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.
PRAISE FOR Beneath Mulholland:
"[Thomson is] one of the finest film critics in the English language."
--Philip Lopate, New York Times Book Review
"Not just...one of our sharpest writers-on-film, but...one of our wisest and best writers, period."
"Thomson may be the best movie critic around, or at least the best writer about the movies."
--San Francisco Chronicle
20 Things People Like to Forget About Hollywood
Garbo At 75
The Lives of Stars
James Dean at 50
The Shortsighted Voyeur
Driving in a Back Projection
Not Available for Interview
Big Bend Story
How People Die in Movies
Ask the Anaconda
Follow the Money
The Technical Sense of Money
The Blue in The Air