total power shift of Veda being the higher of the two and the fight over the cheque, and its ripping up results in the slap  that knocks Mildred to the ground. The ultimate reversal of daughter- mother relations and this scene builds that explosive tension. Not to be taken so easily Mildred rises and once again is pictured standing over Veda, reclaiming her place of power and delivers the ultimate line.. "I'll kill you" to her daughter. 

This is noir in that it totally takes all conventions of society's portrayal of women, especially the mother daughter dynamic and turns it on its head. The woman leading the 'apple pie American' dream of working hard and being someone, is openly ridiculed and mocked for having those dreams by her own daughter. Veda is the epitome of doing anything for the capitalist dream, not by working hard, but by using her body, manipulating and blackmailing to make that happen and with little emotions about who it might hurt, or destroy, in the process. She is the ultimate ungrateful, grasping child that society hates, but encourages at the same time. 

 

This movie takes that American dream of pursuing monetary gains and ramps it up to one thousand to show how truly destroying that way of thinking is and, in that regard, is wonderfully subversive.

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I think Veda is the best take on a true Cain female. She only has 2 redeeming qualities youth and beauty, and we know those do not last, the rest of her is a black as any charater in noir. Veda will do anything or hurt anyone to achive her goals of money and social stature. As a few others have written, Veda stands on the higher step to reinforce her superiority over her mother.

More onthis later. Work keeps getting in the way..

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That was the most intense scene I have seen in a long time. With a mother who is trying to warn her daughter of a dark road shes about to go down, and a daughter who's made up her mind to get out of dodge at any cost, its amazing to see this scene unfold. 

The camera work definitely played a part in the tension. The use of the OTS shot (over the shoulder), and the close up to catch the emotion, that was classic moment of angst of youth, vs. the traditions of old coming to a head. It was boiling when the mother was not a fan of her getting the money the way she did, but it definitely went there when she slapped her mother... Such a powerful scene. So many emotions, so much "truth," it was awesome. 

 

The means of how to get whatever you want, be it lying, blackmailing, or killing, is a very important contribution to the style. It's like, the dirtier you play the game, the bigger the fight, and further the climb. I CAN NOT wait to see this movie... This scene alone, made me want to love this movie, which I know I probably will. :)

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I've never seen Mildred Pierce, and I was actually quite surprised the first time I heard it was a film noir. Nevertheless, you can sense some noir characteristics in this scene here. First, the wearing of black dresses implies somebody has died (possibly murder?). Paired with the lighting, this creates a noir-style tone to the film. Another characteristic is the realization that someone you know isn't exactly who you thought they were, as is the case with Mildred and her daughter Veda. The music plays to the increasing tension as their argument grows more explosive. This scene still leaves the main plot a mystery, so I'm not exactly sure who's the villain here, although it seems to be Veda. The scene pushes the angle of good vs evil, but those roles can quickly switch in noir. 

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