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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