Sunday, October 28, 2018

Phantom Thread

SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.

The title of this 2017 film, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is presented with looping lines, similar to thread being woven, but it is winding, possibly showing the twisted nature of its characters. The story takes place in the 1950’s, primarily in London, although the exact time is not specified. Alma (Vicky Krieps), is speaking to someone about famous clothes designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis). The name suggests stiffness, which fits Reynolds’s demeanor. The dictionary describes a woodcock as an “Old World” bird, which is in tune with the man’s desire for traditional preferences, and his resistance to change. The first shots of Reynolds show him shaving, combing his hair, trimming his nose hairs, and polishing shoes, which tells us that he is concerned about appearances, which fits his trade, but possibly to the point of not caring about the person that exists beneath the surface. The music, which features a cascading piano, sounds elegant, again reflecting Reynolds’s world. His beautiful London house is in keeping with the man’s personality, definitely not modern, sticking with tried and true designs, but also feeling a bit sterile.
Women enter the house and must ascend steep stairs to reach the exalted artistic height of their employer. They are seamstresses and are part of Reynolds’s female workforce, sewing his name in every one of his designs. They serve him, along with the house staff and the models, as he lords over them like a prince with his harem. There are many close-ups of him, the clothes, his working on drawings, and even the coffee brewing and the breakfast cakes. The camera work gives the film a microscopic sense, focused and restricted, like Reynolds’s life, and it almost feels claustrophobic. He ignores Johanna (Camilla Rutherford), the woman at his breakfast table, as she talks of sampling some food. He says without looking at her “no more stodgy days,” criticizing her mundane conversation. Reynolds’s voice is high-pitched, almost feminine, and it sounds artificial, distancing, as if he is putting on a show of upper-class diction.

His sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), (a man’s name, which, along with being his sibling, probably allows Reynolds, who has trouble relating to women, to better deal with her) joins the other two at the breakfast table. She is very prim and proper. She is also very pale, almost looking like a ghost, perhaps a remembrance of their mother, or someone who has lost some of her life force serving her brother’s artistic endeavors. She takes care of the business part of Reynolds’s occupation. Johanna says she can’t get Reynolds to focus back on her. One gets the feeling that she is one in a string of short-term girlfriends, doomed to be heading toward the exit. He says he must deliver his new dress this day and has no time for “confrontations,” which automatically means he sees her as an impediment to his creative work, not someone with whom he shares his life. For Reynolds, like many great artists, his creations take priority over people. There is an irony in that women finance his work, and he must use female models to display his craft, but they always seem to disappoint him, and he perceives them as being unworthy to wear his dresses.

Little details in the film show how Reynolds requires that everything complies with his precise way of living. For instance, Cyril walks in the house, but closes an open door, because nothing must be out of place. The Countess Henrietta Harding (Gina McKee) arrives, and he greets her warmly, since he is delivering a dress for royalty, which befits his creation. She models it for him as he seriously scrutinizes it to see if it works. He smiles, and she says it was worth all they went through, which makes it sound as if it was an ordeal to get it to meet Reynolds’s expectations. She says to put on the gown will give her “courage,” bestowing on Reynolds’s work powers to change the person that wears one of his dresses.

Reynolds meets Cyril for dinner, whom he often calls his “Old so-and-so.” It is not very affectionate, or personal, and sounds more like someone to rely on over time, which reveals Reynolds’s selfish and dependent nature. She asks what he wants to do about Johanna, who has obviously worn out (pun intended) her usefulness to him. Cyril says she is lovely, “but the time has come. And she’s getting fat sitting around waiting for you to fall in love with her again.” Cyril understands her brother’s ways, but is very direct in dealing with them. She says she will give Johanna the October dress, the fall month symbolizing the movement toward the dead of winter.

He says he has an unsettled feeling brought on by memories of their mother. He has had dreams containing her “scent,” which implies she is still close to him even after her long ago death. He admits that he feels as if she in near them, reaching out to them. He hopes his mother saw the Countess’s dress that day. He says, “It’s comforting to think the dead are watching over the living.” He is seeking her approval beyond the grave, so powerful is her impact on her son. (There will be other reference to wanting to break the limits of mortality in the movie). His mother haunts him, and there is an Oedipal element here. It may be why he has trouble relating to women because they can’t measure up to his mother.

Cyril recommends going to his country house, and he likes the idea. He goes to eat at the Victoria Hotel there and sees a waitress who stumbles about. He is drawn to her, possibly like in Pygmalion, inspiring him to transform something, that has artistic potential in its raw form, into his own creation. She takes his detailed order, then Reynolds takes what she has written down, and asks if she will remember, which she says she will. She smiles, and although this is a kind of flirting, it also seems to be a test. She remembers his order, and, after she serves him, he asks her to dinner. She already has a note ready for him, which says, “For the hungry boy, my name is Alma.” Her prepared message shows her confidence, knowing he would ask her. But, she uses the word, “boy,” not “man,” implying she correctly assesses Reynolds as childlike in his memory game with the order. Also, being “hungry” will be revisited in the story and will refer to sexual and mother-son issues.

At their dinner, Reynolds asks Alma what she thinks of what she is eating. He is observing her, not participating in the meal with her. She says she likes the sauce, but he corrects her by saying it is a custard, thus showing off his superior cultural knowledge. He wipes the lipstick off her, saying he wants to see who he is with. He is controlling the situation. She goes along with it as if it is all playful. He wants to know about her mother and says Alma should always carry a picture of her mother with her, because she should always be with Alma. This advice points to Reynolds’s attachment to his own mother. He says he carries his mother with him, tapping his jacket, which he calls the “canvas,” because he sees his clothes designs as art, like a painter. He says one can sew inside the cloth secrets, coins, words, and messages. His mother taught him his trade, and his work is her legacy that he carries on. When he was a boy he hid things in the linings of the fabric, that only he would know about. He confesses to having sewn a lock of his mother’s hair into the fabric over his breast to keep her with him. She haunts him, and he haunts others with his woven secrets, which lends weight to the movie’s title, Phantom Thread. It gives him a sense of power over the garments he sends away, makes them still his, by knowing secrets about his dresses that the owner does not.

