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


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tshawcross do you have a link to the interview you could post ??

 

I am embarrassed to admit this, but I have had several opportunities to watch Mildred Pierce, but I always avoided it because: 1. I have negative feelings about Joan Crawford due to what I have read about her actions off-screen, so I have avoided watching her movies, and 2. The name "Mildred Pierce" sounded to me like a nineteenth century sort of name, which suggested to me that the movie would be as dated and uninteresting as its name.

 

So, imagine my surprise when I watched the clip in which Veda and Mildred have it out with each other. Wow. My ability to determine which movies to watch is on a par with George Raft's ability to determine which movies he should make!  I am really looking forward to seeing Mildred Pierce now. Also, by the way, after watching the "five minutes of noir" clip, the next clip that automatically popped up was an interview of Veda (Ann Blyth) that was conducted by Eddie Muller, I recommend that you watch it. In the interview, Ann mentions that she was only 16 when she made that movie. I thought she was a bit older, didn't you?

 

- Tom Shawcross 

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Except for the corsage on Veda's dress, the black dresses worn by both actresses become part of the light and shadow and do not distract the viewer's focus on the characters and what they are saying. They emphasize the lack of warmth, light, and gaiety that exists in this home as well as the distance between the characters. The corsage may have been intended to represent Veda's youth, her flowering as a woman but her black dress tempers these emotions in the viewer.  In all the close ups both character's heads are in the frame perhaps to show that at this point there is still a connection between mother and daughter. But the last 2 close ups present each character separately - the mother/daughter connection is now broken. With the conflict between these 2 female protagonists at the center the idea that noir does not need to rely on male detectives or criminal activities as a central ingredient but instead through the use of many of the stylistic techniques associated with the crime/detective genre a noir experience can be created to encompass suffering and passions within the framework of dysfunctional relationships.

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Except for the corsage on Veda's dress, the black dresses worn by both actresses become part of the light and shadow and do not distract the viewer's focus on the characters and what they are saying. They emphasize the lack of warmth, light, and gaiety that exists in this home as well as the distance between the characters. The corsage may have been intended to represent Veda's youth, her flowering as a woman but her black dress tempers these emotions in the viewer. In all the close ups both character's heads are in the frame perhaps to show that at this point there is still a connection between mother and daughter. But the last 2 close ups present each character separately - the mother/daughter connection is now broken. With the conflict between these 2 female protagonists at the center the idea that noir does not need to rely on male detectives or criminal activities as a central ingredient but instead through the use of many of the stylistic techniques associated with the crime/detective genre a noir experience can be created to encompass suffering and passions within the framework of dysfunctional relationships.

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Loved this scene...I noticed the low viewpoint we heard discussed on the podcast about The Maltese Falcon: shooting from around hip-level upwards. But also noticed the director's trick of placing the camera just over the shoulder of the characters so we get an intimate feeling of being involved in the action.

 

I think the director also makes excellent use of the height of various items in the set well to highlight Veda's growing anger: she starts off supine kissing the check, then is leaning on the back of the couch when the argument starts, furious, she's at eye-level as the rage grows and finally she's above her mother when she explodes into violence. 

 

And deception, blackmail, betrayal, fear, lust and loathing...what more can you want from a Noir? 

 

(That Veda has a terrific right hook too!)

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A classic, of course.

 

It's so hard though to believe Joan to be a victim. 

 

Everyone always talks about Bette Davis' eyes...check out her eyes in this scene, they tell the whole story.  I love how she morphs from victim into "classic" Joan Crawford with that gritty, narrowed-eye, are you kidding me look.

 

She begins below Veda, the victim and then through the conversation the posture changes to them being eye-to-eye.  They are constantly moving, though, as if to signify that there's going to be a big chanage.  Once Veda stars mouthing off and ascends the staircase, she clearly becomes the power person.  It isn't until Joan (Mildred) grabs the purse and the subsequent slap that we see the real Joan. 

 

You can see that it's crushing Mildred, after all this is her only living child and the look of disbelief that her child has turned on her, is heartbreaking. 

 

It's a very powerful scene.

 

 

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How do you feel the noir influence operates in this scene fromMildred Pierce?

 

Some of the atmospherics in the scene are obvious. The lighting, the black and white cinematography, the tight shots of the mother/daughter conflict, the spare dialogue which is fairly unusual for a melodrama, the unsavory and fraudulent nature of their discussion (in the previous scene Veda and her mother's shady businessman friend, Faye, have set up a wealthy, but naive young man for blackmail and have executed it, but left Veda's mother really believing that Veda is pregnant), all of these conceits can properly belong in a noir film.

