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4 stars: Billy Wilder's brilliant vision of Hollywood's dark side......

  • Jun 12, 2010
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Billy Wilder was a genius when it came to creating a story, he never leaves a stone unturned or a single character with out his or her own voice. Wilder   for years has been giving  moviegoers and film lovers  movies that not only live up to  there status but also there name, he has created some of the most memorable characters  such as Sgt. Sefton(Stalag 17), Norma Desmond(Sunset Boulevard), C.C "Bud" Baxter(The Apartment) and many more. Wilder was not just a visionary he was a master of the art of filmmaking he  can make  the simplest of story into a cinema classic such as "The Lost Weekend"(1945), "The Apartment"(1960), "Irma La Douce"(1963).” The Seven year Itch"(1955),"Some like it Hot"(1959) and one of his greatest films and a true cinema classic, "Sunset Boulevard"(1950). A film that was ahead of its time and showed that no matter what the story or no matter what the situation Wilder would always come out on top and deliver a unique and engaging film experience you will never forget.





Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard"   is still considered today one of the Golden Eras defining movies and one of film noirs most complex tales it is a film that not only leaves you   shocked by the ending leaves you with the feeling of great sadness. "Sunset Boulevard' is the kind of film modern day moviegoers would call playful and manipulative when in fact hat is very true. This is the kind of film that grabs your attention with a dark and moody opening on a murder  and then swiftly jumps back in time to tell you the story of how this all came to be, classic but also brilliant. Wilder uses many of his methods however, for a film considered a film noir there are not very many dark touches some of the scenes are usually bathed in sunlight or take place in well-lit rooms. What makes this picture a film noir  is not its  atmosphere or its lighting but the dark nature of its, the Gothic flare of the films  main  set  Norma Desmond's  1920's mansion which  looks more like a mausoleum   than  someplace you would live. That is the point of it Norma Desmond(Gloria Swanson)  is a has been star  a feeble old woman who still has big dreams of once again being  up on the silver screen, of bring a star again like she was back in the 20's. Which can be said of  Gloria Swanson  who prior to making this film had not acted in  nine years Swanson  makes this film  what it is  she gives it its  electric flair, its  dark looming atmosphere of how a faded star wants to shine again. "Sunset Blvd.” is as perplexing as it is thought provoking  as the film closes  and the unforgettable final scene  has just ended you leave this film wondering if you were a star and you fell from the public eye  how would you want to be remembered?



"Sunset Blvd.” begins with such a captivating prologue that when it is over you are left feeling unnerved and yet at the same time riveted you are on the edge of your seat just sitting there as the mystifying drama of this thoroughly woven tale unfolds before you. However, you are not on the edge of your seat with excitement or on the edge of your seat because your adrenaline is pumping and you cannot seem to sit still, no you are on the edge of your seat because this film is so damn intriguing and addicting, it is like crack for the classic film lover. How it   plays out is the most intriguing element how the characters interact with each other and play off each other   is what makes this film work if the characters were not interesting the film would not be interesting, in a story character is everything and the ones in this dark and at sometimes-gloomy film are no exception. They are the most intruding bunch you will  ever see put to film  every one of them has some agenda or some hidden ulterior motive  much like  Erich Von Stroheim's character Maximilian "Max"  Von Mayerling   from the first time you meet Norma Desmond's butler you instantly get the feeling that there is something not very right with him. That is where Wilder draws the foreboding outline of his characters he uses the mystery of human nature, how we work to drive the mystery and drama of the film to the shocking climax.



William Holden was one Hollywood's most talented and beloved stars starring in such classics such as Billy Wilder's "Sabrina"(1954) and "Stalag 17"(1953) for which he won his first and only Academy award. in Billy Wilder's dark vision of Hollywood Holden gives one of his finest performances as a hack screenplay writer trying to make it to the big leagues, Holden is much more reserved and cynical  in this film than he  is in  his other films  exuding a kind of   hatred  and pity  towards Norma Desmond. He hates her because she wants to give him everything he could ever want and he pities her because she lives all alone in her massive mansion with disillusioned dreams of being a star once more. Holden's character Joe Gillis has big dreams too but nothing to show for them and Holden draws his strength from that, he draws his strength from the fact that his character wants it all but does not want it handed to him on a silver platter the way Norma Desmond does to him. There  is more to Holden here  he plays it calm, cool collective as he tries dealing with Norma's arrogance and fits of deranged anger. There is only so much a man can bear and if it were not for Norma’s loyal butler Max, he would have to bear it all. In addition, Holden does bear it all he bears the burden of being the one with the misfortune of running into the crazed former movie star. Gloria Swanson prior to this film had not made a movie in over ten years and  in the yes of the Golden Era  public she was all washed up, a has been. However, to Billy Wilder she was a revelation his salvation to this film and in turn what made "Sunset Boulevard” what it is. If any other actress had taken the role, it would not have been so memorable or so grand, in real life Swanson was a former silent film star who found it hard to find a job when the pictures incorporated sound. Moreover, for the part of Norma Desmond she is perfectly suited for a role that some would call impossible to play however, Swanson pulls it off with excellence and proved to everyone that she was still a star. The rest of the cast including Erich Von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, and Jack Webb all deliver excellent supporting performances in a film that   shows you the true dark side of one of the most glamorous business in the world.  