Reynolds says he was sixteen when he sewed his mother’s second wedding dress, his father having died when Reynolds was young, contributing to the Oedipal bond. He says his nanny, the Evil Miss Blackwood, who he called “Black Death,” was ugly, (his revulsion strengthened by the fact that she was a substitute mother), and wouldn’t help him sew for fear of never marrying. He says that there are superstitions about wedding dresses, such as if you sew one, you won’t marry, or, young girls won’t marry if they touch one. There is a belief that models will marry only bald men if they put one on. Here again we have a sense of the magical power that people bestow upon clothing, making it almost a metaphor for how religious beliefs are created. Reynolds does admit that his dresses can decay, since he says the dress he made for his mother probably turned into ashes, perhaps like his mother’s body, but that is why he needs her spirit to live on. Cyril rescued him, he says, after months of sewing, helping him with the dress. Alma asks if Cyril never did marry, which she hadn’t, which suggests that maybe the superstition is true, but it is more likely she sacrificed that part of herself for her brother.

Alma says Reynolds is handsome, has been around many beautiful women, so she asks why he never married. He says he makes dresses, which may mean that those are his brides. He says he is a confirmed bachelor, “incurable,” which is an interesting word, which makes him almost admit that he may feel that his unmarried state is a form of a disease. He says marriage would make him deceitful, and doesn’t want that, maybe because he would have to lie to seem accepting of a spouse, which he knows his demanding personality would not allow. He says, “it’s the expectations and assumptions of others that cause heartache,” so women will expect him to meet their desires, not his own, which he sees as paramount. And, he always is let down by what he expects from a female partner.

Reynolds asks Alma to try on a dress, which turns their night into a very strange first date. She becomes an object, a mannequin in a way, as he pins the dress up. He tries to see which fabric would go best with her. He asks to take her measurements. Then, to add to the oddness of the night, Cyril arrives. She smells Alma, noticing sandalwood, rosewater, sherry, and lemon juice emanating from Alma, the latter because the restaurant served fish for dinner. Brother and sister have acute sense abilities as to the visual, tactile and olfactory areas. Cyril also at this point does not see Alma as an individual, only concentrating on her perception of Alma, as Reynolds only sees her in connection with his art. Cyril records Alma’s measurements, which should be personal, but become just statistics for Reynolds’s art, as she is examined like a medical patient. Alma’s expression is one of feeling uncomfortable. She quibbles over the exactness of his commands on how to stand, as a form of rebellion. He bluntly declares that she has no breasts. He says it’s okay, it’s his job to give her some, “if I choose to.” His statement shows his power over her, as if he can improve her through his, again, magical abilities, but which also shows he doesn’t accept her as she is. Cyril says she has the ideal shape, which first sounds like a compliment, but then Cyril says, “he likes a little belly,” which then takes away from the “ideal’ compliment.
In a voice-over, Alma, as she tries on another dress, says she thought she had too many physical imperfections concerning her hips, breasts, and arms, which reveals her insecurities. But, as she walks with Reynolds on the beach, he holds her hand, so she feels he is drawn to her, which makes his acceptance of her seductive. He says he has been looking for her for a very long time, but as it turns out not as a person, but as a muse whose goal is to inspire, not share, the artist’s life. She says to Reynolds “whatever you do, do it carefully,” which shows how she surrenders to him, but wants his transformation of her to be well thought out; however, it can also be a warning not to hurt her. In the voice-over, she says in his work she becomes perfect, and feels just right. She considers that maybe that is how all women in his clothes feel, which again emphasizes the almost supernatural effect that females attribute to his dresses. As Alma and Reynolds go out dressed formally for dinner, he says how beautiful she looks, and that is making him extremely hungry, which merges culinary and carnal appetites together. But, then Cyril joins them for dinner, deflating Alma’s hope for an intimate dinner. Brother and sister talk, leaving Alma out of the conversation. They stay overnight at the inn, but in separate rooms. Alma seems let down by his lack of an attempt to be romantic, Reynolds feeling more comfortable with his “old so-and-so” sister rather than initiating a physical connection with her.

Alma boasts that she can be still for a very long time, which she feels shows how she a perfect model on which Reynolds can display his dresses. While they are working he asks why she seems “forlorn.” She says maybe she doesn’t like the material of the dress she is wearing, but it is really because she is not sensing that Reynolds feels emotionally for her. Cyril is condescending when she says how the women who purchase their dresses adore the fabric. Reynolds says Cyril is right, not because of the clients, who do not rise to his level of interest, but because the fabric is beautiful, stressing the artistic component. He says snobbishly toward Alma that maybe she will eventually have some taste. She defiantly says, “Maybe I like my own taste.” He says just enough to get her into trouble, because her opinion will only lead her astray, which is way of issuing her a warning, Not wanting him to get in the last word, she defiantly says maybe she is looking for trouble. He quickly demands her to, “Stop!” He won’t tolerate her back-talk, since her view is not valued by him, or her independence in issuing it.
While at another dinner, again with Cyril, and a male acquaintance, two women approach them (we don’t see them, because they are of no importance to Reynolds), and say that one of them hopes to wear one of his dresses, and maybe be buried in one. Cyril gives them a curt thank you and says a “good night” to dismiss them. The male guest, in what is really a cruel joke, says something about maybe digging the dress up after the girl’s funeral and selling it again. Alma acts flirtatious to gain Reynolds’s attention, and suggestively asks him if he had enough to eat, and that he looks thirsty, as if implying that he may still hunger and thirst for sex.
Reynolds, aroused, drives her quickly to the London townhouse and he pulls her inside the bedroom. But the next day at breakfast, she acts familiar, kissing Reynolds before sitting down, but he doesn’t even register her existence, sketching, with no lingering affection. Cyril almost looks like she sees Alma as a complication that she will have to deal with, like another Johanna. Alma makes noise scraping her toast, clanking her butter knife, and pouring tea. He tells her not to move too much, which she, upset by his reprimand, says she isn’t moving too much, only buttering her toast. He says she is very distracting. He is like many exceptional temperamental artists who put their art first to the detriment of others. She says he pays too much attention to things, but he leaves angrily saying it’s like she rode a horse across the room, so magnified are his perceptions of his surroundings. Cyril, giving advice, says it’s better she eat breakfast after Reynolds is finished with his meal, or maybe she should eat in her room. Alma says he’s too fussy, but Alma says this quiet time of the day must not be “misused.” She informs Alma that if breakfast isn’t right, it’s hard for Reynolds to recover for the rest of the day, so fragile is his insulated, ego-centered world.
When Reynolds does dress Alma up, and her hair and makeup are done, she appears regal. He says that he had a fabric that he “rescued” from being lost, as if it was like a rare artifact, so sacred does he regard his calling. He does see her as his muse to make something of this fabric. But again, a muse is only needed in service to the artist, and not as someone divorced from that occupation. His “fussy” ways make him a perfectionist in his work, but a disaster in personal relationships. In one scene, Alma knocks on Reynolds’s door, but he won’t open it because he is “working.” He doesn’t even answer when she asks if he needs anything, implying she does not satisfy his everyday human needs outside of occasional carnal ones.

