Beneath Mulholland: Thoughts on Hollywood and Its Ghosts

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9780679451150: Beneath Mulholland: Thoughts on Hollywood and Its Ghosts
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"It's time David Thomson be generally recognized not just as one of our sharpest writers-on-film, but as one of our wisest and best writers, period."
--Film Comment

"The most obvious contender for the best film critic in the world."
--The Independent (London)
David Thomson is at his incomparable best in this stunning collection of essays on Hollywood films--their stars and the illusions they create. He explores a sort of twilight zone where film actors and the characters they play become part of our reality, as living beings and as ghosts, residing on or buried beneath Mulholland Drive, or wandering among us.

Like all of Thomson's writing on the movies, Beneath Mulholland is rich in its understanding of Hollywood, laced with irony, thoroughly provocative and brilliantly creative. There is also a steady fascination with love, sex, death, voyeurism, money and glory, all the preoccupations of Los Angeles--or of that movie L.A. whose initials, Thomson says, stand for Lies Allowed.

He writes about James Stewart in Vertigo, Jack Nicholson in Chinatown, about Cary Grant ("Having fun, perched somewhere between skill and exhilaration, Grant is both the deft director of the circus and a kid in love with the show"), Greta Garbo ("She knows that she is a latent force that works in the minds of audiences she will never meet") and about stardom in general: "The star is adored but not liked: that is the consequence of a religious respect that enjoys no ordinary relations with the object of its desire."

Entering another dimension, we meet James Dean at age 50--he survived the car crash--and discover how his career developed (and how it affected Paul Newman's). We see what happened to Tony Manero (John Travolta) after Saturday Night Fever ended and how Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer) moved on when The Fabulous Baker Boys was over. We are given a rollicking but instructive version of how Sony learned to live and die in Hollywood. We learn the 20 Things People Like to Forget About Hollywood ("All People in Hollywood Are Dysfunctional" is the first). And there is insight into How People Die in Movies--the empire of bang bang.  

Dazzling in its range, its style and its wisdom, Beneath Mulholland immeasurably enlarges and enriches our already undying memories of, and pleasure in, the Hollywood movie.

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About the Author:

David Thomson is the author of A Biographical Dictionary of Film (three editions), Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick, Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles and three works of fiction: Suspects, Silver Light and Warren Beatty and Desert Eyes. His writing has appeared in Film Comment, Movieline, Vanity Fair, The New Republic and Esquire, to which he contributes a monthly column on the movies. Thomson lives in San Francisco with his wife and their two sons.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A poorly essayed collection of essays and flights of fancy on film and more. Noted film critic Thomson (Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles, 1996, etc.) seems to have fallen victim to one of the occupational hazards of his profession: Apparently discontented with his lot, he has taken a lunge at creativity with this wildly uneven and unrelated gathering of pieces, many previously published in magazines such as Movieline and Film Comment.There's a labored fantasia on ``James Dean at 50,'' imagining the rebel without a cause in middle age. This conceit is followed by ``Suspects,'' a patently unfunny imagining of the future lives of a number of film characters. Then there are tired variations on the Sony acquisition of Columbia Tristar, and various other weak satires. Even if these had been more successfully and wittily carried off, they still would be little more than bantamweight filler. When Thomson isn't at play in the fields of the bored, he can be found fawning over stars. Like Walter Pater obsessing over the Mona Lisa, Thomson celebrates every tic and twitch of actors such as Cary Grant and Greta Garbo. When he steps back and analyzes the roots of his fandom, he begins to verge on astuteness: ``Just the fact that photography is modern and technical does not prevent its fostering superstition. To believe in faces we never meet, and to let their moods affect our lives, depends on irrational faith.'' The closer Thomson gets to his forte--traditional film criticism--the better he gets. His essay on The Sheltering Sky is first-rate, as are his meditations on ``How People Die in Movies'' and the elaborated list of ``20 Things People Like to Forget About Hollywood.'' But these are exceptions to the roil of self-indulgent, free-form folderol. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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9780679772910: Beneath Mulholland: Thoughts on Hollywood and Its Ghosts

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ISBN 10:  067977291X ISBN 13:  9780679772910
Publisher: Vintage, 1998
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