Saturday 2 June 2018 11.46pm
‘10,086 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, Ca.’ 2018
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
A Billy Wilder Film
Top 100 Films Ever Made –
Sunset Boulevard is equal #63 with Rio Bravo (1958), Night of the Hunter (1955), Pickpocket (1959), Modern Times (1936) and Wild Strawberries (1957) in the 2012 BFI Critics Poll
Sunset Boulevard is equal #67 with Badlands (1973), Blade Runner (1982), Singin in the Rain (1951), In the Mood for Love (2000), Journey to Italy (1954), Vivre sa vie (1962) and Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) in the 2012 BFI Directors Poll
My wife didn’t love it and both she and her friend Alicia thought it wasn’t what they expected. Ali asked me what I thought of it and I said, “It’s a masterpiece. Of all the films I’ve seen it definitely – in my mind – deserves to be on a list of the Top Ten.”
“Why,” she asked.
My response was quite long and involved. But it pretty much went like this:
“I’ve seen it twenty times and it is still great.
The narration is so beautifully written and spoken. It’s so witty and funny at times.
It start’s like a B-grade Hollywood film, with police coming to the scene of a murder, and then it goes in a completely different direction and becomes a different kind of film. At first it is a B-movie exactly like the movie scripts Joe Gillis is writing.
The idea of it being narrated by a dead man is so unexpected.”
“Well, not really unexpected, ” my wife interrupted. “You see him dead in the pool at the beginning of the film.”
“Yes, well, there is that,” I admitted, “but I’m talking before that point.
It takes you behind the scenes of Hollywood filmmaking in a way that is so insightful and enjoyable, often using real people playing themselves, giving it that extra realistic edge. They even filmed some of it on the Paramount Pictures lot and showed you Cecil B DeMille directing a film. It shows you where the writers used to sit writing in the cramped offices, typing away.
It has the most beautiful cinematography you could ever hope to see. The art direction and set decoration are similarly brilliant.
The acting by William Holden, the range of emotions he’s required to show, he does expertly, and Gloria Swanson as the washed-up movie actress, is amazing. Larger than life and believable.
Then there’s the themes of the film. The poor – well, actually, wealthy – main character used to be a major star and is now a major nobody. Like anyone, tennis players, athletes, whose careers are over at thirty or thirty-five, it’s really sad what can happen. They’ve got more money than almost anyone in Hollywood and yet it hasn’t brought them happiness. They’re just as prone to depression and not being able to find a reason for living as anyone, despite their former glory and their current wealth. She’s a millionaire who has nothing in her life except a butler and a few friends who play Bridge with her. Then there’s Joe. He’s a kept man, a toy boy, who – initially resists, but – finds it quite comfortable to living in luxury instead of having to go back to Idaho and work for a Dayton newspaper. He’s desperate and winds up selling his soul, well, if not to the devil, then, at least, to a woman twice his age. To be comfortable he has to live with this woman – and screw her – who’s fallen in love with him. He’s become a gigolo.
Everything, in every department, ticks the boxes, and every one of them is a ten out ten. If an area of the film isn’t absolutely brilliant it is still completely excellent. It’s a masterpiece showing the rich and the poor in Hollywood. Normally it’s about a would-be actor or actress, but this time it shows a writer experiencing the same hardships and disappointments. It’s amazing.
It’s a melodrama, and yet it is so restrained, despite the fact that the main star, Gloria Swanson, carries on like a former-silent movie actress, who once was a big star, at times.”
My wife nodded and said, “Yes. It was good.”