There is a showing with many models, including Alma, displaying his gowns,. He is anxious and demanding, showing anger at the models for not living up to his expectations. His exasperation drains him, and Alma says in the voice-over that he gives so much to his work that he must come down again occasionally to regenerate (this statement is actually a bit of foreshadowing). She mothers him, which is what he really wants from a woman. She drives his car for him. He lies in bed, and she brings him food. She says he is like a spoiled little baby. He is very tender, open, and she cuddles with him. We now see Alma’s voice-over comes from an interview with a man. She says Reynolds’s down times last a couple of days, and then he becomes difficult again, as we see when Alma caringly brings him tea while working, and he complains that he didn’t ask for it. He then complains that she is exceeding her boundaries by bothering him so late. She says she is removing the tea. In a very good line mirroring his self-centered view, he says, “The tea is going out. The interruption is staying right here with me.” He is not someone who goes with the flow.

While Alma is in the woods gathering mushrooms, we hear the voice of the housekeeper who told her how to identify the ones that are poisonous. This shot is a foreshadowing of what is to occur later. The scene also shows how Reynolds is hypersensitive in everything, including his food, and “detests too much butter.” He doesn’t just dislike it, but has a heightened distaste for it. Alma quietly allows him to sketch in the evening, while she knits a pattern, and they look like an old married couple, comfortable together, but not really interacting. At breakfast, Cyril mentions that a middle-aged wealthy patron, Barbara Rose (Harriet Sansom Harris), may ask Reynolds to attend her wedding, because he has been commissioned to make the gown for the ceremony. Reynolds doesn’t like the idea, probably because he feels this particular woman will especially debase his art. She says that he should accept the invitation, if he can stomach it, another reference to food, and also a bit of foreshadowing. He says to her that he wishes he heard about it later, the early news disrupting his delicate mood for the day during breakfast. But, Cyril reminds him that the woman “pays for this house,” so his sister’s business acumen forces Reynolds to compromise his artistic superiority.
Barbara Rose visits Reynolds’s London house, and Reynolds starts to fit her. She is not an easy client, as she tugs at the dress, pulling the front over her face, saying she still looks ugly, the power of his work not working the magic for her. He attempts to reassure her that he is trying to make a beautiful dress. She insists that he attend the wedding, but although he says it’s not his place, he loses the argument. While at the wedding, she again wants her dress to cover her sagging neck. At the reception, she is drunk, and must be carried out. Alma is upset for Reynolds, saying that the “dress doesn’t belong here,” and of Barbara, “She doesn’t deserve it.” Emboldened by Alma, Reynolds angrily goes to Barbara’s room, and demands the dress back. When he finds that Barbara has passed out in the dress, he sends Alma into the woman’s bedroom to take it off of her. Alma forcibly declares that Barbara can’t behave like this and be dressed by “the House of Woodcock.” After her overt declaration of allegiance, Reynolds kisses Alma passionately, and thanks her.

But, although he is polite to her, Reynolds doesn’t praise Alma to Cyril the next day. He doesn’t even introduce her to the royal guest, the Princes Braganza (Lujza Richter) who is having Reynolds make her wedding dress. (He says it will be so grand that it will be “the only wedding dress,” worthy of the name, so full of hubris is Reynolds). Alma introduces herself to the Princess, and boasts that she lives at the house, attempting to announce her importance. To show her desire to be special to Reynolds. she tells Cyril she wants the house vacated after he goes for one of his regularly scheduled walk. She wants to cook him dinner (food again, as an appetizer to being intimate?) and to dine with him alone. Cyril says it’s a bad idea, not only because it will disrupt Reynolds’s precious routine, but also she probably feels it’s a mistake for Alma to attempt to get too close to Reynolds.

On the night in question, Cyril says “good luck,” to Alma, knowing that she will need it. When Reynolds comes home, Alma tells him she loves him, which he glosses over, again not considering the feelings of another, and wants to know where Cyril is. It’s like he needs his sister with him as an anchor he’s had since his childhood, which he hasn’t really grown out of. She’s a substitute for his mother, and despite her cold ways, takes care of the unsavory aspects of the business, and protects him from the outside world. He appears neurotic as he says he has been disoriented by this disruption in his day, and says he must collect himself. He tells Alma he needs a bath first, and, although briefly acknowledging her kind act, quickly moves on to assessing her dress, her appearance, not the person wearing it, and wants to know when his safety blanket, Alma, will return. For dinner, Alma prepared the asparagus with butter, and he is appalled that she did it knowing how he likes it with oil and salt. Exasperated, she questions what is she doing there, waiting like an idiot for him, not, as we would expect, to come around to loving her, but instead to get rid of her. He says he doesn’t need her, and considers the night an ambush, and he could better be using his time alone. She complains that even when they are alone there is always distance between them. She calls him out on being rude and a bully. The rules he lays down, the stiff, unspontaneous way he goes about living, she argues, is all a game. “Nothing is normal or natural,” Alma says, and his contrivances suggest that they are really props to keep him from being evolved emotionally, looking beyond himself. He is like a “child,” who only wants to satisfy his own wants. He says that if she doesn’t like his life, then she should go back to where she came.

In the interview, Alma talks about how Reynolds needs to slow down a little once in a while. We then cut appropriately to her reading a book about mushrooms, including those that are poisonous, and the music takes on base sounds, indicating something dire is planned to “slow” Reynolds down, as Alma starts cooking. Cyril asks if Reynolds wants her to ask Alma to leave. He says no, but Cyril says he shouldn’t turn her into a ghost (making her only into a memory, like his mother, possibly because he seems to deal better with incorporeal people than live ones?). Cyril says she has grown fond of Alma and doesn’t want her to just hang around waiting for Reynolds to go to her. He acts nasty toward Cyril about her declaring her fondness for Alma. Cyril shows her strength in not allowing herself to be attacked by her brother. She says to him, “Don’t pick a fight with me. You certainly won’t come out alive. I’ll go right through you and it’ll be you who ends up on the floor. Understood?” She is reminding him how she is the strong one of the two. She can walk away, but he depends on her and is vulnerable without her support.