Upon its original release, "Sunset Boulevard” fell under extreme controversy over its themes and how it pointed its finger at Hollywood. One of the main people who  was most appalled by this film  was the head of MGM studios Louie B. Mayer saying to Wilder in front of the crowd of celebrities, "You have disgraced the industry that made and fed you! You should be tarred and feathered and run out of Hollywood!” During its original run “Sunset Boulevard" was one of outside films   much like Frank Darabont's "The Majestic" was when it was released almost 51 years later. Even after almost 60 years, "Sunset Boulevard" is considered one of Hollywood's greatest films and the greatest film about Hollywood and while you may be on top for a little while, you will not stay on top forever.

Bilyl Wilder's brilliant vision of Hollywood's dark side......

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August 23, 2010
Great review of one of my all time faves.
June 13, 2010
wow! Nice review. You did a real good job in opening your review with that paragraph. Keep up the great work! I liked the way you gave the reader some history about the film, nicely done.
June 13, 2010
Thank you, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
More Sunset Boulevard (movie) reviews
review by . April 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Sunset Boulevard is set in Hollywood during the 50s. Joe Gillis (William Holden) is a screenwriter, not one that is very well known, and is loaded with debts. He plans to return to his hometown and get away from his life, but while driving one day he meets up with people he did not want to see. Joe tries to escape and gets a flat tire, then parking in a seemingly empty garage. Little did he know that it belonged to the once acclaimed actress of silent films, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Norma's …
review by . January 22, 2007
"I AM big! It's the PICTURES that got small!"    So we have one of the best, most remembered lines from Billy Wilder's best film, the other well known line being "Alright, Mr de Mile. I'm ready for my closeup!"    I saw this film for the first time yesterday. It was everything I'd hoped for and then some. Though it was made in 1950 it, like all classics, most notably Wilder's "Some Like it Hot", still resonates today.    The plot to this …
review by . December 29, 2005
There were a few things which drew me to "Sunset Blvd.". For one thing, it's one of David Lynch's favorite films, and he is my favorite director. Second, it has a five-star rating on Amazon. Not even "Casablanca" has a five-star rating! And thirdly, it sounded like an interesting film.    "Sunset Blvd." forever shattered the general public's idea of what the movie business was really like. William Holden is great as Joe Gillis, a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who's in debt and …
review by . May 08, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
SUNSET BOULEVARD is Billy Wilder at his scintillating-best. Gloria Swanson turns in the performance of her career as Norma Desmond, the faded silent movie star looking to make her comeback, and William Holden is the jaded Joe Gillis, the desperate writer who gets drawn into Desmond's own singular world.    The movie works on so many levels: black comedy, romance, melodrama. It is the ultimate Hollywood expose and no wonder it caused such a furore when it was originally released …
review by . July 15, 2003
Boldly, director Wilder begins this film with a shot of a man floating in a swimming pool. Who is he? What's his story? We learn from a voiceover that the dead man is Joe Gillis (played by William Holden) who provides the voiceover and eventually explains what happened. The focus of this film is on Joe's relationship with Norma Desmond, long ago one of Hollywood's greatest stars. (Comparable with Gloria Swanson, for example.) Billy Wilder suggests that she (played by Swanson) is concluding a personal …
review by . April 09, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Now this is acting, old but acting     Cons: none     The Bottom Line: A real look at how 'old' Hollywood worked.        I have a wonderful CD by Streisand, Back to Broadway, that contains several songs from the play Sunset Boulevard. I have always been so enchanted by these songs that I swore one day I would see the movie, not realizing it in no way reflected the same as the play. But I did, and here it is, Sunset Boulevard   …
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C.R. Lopez ()
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Billy Wilder's noir-comic classic about death and decay in Hollywood remains as pungent as ever in its power to provoke shock, laughter, and gasps of astonishment. Joe Gillis (William Holden), a broke and cynical young screenwriter, is attempting to ditch a pair of repo men late one afternoon when he pulls off L.A.'s storied Sunset Boulevard and into the driveway of a seedy mansion belonging to Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a forgotten silent movie luminary whose brilliant acting career withered with the coming of talkies.

The demented old movie queen lives in the past, assisted by her devoted (but intimidating) butler, Max (played by Erich von Stroheim, the legendary director ofGreedand Swanson's own lost epic,Queen Kelly). Norma dreams of making a comeback in a remake of Salome to be directed by her old colleague Cecil B. DeMille (as himself), and Joe becomes her literary and romantic gigolo.Sunset Blvd.

This is one of those great movies that has become a part of popular culture (the line "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up," has entered the language)--but it's no relic. Wow, does it ever hold up.--Jim Emerson
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Director: Billy Wilder
Genre: Classics
Release Date: 1950
DVD Release Date: November 26, 2002
Runtime: 110 minutes
Studio: Paramount
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