 

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. 

 

First of all, Michael Curtiz is one of my favorite directors. he could do any genre and make an entertaining success of it (Four Daughters, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Casablanca).

 

Second, Curtiz was particularly good at melodrama, and he has Crawford and Blythe, two good film actresses playing the scene for all its is worth. The scene is all done in a tight space from the audience's perspective, and it gets tighter and tighter as they quarrel. When Veda and her mother face each other down (Ann Blythe is even shorter than tiny Joan Crawford!), they move, but not much. Although each actress gets her close-ups, Curtiz keeps them facing each other, close together so we can see each of them panting for breath, chests heaving with anger and panic. 

 

Curtiz doesn't use any novel shots, only the classic two shot, close-up, over the should shots, but he edits them in order to build the anger and intensity of a mother realizing for the first time that her daughter is a monster.

 

Ann Blythe stays true to character as she never lets the contempt for her mother leave her face. When she slugs Crawford, (and Blythe has stated in interviews it was a real, hard slap) the one we are afraid for is Veda. Crawford's eyes look like she is going to kill her daughter. So while Curtiz' mastery of the craft of filmmaking is astoundingly good (after all the film holds up 70 years after it was made) we can't discount the value of the two stars playing the scene. They make these two characters alive and real in their passion.

 

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

 

Curtiz makes the melodrama noirish, although I think some other scenes in the film are more demonstrative of noir (Zachary Scott's death scene, Mildred and her first husband leaving the police station, the two cops' discovery of Wally Faye leaving the beach house, etc).

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In reading the post thus far today, I am fascinated with what a polarizing actress Joan Crawford is to everyone. Some love her and this movie and some can't stand her and consequently have avoided it or have only seen it once. I am the latter. I have never liked her and have only seen this once. I do plan to watch it this weekend via TCM.

 

Despite not being able to connect to Crawford in much of anything she has done, I do respect the talent. I find her closed off and cold regardless of the part she is playing which drives any sympathy or empathy for her characters out of me.

 

Joan Crawford has never been one of my favorite actresses, but I agree: Her acting is phenomenal. Her inability to create empathy for her character in Mildred Pierce works so well for film noir. Perhaps we love to hate her! Some of her movies are great, others not so much. I once saw her on an episode of the television show Route 66. So she could act and she had staying power.

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Here are a couple of point I found

1. Characters driven by lust and greed, which eventually and unavoidably

2. brings their downfall (the feeling they are trapped in their circumstance and doomed to fall)

3. the type of noir women - either as bad as can be or very naive (usually the good natured naive ones are spared the impending fall 

4. The psychological angle- film noir is more about the interior life of character than about action - the story is an excuse to show the lower depths of human beings

5. Moral choices- the noir protagonists often face a moral choice - in this case Mildred has to face the truth about her daughter- a truth she avoided for many years, in doing so, she has "fed the monster" In this scene she finally can not deny it any longer and must make a moral choice - to stop enabling Veda's greed

 

I have a real problem with classifying Mildred Pierce (1945) as film noir.  To me, it's just a story of a long suffering, self-sacrificing mother and her bitterly ungrateful daughter.  It's a tragic chick flick.  Okay, there's a murder.  But so what?  There are murders in lots of movies that aren't noir.  Heck, I'd say that Mommie Dearest (1981) is more noir, as two innocent children are sent on a fatalistic life trajectory of darkness and terror with little hope of escape.  It's even more noir when you consider that it subverts the public image that Joan Crawford and the studiosh had tried so hard to create for her.

     Of course, the look of Mildred Pierce appears to be noir, but is it?  Just because a film uses the look of noir, does it make it noir?  I say that because we have to remember that the look of noir is developed from German Expressionism.  Long before the Maltese Falcon, other directors were using darkness as a structural element of the scene and imagery, askew camera angles, and other "noir" visuals because of the influence of German Expressionism.

     If a film looks noir does it make it noir?  I don't think so.  If so, then why aren't many of Hitchcock's black and white films (The Lodger [1927], Secret Agent [1936], The 39 Steps [1935]) classified as noir, or why is Citizen Kane (1941) not noir, or the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), and so on.  I understand the historical and other reasons why these films are not considered film noir, but they do share a look, which brings me to my point: just because Mildred Pierce has a film noir look or style, a film needs more than that to be noir.  It's just as easy to say that such films have a German Expressionist look or style.

