Saturday, April 09, 2011

Mildred's Almost Piercing

I know I haven't properly blogged or reviewed anything since Joan Crawford filmed the first Mildred Pierce. And I'm still not ready to properly fix that: my real job is still running the show these days, in overdrive.

But I am in the middle of Tweeting my responses to all five installments of Todd Haynes's HBO miniseries of Mildred Pierce, so if you just can't live without hearing me express an opinion, and I can only imagine the masses of people for whom this must be true, head over there. I have to confess to being not quite besotted, which is, for me, an unprecedented response to a Haynes picture. I certainly like it, but I feel as though I'm watching my favorite designer show a collection that has drawn inspiration from a source that doesn't speak in nearly the same way to me. Granted, I would have said the same of Bowie and Dylan, but Haynes made those delectations contagious, whereas Mildred keeps them a little glassed-off. Maybe I just don't relate in the same way to television, which necessarily subdues some of my favorite aspects of Haynes's montage and the resplendent boldness of his visual ideas.

As a fresh take on a source we thought we'd seen—which is to say a "revelatory" return to what this decades-old property always was, or nearly so—this project pays dividends similar to those we found in the Coens' True Grit, and I'm feeling a similarly cool admiration, a sort of museal, intellectual interest spiked by exciting bursts of visual flair. I can't take credit for that analogy, which my friend Richard Knight held out to me a couple weeks ago. I'm also having a hard time not thinking about Carlos, as a five-hour canvas devoted to a figure of voluptuous interest to the filmmaker, sometimes translated in delicious nuance, sometimes through rhetorical strokes I find a little flat. From that angle I admire Mildred, like Carlos, as a statement of the artist's unrepentant fascinations of the moment, and as a major producer's coup in a time of dwindled budgets, hedged bets, and the decline of the two-hour drama, much less the five-hour. I just wish I adored this.

For a few more tidbits, I've got tiny hour-by-hour responses, appreciation for Ann Roth's costumes, and an ongoing Mildred Pierce Actress Watch, in which (you know me) I can't help dwelling on all the extraordinary women in the cast. Though I'll say it again: in an abnormal moment of gendered allegiance, my Best in Show bouquet gets tossed to Brían F. O'Byrne.

P.S. Maybe it's just the emotional release or maybe the project really does accumulate a wallop, but the fifth and final episode, airing tomorrow night, landed with me more than I had expected. Still not in love, but less inoculated than I had felt beforehand.

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Blogger Sam Brooks said...

After having only seen the first hour, I definitely like it, even if I'm bewildered as to what delightful person would fund this kind of project.

I think Winslet is good, with some great moments thus far like the second scene in the employment office, and the rest of the cast is game.

I'll reserve judgment until I see all of it, but I think it's interesting. And I also love your twit-ups!

4:08 AM, April 09, 2011  
Blogger Fritz said...

I know this is very off-topic but I just remembered that in your post for Judy Garland, you told me that you would like to know if your review had the power to change the opinion of somebody who didn't like her as much as you do or if your review worked only for people who already loved her performance, too. Well, I finally watched Judy again and looked at the nominees from 1954 and, at last, I agree with everyone that Judy deserved it. I don't know if it was only your review that helped me to change my opinion but I think it certainly helped in some way! I thought you might like to know that...

5:10 AM, April 09, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From your tweets, I'm guessing it's two or three stars for Winslet's performance, then? I was hoping it would get as many stars as Joan Crawford's take on Mildred, but I guess not.

5:25 AM, April 09, 2011  
Blogger Colin Low said...

@Fritz and Nick: I haven't got any chance yet to watch Mildred Pierce yet, or got five hours to spare either, so I'll just chip in on this tangent and agree that Nick's Judy Garland review completely turned me around on the numerous demands required (and fulfilled) of that performance. The melodramatics were a taste I had yet to acquire, so it really helped to think of the role and performance in the ways in which Nick broke it down.

11:30 PM, April 09, 2011  
Blogger Tim said...

Waiting on the last episode still, and my wishy-washy feelings towards Evan Rachel Wood are a concern, but I'm definitely like leaning towards love.

I know this isn't the most sympathetic venue for these thoughts but: as much as I admire Haynes, I usually feel like he's working a problem rather than directing a movie. What's impressed me about Mildred Pierce so far is how committed the project is to telling it story in a fairly straightforward, naturalist vein, completely thwarting my expectation (and a fairly enthusiastic expectation, at that) that it would be Todd's Adventure in '40s Aesthetics.

And thus, I'm only marginally ashamed to say, it's the first Haynes project I've completely enjoyed; not at all his most challenging or ambitious work, but absolutely delightful to watch as it spools out. Plainly not Winslet's best work, or anything near it; but we can't have everything, and second-tier Winslet is still a hell of a thing.

12:38 AM, April 10, 2011  

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