This episode of Last Heartthrob offers its own variation on the Hollywood cautionary tale, a potent sub-genre of film noir. Madeleine's aspirations draw her toward the business while Tom can't run away fast enough.
Keep an eye out for other parallels to emerge as the serial unfolds.
"David Lynch loves movies, genres, archetypes and obligatory shots. Mulholland Dr. employs the conventions of film noir in a pure form. One useful definition of noirs is that they're about characters who have committed a crime or a sin, are immersed with guilt, and fear they're getting what they deserve. Another is that they've done nothing wrong, but it nevertheless certainly appears as if they have. The second describes Hitchcock's favorite plot, the Innocent Man Wrongly Accused. The first describes the central dilemma of Mulholland Dr. Yet it floats in an uneasy psychic space, never defining who sinned. The film evokes the feeling of noir guilt while never attaching to anything specific. A neat trick. Pure cinema." – Roger Ebert
The obvious noir choice for a Hollywood cautionary tale would be Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd., but this film has a horror backstory of its own.
More from Roger Ebert: "It's well known that David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. was assembled from the remains of a cancelled TV series, with the addition of some additional footage filmed later. That may be taken by some viewers as a way to explain the film's fractured structure and lack of continuity. I think it's a delusion to imagine a 'complete' film lurking somewhere in Lynch's mind - a ghostly Director's Cut that exists only in his original intentions. The film is openly dreamlike, and like most dreams it moves uncertainly down a path with many turnings."
Whether intentional or not, does the watchability of Mulholland Dr., despite denying audiences the resolution of a coherent story, demonstrate the subconsious level at which we respond to film noir elements and themes?
All three of the directors of the Hollywood cautionary tales accompanying this serial faced very real Hollywood challenges. David Lynch had to perform a salvage operation. Robert Altman reclaimed some of his stature as a director with The Player, but only after a decade of shooting TV and filmed plays. Nicholas Ray captured Gloria Grahame's best performance as their marriage was breaking apart. Are these films actually public service announcements to warn people with Hollywood aspirations that they will wind up In a Lonely Place?
Stephen Holden: "The notion of Hollywood as the world capital of corrupt, twisted fantasy is hardly new, thanks to Nathanael West, Raymond Chandler, Roman Polanski and countless others. But in wrestling with that notion, Mr. Lynch makes an extraordinary leap to embrace the irrational. Its sheer audacity and the size of its target make the director's earlier eviscerations of idyllic American oases and the rot beneath them seem comparatively petty."
With its outsized influence on the hearts and minds of an ever increasing worldwide audience and a questionable post Hays-code morality, is Hollywood now the root of all evil?
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