     The non-noir films I have listed above have a noir look, and they even have a mystery to unfold.  Films noirs need more than just to look noir, to be noir:and they need to have a plot line, characters and interaction between characters who are acting out a worldview that is essentially tragic, pessimistic and fatalistic.  As I understand it, the story has to be subversive, or even more, inversive (official beliefs, conventional wisdom and and societal truths are flipped, deconstructed, as the term really means, not as it is commonly used, and are revealed as empty, hypocritical and meaningless). 

     I also suspect that film noir has a social class element, as so many film noir protagonists are from the lower classes.  Even when they are not, they are oftentimes from the working middle class, not the leisurely middle class or the wealthy class.  For a film to be noir, it has to be so much more than just look like it.

     So you can dress a story to look like noir, but there is more to noir than just its look, which sort of helps us to understand that the idea of film noir is more than a genre, more than a style, more than a movement.  It's an aesthetic of art that integrates all of these ideas.

     In any case, I really have a problem with MIldred Pierce as film noir.  I just don't see it.  So perhaps someone can tell me all the noir elements I have missed in the film.  What is subversive about Mildred Pierce, both the film and the character?  I would appreciate it.  I'm here to learn and am eager to do so!

 

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Here are a couple of point I found

1. Characters driven by lust and greed, which eventually and unavoidably

2. brings their downfall (the feeling they are trapped in their circumstance and doomed to fall)

3. the type of noir women - either as bad as can be or very naive (usually the good natured naive ones are spared the impending fall 

4. The psychological angle- film noir is more about the interior life of character than about action - the story is an excuse to show the lower depths of human beings

5. Moral choices- the noir protagonists often face a moral choice - in this case Mildred has to face the truth about her daughter- a truth she avoided for many years, in doing so, she has "fed the monster" In this scene she finally can not deny it any longer and must make a moral choice - to stop enabling Veda's greed

 

I have a real problem with classifying Mildred Pierce (1945) as film noir.  To me, it's just a story of a long suffering, self-sacrificing mother and her bitterly ungrateful daughter.  It's a tragic chick flick.  Okay, there's a murder.  But so what?  There are murders in lots of movies that aren't noir.  Heck, I'd say that Mommie Dearest (1981) is more noir, as two innocent children are sent on a fatalistic life trajectory of darkness and terror with little hope of escape.  It's even more noir when you consider that it subverts the public image that Joan Crawford and the studiosh had tried so hard to create for her.

     Of course, the look of Mildred Pierce appears to be noir, but is it?  Just because a film uses the look of noir, does it make it noir?  I say that because we have to remember that the look of noir is developed from German Expressionism.  Long before the Maltese Falcon, other directors were using darkness as a structural element of the scene and imagery, askew camera angles, and other "noir" visuals because of the influence of German Expressionism.

     If a film looks noir does it make it noir?  I don't think so.  If so, then why aren't many of Hitchcock's black and white films (The Lodger [1927], Secret Agent [1936], The 39 Steps [1935]) classified as noir, or why is Citizen Kane (1941) not noir, or the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), and so on.  I understand the historical and other reasons why these films are not considered film noir, but they do share a look, which brings me to my point: just because Mildred Pierce has a film noir look or style, a film needs more than that to be noir.  It's just as easy to say that such films have a German Expressionist look or style.

     The non-noir films I have listed above have a noir look, and they even have a mystery to unfold.  Films noirs need more than just to look noir, to be noir:and they need to have a plot line, characters and interaction between characters who are acting out a worldview that is essentially tragic, pessimistic and fatalistic.  As I understand it, the story has to be subversive, or even more, inversive (official beliefs, conventional wisdom and and societal truths are flipped, deconstructed, as the term really means, not as it is commonly used, and are revealed as empty, hypocritical and meaningless). 

     I also suspect that film noir has a social class element, as so many film noir protagonists are from the lower classes.  Even when they are not, they are oftentimes from the working middle class, not the leisurely middle class or the wealthy class.  For a film to be noir, it has to be so much more than just look like it.

     So you can dress a story to look like noir, but there is more to noir than just its look, which sort of helps us to understand that the idea of film noir is more than a genre, more than a style, more than a movement.  It's an aesthetic of art that integrates all of these ideas.

     In any case, I really have a problem with MIldred Pierce as film noir.  I just don't see it.  So perhaps someone can tell me all the noir elements I have missed in the film.  What is subversive about Mildred Pierce, both the film and the character?  I would appreciate it.  I'm here to learn and am eager to do so!