Reynolds is not well when he starts his day. He says the dress for the Princess is ugly, and he falls over, damaging the gown. He goes to his room and vomits. Alma comes in to comfort him, and he says it must have been something he ate. We know it was her that poisoned him, to make him dependent on her. It also shows how she is a formidable opponent. She takes off his shoes and helps him to bed, like a sick child, closing the curtains, sitting up with him, holding his hand, again assuming the role of a mother. Cyril shows up, and tells Alma to leave him, but she doesn’t. He continues to be sick, while the others try to repair the dress. He asks Alma if he will ever get better, like a scared little boy, and she helps him change his fever-soaked pajamas, assuring him she will take care of him. Cyril says the doctor has arrived, but Alma doesn’t want anyone to share in her nursing Reynolds. Cyril is adamant, and Dr. Robert Hardy (Brian Gleeson) enters to examine Reynolds. The doctor calls Alma Mrs. Woodcock, which Alma does not correct, liking that she would be considered in that esteemed role. Reynolds is rude (so what else is new?) and will not allow the doctor to examine him. He tells Alma to get rid of Hardy, showing he has given her primary control over him. Cyril tells the staff that they must get the dress ready to go to Belgium by the next morning, so the workers must work all night. While helping with the dress, Alma discovers and tears out one of Reynolds’s hidden items sewn in the dress. It is a note which reads, “Never cursed.” Perhaps Reynolds is saying that despite his circumscribed way of living, his mother didn’t put a curse on him to have to pursue his profession. But, the fact that he feels defensive about the possibility shows how he does think about leading a doomed life.
Reynolds wakes up and asks “Are you here? Are you always here?” as he stares at a chair and says he hears his mother’s voice. He says he wakes up from dreams crying when he hears her voice saying his name. We see a young woman in a wedding dress who is the apparition of his young mother. He says, “I miss you. I think about you all the time.” Alma comes in, but we still see his young mother in the corner just as Reynolds sees her. He goes downstairs in the morning and the dress is ready on the mannequin. He kisses Alma’s feet as she sleeps on the couch. After she wakes, he tells her he loves her and doesn’t want to be without her. He feels his mortality now after this illness and says he must do what he wants done sooner. He has made mistakes and repeated them and can’t ignore that anymore. He says he has to stop his “sour heart from choking.” He realizes his problems. He says he has been “cursed,” so he contradicts what he was fighting to ignore in the message. He says a house that doesn’t change is “a dead house.” He asks Alma to marry him. She hesitates for quite a while, probably intentionally torturing him for what he has put her through, but then smiles and says yes.

They do marry. But even though Reynolds looks happy briefly, when on vacation in the mountains, he looks annoyed as Alma makes noise slurping her breakfast cereal and buttering her toast. They run into Dr. Hardy at a dinner party, and Reynolds still acts rudely toward him. Dr. Hardy asks Alma at the dinner table what she is doing on New Year’s Eve. She says they will stay in, but he urges her to attend a ball since Hardy senses that Alma isn’t enjoying her life. Reynolds seems upset by Alma paying attention to the doctor. Almost as a form of childish revenge, he is disagreeable when playing backgammon, saying she is taking too long to tumble the dice, criticizing her mistakes, and condescendingly telling her she needs to be able to “count” to play the game. When she loses, he dismisses her, asking for another player. She is angry with him, and storms off. The aunt of the doctor says she is sorry for Reynolds being married to a “toddler.” It is an ironic statement, since it is Reynolds who does not act his age.
On New Year’s Eve, Alma says that they need to go dancing, and she wants to attend the ball suggested by the doctor. Reynolds refuses, and says he will be working. She leaves to go the party, probably feeling as if she is becoming a prisoner in Reynold’s isolated life. He sketches for a bit, but then leaves the house and goes to the boisterous ball. He looks for her from the balcony and sees her dancing with the crowd. He goes on the dance floor and finds her. We hear plaintive music, and he grabs her arm and drags her away. Although he treats her badly, he doesn’t want to be without her, but he wants her on his terms.

Back at work with the seamstresses, Reynolds is irritable, and walks away from his client who is trying on a dress. He confronts Cyril about why one of their long-time clients has not been around. She grudgingly informs him that the woman went to another designer for her dresses. Cyril says that the woman wanted something “chic.” Reynolds curses the word, and tells Cyril, “don’t you start using that filthy word.” He believes in using traditional styles, so despite his telling Alma he needs to change, he can’t. He says it hurts his feelings that the client went elsewhere, as if he has been betrayed. She says that she didn’t want to tell him, because now he is moaning, and she tells him nobody wants to be rejected, but his complaining “hurts my ears.” It’s like she is acting like a stern mother who is chastising a small child. Reynolds then states what is really bothering him. He says that his real problem is that he made “a mistake.” He lost his confidence, and can’t work, because Alma doesn’t fit in well in their house. He feels that she’s turned everything upside down. Again, Reynolds has trouble dealing with anyone that doesn’t play his “game,” as Alma put it. Alma entered the room and hears what Reynolds says about her. Alma says that Mrs. Vaughn, the client, is happy with the dress. Reynolds yells at her saying how he doesn’t care. He has no concern for how the horrible things he says affect her. When Cyril thanks her and Alma says you’re welcome, Reynolds sarcastically comments how polite the two are. He says there is an “an air of quiet death in this house, and I do not like the way it smells.” He earlier said that a house that does not change is a dead house. He now contradicts that statement.

Alma is cooking again, and we see her slicing the mushrooms. She cooks them in butter, which Reynolds dislikes, showing how she is doing it her, and not his, way. As she makes an omelet he sketches and reads. She serves him, as a mother feeds her child, and pours water in such a way as to make it sound very noisy, just to annoy him. He smells the food and then eats it while she looks on. He stares at her while he chews, but she told him earlier that he would lose in a staring contest with her, so we know he will lose that battle. She says, “I want you flat on your back, helpless, tender, with only me to help.” Then he’ll be strong again, she says. She tells him he might feel like he is going to die, but he won’t. Knowing that she is poisoning him, he tells her to kiss him before he becomes sick. She understands his mothering needs and how he must revert to being a helpless child who needs maternal care, because he can’t deal with the world as an adult. He says that they should call “that boy doctor” just in case. But, she says she will make him well again, and they declare their love for each other.
We find that she has been confessing all of this to the doctor. She says if Reynolds didn’t wake up from his illness, then he would be waiting for her in some afterlife, and all she would need is patience for her to get to him again. She now embodies his dead mother, a soul freed from earthly limits, so she can weave a “phantom thread” connecting herself to him. Alma then tells Reynolds that she can envision a future when there are large happy gatherings where friends and others gather. We see Alma with a baby carriage, while they take a walk as Cyril minds the baby. Alma sees herself dancing by themselves on that ballroom floor (so he can still enjoy some distance from others?). She tells Reynolds she sees herself as guardian of his dresses “keeping them from dust and ghosts and time.” There seems to be a desire for immortality through art, as he said to her earlier that he thought his life would be limitless. But, instead, he now wants to enjoy the present moment, and says that we are here right now and “I’m getting hungry.” We end with that equating of sex with food (which may be tainted with poison), as these two strange lovers continue their interesting and warped relationship.

