Friday, October 12, 2007

Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950)

Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950)
Rating: 9.9

Sunset Blvd. is a fantastic achievement in American filmmaking on so many different levels. First and foremost I'll state the obvious; the script is incredible, as is Wilder's directing talents. Gloria Swanson's performance is incredible, albeit a bit over the top, but it works to perfection for the character of Norma Desmond who is on the brink of insanity. The film can be considered a noir, I suppose, but it's somewhat of an oddball in that their isn't much of a mystery to solve, as we are presented with the dramatic irony of knowing the protagonist has been murdered from the opening sequence. My favorite aspect of the film is that it serves as a tribute to the forgotten stars of the silent film era with cameos from silent stars Buster Keaton, Anna Q. Nilsson, H.B. Warner, along with the two great directors from the silent era, Cecil B. Demille, and Erich Von Stroheim, references to Valentino, and of course Swanson herself. Wilder also exposes the brutality of the motion picture industry throughout the film; Whether it be the way the leading stars from 20 years ago are basically tossed away and forgotten, or the way the studios rape the scripts of the screenwriters turning them into something entirely different, or even Betty getting a nose-job in an attempt to achieve the physical appearance needed to make it as an actress only to get rejected when she discovers she's untalented at the craft. The closing moments are of course the most memorable and haunting scenes of the film and the media plays sort of a monstrous role in it all; something Wilder would further explore in his next film Ace in the Hole (1951).

"Funny, how gentle people get with you once you're dead."

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