 

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I have seen Mildred Pierce several times as I am a huge fan of Joan Crawford.  This movie gets better every time.  Today's daily dose scene from Mildred Pierce is very powerful.  Throughout the whole movie we all know that Veda is very spoiled but this is the scene where she shows who she truly is and that she is very ruthless.  Veda now falls into the role of femme fatale because she took money saying she was pregnant but is not really which could certainly ruin a young man's life which is what a Femme Fatale does.  I could see these movie another hundred times and still love it.

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Does anyone ever really understand the mother-daughter dynamic? Three daughters and a sister and I still don't lol.

 

Mildred Pierce is a very good film which I do like and it. I think it certainly belongs in the noir cycle, but this scene, to me, is more melodrama than noir.

 

Curtiz directs the scene smoothly, slowly bringing the actresses closer as the debate heats up, until grappling the tension erupts in violence.

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I, too, never would have considered this to be a noir. My definition had more to do with genre than style, but I have started to reconsider after watching this clip. There is no doubt that this scene could have come out of a "genre" noir, as a prelude to a murder or blackmail. It's the intensity of the scene that gets to me. The hateful words, the slap, the mother's horror in realizing what has really been going on. That's noir, all right. Max Steiner's music adds to the intensity. 

 

Mildred Pierce also fits also fits the movement definition. Mildred could have been a soldier returning to find he is no longer needed, that things will not be the way they should have been.

 

I'm reviewing the situation ... I think I'd better think it out again! (lyrics from "Oliver!")

 

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The noir influence operates in this scene from Mildred Pierce in a few ways. The musical score is very loud and boisterous as the tension mounts. The over the shoulder cameras that close up on the actors is another. It's as if the actresses are dancing in their movements around the set. they never move very far from each other until the end and that signifies a break in the scene.

 

Also Curtiz uses the framing of the actresses to indicate tension. They are both in the same frame and in each others faces. Literally. The dialogue is also pretty rough and brutal and edgy. 

 

Curtiz films the actresses in an interesting way. they are seldom very far apart physically in the scene and when he does a close up on one of the the actresses you see the back of the other actresses head. The cruelty and brutality of what these women say too each other is another way he uses the noir style.

 

It's an important contribution to the noir style in the dialogue and staging. It also has an antagonist and protagonist who are very forceful and headstrong. 

 

The theme of blackmail is also prevalent in noir films.

 

 

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Indicative of film noir is Curtiz’s use of light, shadow, angles, off center positions of the characters, and the sharp, pull-no-punches dialogue.  Even the costuming reflects the black and white property of film noir.

Veda is revolted by the uniformed working class – the class from which her mother springs.  Veda doesn’t hold back in lambasting her mother for bringing her into that world.  It would appear, though, that Veda never had to actually dirty her hands during Mildred’s rise.  Mildred is appalled by the amorality that her daughter embraces in order to rise to an even higher class.  Mildred does have a moral code, skewed though it may be.

Curtiz’s positioning of the actresses heightens the tension in the scene.  Veda’s initial low angle position makes her appear subservient; however, Veda’s and Mildred’s height differences become less apparent as the scene progresses through a carefully choreographed camera dance.  Veda’s malevolence heightens as she ascends the staircase.  When she is slapped down on the stairs, Mildred wastes no time in surging back to threaten her own daughter with death. 

Mildred Pierce is an important contribution to women’s leading rôles in film.  Gloriously noir femmes fatales, Veda and Mildred are beautiful, duplicitous, treacherous, and menacing in their crusade for wealth and power.  Wowzers.

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I have never seen “Mildred Pierce.”  Lovely Ann Blyth as a bratty daughter?  OK, I’ll go with the flow…. Until Joan Crawford says, “…get out before I kill you….” NO WAY a mother EVER says that to her daughter.  Especially premised on the kind of truly not unrealistic catfight mother and daughter are having here.  But “…get out before I kill you….”?  Phony.  You’ve lost me. :(

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In this almost three minute clip we see: deceitfulness, lying, bribery, greed, blackmail, cruelty, defiance, assault, and a death threat between a mother and her daughter. We have come to expect this conduct in film noir. 

 

The movements of the women also adds to the mix. Several times the daughter, Vita turns away from her mother only to then turn around again and squarely face her- the camera capturing their profile wherein Vita verbally attacks her mother.

 

Camera angles are placed in strategic places so as to capture the emotional reaction of both as they each spew hatred at one another. When Vita slaps her mother in the stairs, we see her towering over Mildred with a horrific shock expressed in her eyes. 