The next film is Paths of Glory.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Mildred Pierce

SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.

This 1945 film, directed by Michael Curtiz (who helmed Casablanca) and based on the novel by James M. Cain, paints a pretty cynical picture of the relationships between men and women, and mothers and daughters. The movie shows an American society that offers a slim chance of happiness for females in their roles as wives or mothers.

The opening title sequence shows waves of water crashing on a beach. The image suggests turbulence and the loss of things as they are washed away. It is evening as a beach house comes into view, the darkness of the time of day adding to the gloom permeating the scene. The story starts with the shooting of a man who, as he dies, says, “Mildred,” implying she may be his killer. A car with a woman drives away from the house. Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford in an Oscar winning performance) walking on a boardwalk dressed formally in furs. But, her monetary success is not strong enough to overcome the sadness in her face. The action taking place in the border area between the land and the ocean is reminiscent of the setting in Touch of Evil, which shows people living on the edge of prescribed civilized activity, ready to cross over the boundaries of acceptable behavior. To emphasize this point, a policeman, a person who enforces laws, confronts Mildred as she holds onto a rail, looking distraught, appearing as if she is contemplating suicide.

She walks to a restaurant, owned by Wally Fay (Jack Carson), who invites her in for a drink. He tells her not to be angry about what happened earlier concerning the selling of her business. She tells him his whiskey is lousy, and she has something better to drink at the beach house, where the killing took place. He has been hitting on her since they were younger so Wally takes her invitation as a chance for him to become intimate with Mildred. His enthusiasm is fueled because Mildred tells him that her husband, Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott), is not at the house. Monte’s body is on the floor near a sofa, but it is hidden from the Wally’s view.

We get an immediate insight into Wally’s personality, which is selfish and boastful, as he says he can talk his way out of anything, likes the sound of his own voice, and eventually always gets what he wants. When it comes to business matters, he is ruthless, saying,  “I see an angle, I start cutting myself a piece of throat. It’s an instinct.” After years of rejection, he wonders why she invited him to be alone with her this night. He starts to become physical with her, but she deliberately breaks her shot glass, and says she must change her stained clothes. She then runs out and leaves him there. He eventually goes through the house looking for her. There is a camera shot upward of him ascending a spiral staircase, which implies that there is a twisted scheme taking place. In fact, Mildred has locked Wally inside the house. He knocks over a lamp and finds Monte’s body. He breaks a window to get out, but the police come by and apprehend him. He says for a second time, “I’m so smart it’s a disease,” but this time the phrase is ironic, because he has been set up.

Mildred takes a cab to her luxurious home. Her daughter, Veda (Ann Blyth) is there, as well as are the police, who tell Mildred that her husband has been murdered. At the police station, we see Mildred’s friend Ida Corwin (Eve Arden). Ida’s character gets most of the witty lines in the script, and Arden delivers them with a deep voiced sharpness. Here, she tells the cop who grabs her arm to watch it because, “I bruise easy.” After seeing other people she knows, including Wally, showing up at the police department she says, “What is this, a class reunion?” Mildred’s ex-husband Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett) appears, too. There is an extended pause as the camera gives us an inclusive shot showing how Mildred is surrounded by men in the office who control her situation. She is not allowed to speak until a detective says to her, “Now you can talk.” Men are in power here. Inspector Peterson (Moroni Olsen) who is heading the investigation tells Mildred that she is in the clear because they have the killer. They bring in Bert, which surprises her, and she suggests that the killer might be Wally. Peterson points out that Wally had no motive. The gun belongs to Bert, and he has not denied committing the crime. Mildred, still trying to exonerate Bert, says he is good and kind, but the inspector then asks, if that is the case, why did she divorce him? Her response is that she was wrong, and it has taken four years for her to realize her mistake. If that is the case, then her conclusion indicates that everything that happens to a woman who does not follow the female role model template assigned to her will lead to no good. In order to explain what led up to that night, her story is told in flashback to Peterson.

Four years prior, Bert was a realtor, and in a partnership with Wally. The business did well, but then the economy slowed down, and people stopped buying houses. Wally was able to stay in business, but Bert was ousted from the company, and was now unemployed. All of the houses in Mildred’s neighborhood look alike, which stresses the emphasis on conformity. In her voice-over, Mildred says, “I was always in the kitchen. I felt as though I’d been born in a kitchen and lived there all my life.” She says that she married at age seventeen, and only knew cooking and washing. Her words generalize to other women who were marginalized, forced into assigned domestic roles. (However it is interesting that she uses her cooking to later exit her domestic drudgery and launch a business).

She has been baking cakes and pies to earn extra money. Bert comes home from his last day of work in a grumpy mood. He has a chip on his shoulder, because he feels emasculated, which shows how he too, as a man, has been forced into the role of being the monetary provider for his family. He complains how Mildred spoils their children, especially Veda. He says their daughter is always arrogant toward him, and says he ought to slap her (even though just a threat here, domestic violence has been associated with men for a long time). In retaliation, Mildred threatens him for suggesting the possibility of hurting her daughter. But, Mildred is a sucker for punishment herself when it comes to Veda, wanting her to have what she didn’t, which allows her daughter to manipulate her. Bert says that Veda wants ballet and piano lessons, to be in plays, and have nice dresses. She wants expensive things, unlike her much younger sister, Kay (Jo Ann Marlowe). Although Veda’s wants are selfish and excessive, she does not want to settle for the role of a working class girl, which is represented by her sister, who skips rope and plays baseball. Mildred declares to Bert she’ll do anything for her children, for good or for bad, and that they come before him or her. (This old school, maternal role, dominates Mildred, ironically, despite her future business success as an independent woman). A woman named Maggie (Lee Patrick) calls and Bert acts like he can’t talk at the moment. Mildred suspects an affair. It appears Mildred’s overemphasis on the children may have deprived Bert of the affection he believes he deserves, and he has sought attention elsewhere. Mildred gives Bert an ultimatum, saying that if he sees Maggie again, he shouldn’t bother coming back to her. He goes male dominant on her, saying he’ll go where he pleases. She makes good on her threat, and throws him out, as well as tossing away her accepted social status as a married mother. To his credit, Bert does feel bad about not seeing the kids.

