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This is the Girl : Hollywood Women, Myths and Surrealism

Marylin Monroe (c) D.R.

David Lynch is a post-modern director. The post-modern elements of pastiche, nostalgia and role play are all engaged in Mulholland Drive. Notably, Lynch broadly references the iconography of Golden Age, post-war and fifties/sixties Hollywood, reaffirming that the iconic power and corruption of Hollywood remain terrifically seductive. The anachronistic images, sounds and characters of Mulholland allude to a lush and exploitative past while they haunt contemporary tales of failure and self-fragmentation. In the post-war years in particular, perhaps, Hollywood reflected and reinforced the ideological mastery of American women as it exploited its own chosen ideal women. Such violent conventions and practices often had destructive psychological consequences on Hollywood women. It is intriguing, and of course tragic, that the lives of some of the greatest female Hollywood stars - such as Frances Farmer, Dorothy Dandridge and Marilyn Monroe - were marked by despair and madness as they were exploited within and without the system. The actress, the ultimate object of desire, is sullied and discarded. Interestingly, it has been reported (1) that Lynch was to adapt Anthony Summer’s Goddess (1985), an historical account of Marilyn Monroe’s death which suggests that Marilyn did not commit suicide but was romantically linked to the Kennedy brothers and murdered by powerful forces. Of course, the actress in twentieth century Western culture was frequently celebrated in the role of modern concubine to men of power from Goebbels to Kennedy as the actress in the 19th century was stigmatised as a kind of prostitute. Mulholland Drive is historically aware of the victimisation of women in both modern society and Hollywood as it is in love with the mythic power of the actress. Furthermore, specific celebrated Hollywood narratives haunt Lynch’s Hollywood. The supporting roles of Sunset Boulevard and the illuminated sign of Mulholland echo Billy Wilder’s great Sunset Boulevard (1950). The outrageous, degraded actress Norma Desmond, the heroine of Sunset. is an unspoken ghostly presence in Mulholland Drive. Like Mulholland, Sunset Boulevard is infused with the scent of promise and ruin. The presence of the likes of Anne Miller in Mulholland, a veteran star of the 40s, represents the haunting of a stylised, lavish Hollywood of the so-called Golden era. In Lynch’s Hollywood, the studio system anachronistically reigns and a criminal fraternity of Mafioso types still pull the strings and pick lead actresses. “This is the girl” becomes a menacing mantra. The actress remains a sexual commodity touted and hired by men. Older men control and fondle younger women. The price of failure in Hollywood is terrifying and the career of a cast-off is the stuff of nightmares. Mulholland’s score and texture display older Hollywood sounds, styles and images and reveal David Lynch’s enduring fascination with darkness and light as they reflect a certain moral ambivalence. The soundtrack of Mulholland embraces both sunny pop tunes from the likes of Connie Stevens and Linda Scott as well as hip and sexy noirish strains. The film’s satiny light and dark colouring echo a Hollywood where a kitsch veneer of happiness and optimism coats a sordid darkness and awful despair.