 

Violent verbal and physical behavior, camera angles and positions, soaring music to cap off the scene all gives this scene the

 

hallmarks of film noir. Can not wait to see the movie tomorrow.

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Anyone who has ever acted or directed for film or stage, would easily be able to recognize how brilliantly this is staged. It would be impossible to enumerate all of the wonderful choices made here. In short, you have two equally matched titans doing battle. At the beginning of the scene, Ann Blythe, basks in her success. The scene slowly builds as each actor gives and takes to the other. Then comes the slap. During the course of a scene like this, each character will try numerous tactics to win. Ultimately, whenever a scene rises to a point of violence, there are no tactics left. The scene has reached a climax and the only thing left is either more violence or everyone count up points to see who won. In this case Mildred has won (at least for the moment) and Veda is driven from the room.

These witty, ruthless, evenly matched, battles are definitely a hallmark of noir. When supported with the over-the-top dramatic music and close-up, you have an amazingly juicy noir scene

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While Veda exhibits the prerequisite beauty, duplicity, and deadly force expected of her archetype, who knew that a femme fatale could have mother issues (or even a mother, for that matter)?

 

Having Veda on screen alongside her mother signals a new direction for the femme fatale. Giving her a backstory and a horrified parent who sees firsthand who she is becoming renders her less mysterious in some respects; however, it also adds dimension by showing what--and whom--has shaped her into the young woman she is. In the film noir clips we have screened so far, scenes between female characters are in short supply. The male characters tend to orbit around the femme fatale, and the dialogue is typically between them. Ostensibly, this mother-daughter dynamic seems more suited to another genre -- perhaps the family melodrama. If we regard film noir more as a style, then expanding the definition of the femme fatale makes perfect sense.

 

With Veda, Curtiz pushes the boundaries of what a femme fatale can be: underaged, physically aggressive, and money-defined.

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There's a murder in Mildred Pierce, thus qualifying it in a way as noir, but we're not there yet.  The murder hasn't happened.  

 

I've always seen the staircase scene as pivotal in this film.  The criss-crossing of the banisters, the crazy design of the lampshade, and the clashing musical score are counterpointed by the simple, expensive,  well-tailored and almost matching black daytime dresses that each actress wears.  The dialogue goes from one shocking revelation to yet a wider one:  no baby,  but look here at the sizable check as extortion from her husband's family, now Veda can get away, now finally, the crux of the situation - Veda can get away from her mother, whom she completely, categorically loathes.  

 

The actresses move close when these revelations happen, then far apart as response to what the other says, then close again.  The denouement comes when the check is torn up by Mildred and she threatens Veda with death (and it's about time, in my estimation).  Selfish characters who move in their own self absorbed orbit populate noir films.  Mildred is naively selfish and loses her husband, then her daughter, then her business, as she stumbles forward, completely blind to the world around her.  

 

Veda loses, too, but is so completely heartless that she can never bring herself to care, even about herself.  I've noticed through repeated viewings that the normally sardonic, down to earth addition of the wonderful Eve Arden is a slightly different characterization for her here.  Throughout the film, she is so resolutely upbeat that nothing can drag her into the emotional vortex of Mildred's life, or the other characters.  She is the real moral anchor in a movie about how people become blinded by the shadows of the noir world they live in.  Mother love in the shadows - only noir could tell us this particular story. 

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This crucial scene in this mother/daughter showdown opens in medium shots that show their movements and body language. Veda lounges indolently on the sofa as she revels in her ill-gotten gains while Mildred, standing ramrod-straight, questions her. Veda rises and goes to put the check in her purse with easy, casual motions. As Veda reveals her dirty little blackmail scheme she exudes rude defiance and a devil-may-care attitude in stark contrast to Mildred's tightness and control. Both are wearing tailored black dresses, reminding me of two crows circling each other in a duel.

 

The camera moves to a close-up on Mildred when the dialog gets personal: "Money, that's what you live for, isn't it?" Veda's cruel revelations and Mildred's shock at seeing her offspring's true nature are shot in close-ups and two-shots to show the emotions and reaction. At the culmination Veda, having shot her wad, rushes up the stairs. Mildred's outrage and righteous indignation propel her afterward, to catch Veda and take possession of the filthy rotten check and tear it to shreds. This is now in diagonal on the stairs and though Veda is placed slightly above during the entire scene, it's Mildred who's favored with a close-up at the end, the camera moving in on her as she recovers from the slap, her face showing determination and hinting that she might have won, at least this round.