Veda criticizes Kay, who looks like a Tomboy and engages in rough play with others, for not taking more pride in her appearance. The film reveals Veda to be a snob who is ashamed of, and looks down upon, her working class origins. The sisters come home and see their father packing up the car and leaving. In response to Veda’s questions, Mildred admits that she and their dad are separated. Veda, acting superior, talks in an affected way, using foreign phrases, as she dismisses her father’s affiliation with Maggie, who she describes, condescendingly, as being “distinctly middle-class.” Veda complains about her new dress to Kay, saying “It’s awfully cheap material. I can tell by the smell.” She adds, “It seems to me, if you’re buying anything, its should be the best.” While the movie does not advocate accepting a marginal existence, it also suggests that being brought up fostering a feeling of unearned entitlement leads to selfishness and a sense of superiority. Kay, who is more refreshingly down to earth, makes fun of Veda by saying how her sister is breaking her heart with her complaints. However, Mildred hears Veda’s ungrateful remarks about the dress she bought her. She feels hurt, but says nothing, letting Veda get away with her ingratitude.  

Mildred looks over her expenses and realizes that she is broke. She sees photos that remind her of how good it used to be with Bert when their hopeful future was before them. Wally comes by for Bert to help with the dissolution of their partnership, and Mildred tells him about Bert moving out. Wally has no problem rushing in where he sees an opportunity, and in some ways mirrors Veda’s selfishness. But he, at least, has worked for a living. He overtly comes onto Mildred, and when she says there is no soda for his whiskey, he says, “we’ll take care of that.” He is typical of the controlling male who basically sees women as possessions, or, given his profession, like property. He starts pawing at her, saying she’s not capable of being alone, implying that women need to be dependent on a man. She says she feels like Little Red Riding Hood, but he says he’s no wolf. In a good comeback, Mildred says, “then quit howling.” Showing her determination, she says she might make a go of it as a single mother, and throws Wally out of the house.

After her confrontation with Bert, Mildred finds Veda is still awake upstairs. Her daughter is a narcissist, without feelings for others. She takes no time to consider the emotional impact of her father leaving them. She becomes mercenary in short order, telling Mildred if she marries Wally, then they can have a maid again, a limousine, maybe a new house. She dismisses Mildred’s pointing out that she doesn’t love Wally, since a narcissist only understands the love for oneself. Veda knows how to manipulate her mother. She backtracks when it looks like she has gone too far after she tells her mother to trade in any hope for love for material gain. She cuddles with Mildred, and says they deserve a better life. Since that is what she has and will always want for Veda, Mildred caves in and says she promises to get Veda anything she wants. When Mildred says she loves Veda, the girl says she loves her too, but her added “Really I do,” seems like she needs to verbally stress her love, because her actions don’t show it. When Mildred hugs her, Veda says, “Let’s not get sticky about it.” Veda has affection only for herself.
The drive to get Veda what she wants pushes Mildred to look for a job. But having only been a housewife, she has no business experience, and the Catch-22 of not being able to get experience to get a job that requires experience sets in. She goes to a restaurant which Ida runs. But, the waitresses aren’t keeping up with the work and they squabble with each other. Ida apologizes to Mildred about being shorthanded. Mildred grabs the opportunity by asking for a job, which she learns quickly, and she also bakes pies for the restaurant. She uses her money for the girls, including an expensive voice teacher for Veda. She’s worried that Veda, the queen of condescension, will find out that her mother works as a waitress. In a way, Mildred allows her own daughter to make her feel unimportant, the way the male-dominated system can make women feel. The movie implies that excess sacrificing for children can destroy a parent’s life. Although Mildred is diverging from the typical female role of a housewife, she is joining the workforce not for reasons of individual empowerment, but for the prescribed domestic premise that says motherhood always comes first.

Veda found Mildred’s waitress uniform and she gave it away to the maid, Lottie (Butterfly McQueen, following up her Gone with the Wind performance with another black stereotype role). Veda plays the piano while she has Kay dressed up in clothes beyond her years and wearing makeup. Veda is trying to make her sister into what she wants her to be to distance her from her average social class designation. Mildred tells Lottie to wash off Kay’s makeup, not wanting her daughter to be forced into playing a role at a young age before she knows what she wants. Veda says the baking and now the waitressing degrades them, and she says “You’ve never spoken of your people, where you came from,” which shows Veda is a social class bigot. She wanted her mother to get what Veda wants through a man. Warped by her snobbery, she says that her father left because of Mildred’s low social standing. Mildred does what Bert threatened to do as she slaps Veda, but then immediately regrets it. Once Veda hears that they could get rich if Mildred owned a restaurant, she becomes supportive.

Mildred confers with Wally about buying a place to set up as an eatery. (Wally is betting on a horse at the time called “Materialize,” stressing his capitalistic and selfish tendencies, but it can also refer to making Mildred’s dream become a reality). Mildred found a house that she has researched, and says it is located at a busy intersection which can attract customers. The house belongs to the Beragons (which is Monte’s family name), who have been having problems paying the taxes on their properties. They were well-off and now have fallen on harder times. It’s a house near the beach, as is the one at the beginning of the story, stressing that border precariousness. Wally says he will do all of the talking, he being the man who is supposed to know about doing business, unlike a housewife. Monte is present at the house. Mildred has all the figures to show that she will pay off the house after the restaurant is up and running, but Wally talks over her. Monte can’t keep his eyes off of Mildred, who he only values for her looks, not her business knowledge. He initially turns down the offer, saying he likes to gamble, but the odds here are too high. Once she does get a chance to talk she convinces Monte that she is gambling all that she has on the deal. Monte agrees to sell the property to Mildred. After the meeting, Wally, who is of great practical help, says because of community property laws, she has to get a divorce or else Bert owns half the real estate, and all of Bert’s creditors will come to collect off of her. We may have a critique of these laws here showing how they can hinder men and women from moving on after a divorce. Or, the film is just showing how difficult it is to deal with the dissolution of a marriage, and thus, how society at this time discourages divorce, wanting marriages to continue so as to maintain the status quo.

