Saturday, September 09, 2006

Mildred Pierce Walks Among Us

by Charlie Parsley

Joan Crawford stomps over the bridge with brazen self-determination. Her linebacker silhouette cuts through the thick, swirling fog. Vapors rise from the briny depths around her hardened conical head. Her outstretched claws grasp at the air. Her big glassy eyes stare up into the lights. Her big mouth gasps for breath as she staggers through the mists of the marine layer.

Something is amiss in the manner she carries her glittering rhinestone brooch. It is not the agent of her charm and radiance as it should be. There is something else going on here, something weird. Her lipstick masks but does not conceal her agony and torment. Mildred clutches the wet handrail with her cold, clammy fishpaws and looks skyward. With high heels, she clambers up onto the metal bars and she is about to jump until a policeman sees her and stops her. She was about to get in the water.

Meanwhile there are guys on a boat with sonar equipment who are already looking for her. The policeman has diverted Mildred away from the bridge. The farther away she is from the ocean, the more distressed and pitiul her croaking becomes. She ambles up the alley. A man drinking in a bar taps on a windowpane as she nears. Mildred's sonar hearing picks it up and she moves in.

Mildred beguiles him with her drunken ways. In a telling move which reveals her inner predilections, Mildred throws a drink in the face of one of the men. Soon they arrive near bedrooms. Then another man shows up. Two men fight over Mildred. Shots ring out. The men run out onto the deck of the boat. They discover that it is a woman firing the gun.

The men stir among themselves and take the gun from her. They are shocked at the realization: the gun is in a man's ownership, but a woman's possession. It is a man's tool in a woman's hands. They reassert their authority with the brazen hussy and then quarrel amongst themselves over her nice figure. Is the woman the cause or the effect of the conflict among the men? Are the men the cause or the effect of Mildred's manipulating ways? Did Mildred fire the gun? Or is some other Creature involved?

Mildred runs away. Where has she been? She isn't where she was supposed to be. What is she scared of? Is she hiding something? There are no good answers, but plenty of spurious clues. Consider Exhibit A: Profile of Creature is strikingly similar to that of Mildred.

Exhibit B: There are bills to be paid.

Esquire Haberdashery. One dozen monogrammed shirts: 215.25. Yet, this is a men's clothing store, "Outfitters for the Sterner Sex" reads the statement. Why has she bought a dozen shirts for a man? What does she get out of it? You can see she has also been shopping in Pasadena. The madness does not stop there. She racked up a bill at a horse saddlery. Riding Saddle and Stirrups $700.00. Mildred is clearly an egotistical monster. Her obsessive manipulation affects every aspect of her existence, right down to the last penny in her personal checking account in Burbank.

Scuba gear is required to enable a descent into the Freudian subconscious. Two men enter the water with the one woman. They descend deep into another world and momentarily lose sight of each other. They are alone in their self-realization. Each of them, lost in this new world, become a creature as they swim through dark, unexplored territory in swimming pools. They breathe through mechanical gills, transforming themselves themselves into woman-obsessed gill-man sea-creatures.

And so the Creature appears. The two men struggle with internal conflicts, thrashing amid the churning release of their egos and breathing apparatus. Leaving the waters of the unconscious and returning to the boat of reality, they discover that the woman is not there. She is still in the water, unconcious, with the Creature.

The men return to the subconcious and find her floating helplessly. Through various acrobatic ballet moves, the woman had transformed into a sea-creature. This transformation removed clothing and swimming apparatus from the woman revealing an inner Sea Goddess archetype. Hers is a classic metamorphosis: a young curvaceous human undergoing a violent lupine-like physical transformation resulting in lost clothing and excessive fatigue upon returning from the transformed state.

In a display of submission and weakness, the woman arches her back, heaving her breasts forward towards a nearly nude trunks-clad man pumping his legs furiously beneath her, pushing her up to the surface, wrapping his restricting arms around her. He takes a plug out of his mouth and puts it into hers. He moves this breathing scuba apparatus tube from his mouth to hers and back again, sharing a kiss of breath and becoming one 'mating' creature as they drift with love bubbles from the unconscious.

Mildred rushes about to do what she can to make everyone happy, yet her results cause confusion, disruption, anger, frustration, high mortgage costs, arguments and business loans. No one is happy. Mildred is the center of attention. Mildred is the cause of concern, the source of the conflict among the men, among the family, among the public eager to have a look at her. Is she aware of this power, or is it unconscious? By what means does she demand this self-confirming obsession? Her transformation from sea to land, or, from marriage to divorce is taxing to her transformed visceral systems. She is in a new world different from us. If only we could capture her and examine her. Warrants go out and she is brought in. The question "What happened?" is asked. She is examined. The men discover a transformative Creature with means for taking in oxygen with a dual set of organs both lungs and gills. That evening, the men on board once again fight over the sea-woman. Their struggle is eternal.

Man has struggled for centuries to understand the mystery of the woman animal. Her primal powers bewitch him, and his entire life is lived in an eternal, unyielding conquest to discover and understand her through sexual mating. Yet this conquest of the sexual monster of the subconscious is ultimately doomed to fail. The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

1 comment:

Wagstaff said...

I believe what you have done here, good sir, is to conflate two entirely different films -- Mildred Pierce and A Creature Walks Among Us. Now you have confused everybody. Thanks.