 

Haven't seen the movie in ages, looking forward!

 

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Michael Curtiz has arranged his two actresses, both in long dark/black dresses and framed them in a gray muted background complete with shadows formed from venetian blinds, keeping it all in a soft focus save for Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth.  They on the other hand appear as towering pillars spewing accusations/insults and sparing for dominance interrupted only by face to face angry close-ups.  As they move, the camera moves with them.  We the audience are trapped in the tension of the moment much the way we were forced into the scene through the eyes of Humphrey Bogart in Dark Passage.  With this type of tight framing and editing, the audience experiences Ann Blyth's slap down on Joan Crawford almost as much as they did.  In your face.  Before now I never thought of Mildred Pierce in the context of a Noir, but now clearly see Film Noir's fingerprints are all over it! 

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The scene has the style of film noir with the low level lighting and with the light and dark shadows on the wall and floor and that patterned lamp shade.

 

Curtiz sets up the scene with the 2 actresses using their difference in height to first imply that Mildred has the power to tell Veda what is to be done. But then on the stair case Veda has the height and the power and shows it with slap to Mildred's face. 

 

This scene has an important contribution to film noir as it shows 2 women struggling for power maybe for the first time.

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I find the shot composition in this scene from Mildred Pierce particularly interesting. It really speaks to the tumultuous dynamic between Veda and Mildred at this point. Though young and child-like before, Veda now stands proudly and defiantly. The staircase scene puts Veda at a slightly higher elevation than her mother (if but for a brief moment), thus connoting the extent of Veda's manipulative power and assertiveness that she possesses over her mother's more melodramatic and submissive nature. The noir elements really pop out to me through the dialogue. Veda assumes this unmistakable femme fatale aura and presence. She comfortably and unabashedly uses her feminine wiles to corrupt and manipulate others in an effort to attain money and power. At some points early on in the scene, Veda and Mildred are shot in medium shot to showcase a very intimate and leveled tête à tête between the two women. Veda is no longer a child; she carries her own weight and cannot be chastised by her mother any longer. At this moment in medium/close-up, they both can hold their own in an argument. The wardrobe also speaks volumes: the black dresses add to a darker tonality in the subject matter. Though this scene does not display high contrast and stark shadows, the noir sensibility is felt in the ambience or rather animosity between the two women. We have a femme fatale and a menaced woman here, both staples of the noir tradition. 

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The Noir influence is obvious from the start of the opening scene with Veda lying on the couch and immediately talking about how "they" got the money and kissing the check (rejoycing in the deceit puled off) against Ted. When Mildred realizes she has been used in a blackmail plot, she is instantly angry as demonstrated by close ups of her facial expressions--and not just angry but violently angry. You know immediately this is not going to be a happy film. The face-to-face arguements separated by mid range shots showing both actresses together, creates more intensity. They move apart and then back together as the scene unfolds emphasizing the" back and forth"  of the dialogue. The language between these two middle or upper class charactors is as harsh as the language between actors depecting low class bumbs. Veda tells Mildred in no uncertain terms how she has always loathed her for having come from the working class--no sympathy for what her mother has achieved. Even though Mildred is a self made woman and has provided for her daughter very well, Veda, who is a spoiled brat, resents her mother. When Mildred tears up the check and Veda slaps her, all hell has broken loose. Mildred threatens to kill her if she does not get out. What rage and uncontrolled anger !!! Great acting in a very dark and sinster scene. Noir to the core.

 

This first scene may be a classic in film Noir in terms of the quickness with which the intensity of emotion: anger, hatred, cynical effect, frankness of dialogue, and overall bitterness and corruption of the human spirit, is conveyed to the viewer. It is even more dramatic because we don't generally expect this kind of behavior from women, especially from cultured  women.

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Curtiz controls the tension of the scene by the proximity/stance of Veda and Mildred. The scene begins with the two of them somewhat distant, Mildred standing while Veda reclines on the couch. The tension is beginning to simmer, with the two women standing apart and opposing to each other. The tension rises as Veda moves and walks around, turning to and from her mother as she pleases. Veda is (trying) to control the scene by controlling her movement and sidestepping her mother's, challenging Mildred's authority as her mother. Tensions rise as the two move two and from each other, like two predators circling each other, waiting for the other to make the first move. The tension screeches to a boiling point when Veda strikes Mildred, finally released in a moment of violence. The scene is left with a cold, ominously calm tension/dread when Mildred rises and, staring Veda down in the cramped staircase, tells to leave before she [Mildred] kills her [Veda].

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