Mildred doesn’t want to divorce right away, but when she sees Bert, she brings it up. Kay starts coughing, never a good sign in a movie, since details like that don’t happen without a reason. This foreshadowing of an illness is ironically placed as Mildred says that Kay doesn’t need as much looking after as Veda. The movie judges Mildred because she puts too much emphasis on the one child, and then is punished for it later. Bert does see Veda’s selfishness, and tells Mildred that Kay is “twice the girl Veda is.” Mildred seems to be living her lost younger life through Veda, trying to make her succeed whereas Mildred compromised and was marginalized. As Bert says, Kay loves Mildred, but it’s as if Mildred feels the need to buy Veda’s love, which doesn't say much for the person from whom one wants affection, if that love comes with a price tag on it.

Mildred is working to get the restaurant ready for business when Monte shows up. He admires Mildred’s legs, showing his real intentions behind his presence there, prompting Mildred to question what he is there to check up on, her or his investment. Mildred had said earlier to Wally that she thought Monte was handsome, which shows that there is mutual attraction here. He wants her to go to his place for a swim. He kisses her and she decides to leave with him. He is glib, saying that he wanted her to see “his” ocean which he borrowed from the Navy. But, she is at first wary, responding to how she likes her drink by saying, “Harmless.” Monte exhibits more of his charming humor when he sees her in the bathing suit, and instead of whistling he says he would need a police siren. He says he has all these bathing suits, which are all the same size, in his closets for his sisters, and she and we know he has been with many women. He has no job, and just lives off of the family money, unlike Mildred, who has had to work for a living. They kiss passionately, and we see their embrace in a mirror. Mirrors are many times used ins stories to reflect the other part of an individual, the hidden, darker, inner desires held in check by society’s rules.

Monte drops Mildred off at her home in the rain (to fit the mood of the scene). While Mildred was away indulging herself for just a little while, she finds Bert at her place saying he couldn’t reach her. He tells her that Kay has pneumonia. By doing double duty earning money (for her children) and being a mother, while also trying to engage in some personal time, Mildred is punished. She is found guilty of bucking the traditional social structure by not being at home like an average mom to look after the well-being of her daughters. Bert brought Kay to Maggie Biederhoff’s place, which inflicts humiliation on Mildred for abdicating her parental responsibility to her ex-husband’s girlfriend. A doctor treats Kay, who is in an oxygen tent, calling for her mother, which drives home Mildred’s guilt. Kay eventually dies. Mildred says to God not to let anything happen to Veda, so the death of Kay just reinforces her bond with Veda.

There is a big crowd for opening night at the restaurant. Wally is helpful about getting the property, advising her on financial matters, even helping at the restaurant. Ida is there to help manage the place. Wally is jealous of Monte and throws the orchids he sent her in the trash. Veda is drawn to Monte because of his upper class lineage, saying how he plays polo and is seen with attractive “debutantes.” She wants to be like him, living a carefree life, someone who enjoys wealth and doesn’t have to work for it. She impresses Monte with her knowledge of the society section of the newspaper. Wally comes by and it comes out that he owns a third of the investment in the restaurant, showing how he is always interested in making money. Monte dances with Veda, and perhaps Mildred instinctively is wary of Monte’s upper class effect on her daughter. She asks Wally to take Veda home. Wally wanted to take Mildred home and not leave her with Monte, of whom he is jealous. But, Wally can’t be loyal to just one woman. He is a hedonist, and when he sees Ida hiking up her skirt to fix a stocking, he stares. Ida’s smart response to his undressing her with his eyes is, “Leave something on me. I might catch cold.” Bert arrives and sees Monte and Mildred kissing. Bert says he was surprised that Mildred could make it on her own. He underestimated Mildred, and he feels not needed now. He concedes his defeat by saying he will go along with the divorce, and wishes her well. Monte, acting ungraciously as the man who has won over Bert’s wife, offers him a drink and says he has a family saying, “One man’s poison is another man’s meat.” The scene comes off like an exploitation of the working class by the upper class. Bert slaps the glass out of Monte’s hand in response to the man’s blatant disrespect toward him.

For the first time since the beginning of the movie, we go back to the present at the police station. Mildred says that even though Monte is dead, her current impression of him is “I’m not sorry. He wasn’t worth it.” So we know Monte just behaves worse as time goes by. Inspector Peterson gets a report that shows Mildred called Ida about Monte’s whereabouts and seemed upset. He questions Mildred, asking her why she invited Wally to her beach house that night, and if so, why did she run off. Did she know Monte’s body was there? Was she trying to pin the murder on Wally? Mildred admits to killing Monte. He asks why?

In response to Peterson’s question, Mildred narrates again as the past is visualized. She says she did prosper with more restaurants opening up. But Veda was growing up and her tastes were increasingly expensive. We see Veda spending time with Monte at the races. There are lavish parties. Monte is not happy that Veda is dancing with a millionaire named Ted Forrester (John Compton), suggesting he may not be able to compete with him for her attention. He admits to Mildred that he has been losing money lately and can’t afford expensive evenings soon. Mildred convinces him to take some money, and he eventually accepts greater sums. Wally feels that Monte is no good and tells Mildred he will bleed her dry. (Even though they have their flaws, Bert and Wally do see things about others that Mildred refuses to understand). She tells Wally that maybe she’s in love with Monte.

Mildred later tells Ida that she thought she was in love with Monte at one time, but not now, possibly because he is another man who just wants her to fit into his version of what he wants her to be. Ida, also having a clearer assessment of people than does Mildred, especially when it comes to Veda, says the new car for Veda has arrived, and tells Mildred has to sign for it “in blood.” Ida tells Mildred that Veda has been borrowing money from everybody, even the waitresses, despite all that Mildred gives her. Mildred, always afraid that Veda will fail, and thus so shall she by association, says she will pay her daughter’s debts. Ida says Monte has been spending time with Veda, and we start to think that Mildred’s money is going for Veda and Monte’s benefit.

Monte and Veda arrive, and Monte says he wishes he could get as interested in work as does Mildred. Ida, who exhibits a working class scorn for those who gained prosperity through inherited wealth, says Monte was probably “frightened by a callus at an early age,” stressing his never having put in a day’s worth of work. Veda has picked up the habit of smoking from Monte, and she is only seventeen years old. Veda thanks Monte for the car, but all he did was pick it out, which again shows Veda’s lack of gratitude for her mother’s sacrifices.

