Bette Davis in Deception, 1946, directed by Irving Rapper, shot by Ernest Haller.
Claude Rains in same. The two subsequent shots are joined by a dissolve; the above screen capture of the Rains shot is taken from the middle of a slow dolly-out from a tighter framing.
I watched Deception on the recommendation of my friend Ali Arikan, who was surprised and mesmerized by it when he caught it on television recently. It is a juicy, stylish romantic melodrama but it didn't take me as aback as it did my friend, but as I watched it occured to me that the dutch-angled portentous mirror shots that derive from a certain cinematic Expressionist mode that goes all the way back to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and were perfected in this mode by Michael Curtiz in the likes of, say, Mildred Pierce, made a year before this film for the same studio, Warner Brothers, were either staples of the romantic melodrama genre or even part of a Warner "house style" back in the day. As we know, we really don't get this kind of thing in romantic melodramas anymore.
There are many reasons why. Watching the new Blu-ray of Roberto Rossellini's 1954 Journey In Italy the other day, it occured to me that this—the movie, that is—was one of them. Not that Journey is a visually drab film but it's certainly distinctly, deliberately unaffected (relative to the likes of Deception) in its POV. Today's dramas focusing on couples don't overtly owe much to either Rossellini or Cassavetes, which is too bad, but those filmmakers broke a certain visual stranglehold, or mold if you prefer, and Rossellini made a point of doing it in a film that featured two big movie stars (Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders) as his leads. A lot of critics and cinephiles these days are insisting that "neorealism" wasn't a real thing, but whether or not it was, Rossellini did something. Who could have predicted that once the mold was broken, what would eventually take its place would be, in urban romantic melodrams, faux-industrial apartment porn, and in rural ones, faux-Maxfield Parrish or worse yet faux-Thomas Kinkaide?