After she drives away in her new car, she admits that she has spoiled her daughter, but, she says she has worked hard to give her the things Mildred never had, and she has denied herself happiness so Veda can have what she wants. Despite what she has done for her, Mildred realizes that Veda does not respect her, makes fun of her in snobby French, and hardly speaks to her unless it’s to ask for something. Monte says she’ll never make a waitress out of Veda, which shows his contempt for the working class. Mildred tells Monte that he looks down on her for working, but he is okay with taking money from her. He says that may be but he’ll never like cooking or kitchen grease. She points out that he takes money from her even if it smells of the grease from her kitchens. She says he’s interfering in her life, business, and relationship with Veda. Mildred tells Monte to stay away from Veda. She gives him a check as payment for his initially helping her, which he puts down by saying he now knows what it feels like to accept a tip, like a waitress. But, he still takes it, in a sort of biting the hand that feeds him act.

At the restaurant Veda and the millionaire Ted Forrester announce their engagement. Wally gives a toast to “True Love,” but Veda looks like those words leave a bitter taste in her mouth, again, because a narcissist only knows love of oneself. Meanwhile, Mildred is receiving news that her income is dropping. Ted’s mother visits Mildred and informs her of the engagement. Mrs. Forrester (Barbara Brown) is ugly as she says how she finds the prospect of the marriage to be distatestful. Veda tells Mildred that she made a mistake about the marriage. Wally again does the paperwork, this time to settle the divorce. At the divorce session, Wally says Veda wants ten thousand dollars, which is news to Mildred. But Veda says she needs the money because she is pregnant, heaping another surprise onto Mildred. Later Veda says that she is not really pregnant, she just wanted to extort Ted’s family. When asked by Mildred why does she need the money when she has given her anything she asked for, Veda shows her contempt for Mildred. Veda tells her she wanted enough cash so she could get away from her mother, “and your chickens and your pies and your kitchens, and everything that smells of grease.” She says she wants to leave behind women that wear “uniforms” and men that wear “overalls.” Basically she wants to have nothing to do with those that belong to the working class. That is why she and Monte are very much alike in their snobbish attitudes, if not by reason of birth. In Mildred’s case, her sacrificing to give what the child was deprived of just creates a selfish, uppity child who has nothing but disdain for her roots. Veda tells Mildred she can’t earn enough to ever be anything but “common.” Veda’s attitude is counter to the American Dream, which usually advocates the idea that if you work hard enough you can rise to prosperity. Veda’s beliefs seem like they comply with Old World royalty, where one’s station in life is determined by birth. Outraged, Mildred throws Veda out. (When she is angry, Mildred is good at throwing people out of her house).

Mildred travels for a while to get away from the pain of Veda’s behavior. However, she feels compelled to return home. But, she is shaky, and while talking to Ida, she says she picked up drinking during the day from men along the way. She also started  to drink whiskey straight up. It’s as if bad habits of men have attached themselves to her as she entered their world of business. Ida says she never found a man that didn’t turn into a “heel.” She says humorously that she never married because, “Men around me get allergic to wedding rings.” On one hand, this sounds old fashioned, the woman only wanting marriage. But, Ida’s confrontational, uncompromising wit is resistant to stereotypical female roles imposed by men. They only treat her like a man, a sister they can talk to, but not as a romantic equal. Mildred says she still needs Veda as her daughter, even though she tried to forget about her. Ida bitingly says Veda makes her think that alligators have the right idea, “they eat their young.” Bert has been consistently calling for Mildred, and after talking to him on the phone, she finds out that he has a job. She also discovers that Maggie, the woman he was seeing, married someone else, which hints at the fact that Bert still loves Mildred. He says he wants to take her out for dinner. Ida proposes a toast, “To the men we’ve loved. The stinkers.” Probably a toast many women would like to join in on.

On their date at the restaurant-club that Wally owns, Bert and Mildred see Veda singing there. She is scantily clad and sailors give catcalls. Bert brought her there to show her what happened to Veda. Wally says she has been there for a month. Mildred confronts Veda and asks that she come home. Veda says she likes being free and that she wants the life that Monte has.

Mildred visits Monte at the Beragon family mansion, saying she wants to buy it. She is really there to marry him, to give Veda what she wants. He says that he would do it for a third of a share of her business, again showing how Monte wants Mildred’s working class money even though he disdains it. She is now willing to marry to get what she wants, compromising her ideals, while she told Veda at the beginning of the story that love was the only reason to enter a marriage. After the marriage, Bert visits the Beragon house. Mildred confesses to him she isn’t in love with Monte, but wanted to lure Veda back. Bert has Veda with him, and he says that Veda wanted to come home. Veda looks contrite, saying she’ll change and never be mean to her mother again, but in the same breath says what a beautiful house it is, showing what she is really interested in.

There is a lavish birthday party for Veda who says her mother works too much (because she and Monte have no regard for the need to work for a living). While the party is going on, Mildred, not having the luxury of escaping from her responsibilities, is in a business meeting with Wally and others who say that she owes too much to creditors and must sell her business. Mildred has spent too much for the lifestyle Veda wants. Behind Mildred’s back, Monte told Wally that he wanted to sell his share of the business, which forced Wally to do so, too, leaving Mildred unable to continue her business. Back at the house, Ida tells Mildred that Monte drove off after the birthday party. Mildred takes a gun out of a drawer.

We return to the police department, where Mildred tells the inspector that she was alone with Monte and killed him. Peterson says no, that they have evidence that led them to arrest Veda at the airport as she was trying to get away. The detective asks why did Veda kill Monte. Mildred tried to cover up the killing. In a flashback, Mildred found Monte kissing Veda. Veda says the two were together from before Mildred and Monte were married. She says he will divorce Mildred and marry Veda. Mildred takes the gun out, but drops it and is ready to drive away. Monte says to Veda that he never said he would marry her, and would not condescend to marrying a “rotten, little tramp.” Veda shoots him, angry at his rejection of her because of her social rank. After Mildred comes back into the house, she tells Veda she can’t get her out of it, and calls the police. Veda keeps pleading for her mother to help her, saying that Mildred was the reason she was the way she is. The inspector says that Veda must pay for her actions now. Mildred walks out of the police station. She passes women washing the floors, showing how they continue to be subjugated. She walks off with Bert, who may have learned his lesson about Mildred’s worth as a woman. But, given what has transpired, happiness for her is elusive.

The next film is Phantom Thread.