Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
A Hollywood Story
A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity.
**Part of the Best Picture Project**
What a difference several years makes after having last seen a film!
As a younger still growing lover of film, when I first watched this, I merely watched it from a superficial standpoint. I enjoyed the "behind the scenes" aspect of the film, as well as the deteriorating mental state of Swanson's Norma Desmond.
But many years later, I am able to understand who Max was played by and why it was significant, as well as the many cameos (Shit, Buster Keaton!) and references.
Then there's Wilder's direction, which comes to employ silent film technique more and more as the film goes on and Norma Desmond's mental state begins to collapse, which serves as a contrast to how much more grounded William Holden's subplot is.
This is why revisiting films is important.
No one ever leaves a star. That's what makes one a star.
I've seen many films with the same premise as Sunset Boulevard: an aging film star down on his or her luck tries to come to terms with the loss of their youth and fame. And yet, I believe that there has never been a more biting, contemptuous, yet loving portrayal of one such star with leftover delusions of grandeur.
Norma Desmond is a silent movie star who hasn't acted in a film for twenty years. One day Joe Gillis, a writer down on his luck, arrives at her doorstep and allows himself to be drawn into the web that Norma weaves around him. Nothing bodes well for either…
Performances : 8.4/10
Story : 9.4/10
Production : 8.1
Overall : 8.63/10
Wow. I bought this on blu-ray even though I had only seen it once before and I didn't remember being overly impressed. Maybe I slept through parts of it because I don't know what I was thinking. Sunset Boulevard tells an amazing story of fame and it's effects while also beating living shit out of Hollywood with a bat. It's the definition of art imitating life, with Noma Desmond played by former silent era star Gloria Swanson. Herself not having had more than one role in almost twenty years before this film was made. Her butler/former director Max Von Mayerling (awesome name) played by Eric von Stroheim (even…
I can't even try to review or dissect this, especially now that our current culture has added new significance to its layers. Everything means something, every shot filled with symbolism and beauty and sadness and terror. You could probably take an entire semester of classes talking about it, and for that alone it's a feat. I wasn't expecting it to be so enjoyable though, and so exciting and interesting and "watchable".
So I'll say three things:
My favorite shot was of a door. Joe has just been interrogated by Norma about where he was the night before. He tells her it was nothing important, and she goes to her room. The camera focuses on the two holes in the door…
Once in a while you come across a performance in a film that not only dominates that film, but overwhelms it to the point where you wonder if they had done an edit of the finished product that only included said performance if the film would actually have been better.
Sunset Boulevard could easily have been such a picture. The magnitude of the performance of Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond can be measured in the fact that in so many ways this is not only an incredible film, but also a daring and unusual film for its time. Yet her performance as the faded Hollywood icon, left desperately clinging on to her glory days coupled with forlorn hopes for a…
This might be the greatest performance I've ever seen from an actress. Gloria Swanson is simply magnificent here and I kept getting mixed feelings from her character throughout the film as she can be vulnerable, manipulative, caring and obsessive, always imposing a strong screen presence. Sunset Boulevard is a masterful work on all fronts. From the technical standpoint, there are some very creative and stylish shots like the underwater pool sequence and the majestic closing scene. There's also strong character development as you notice how one's preconceptions towards the other can easily change as the story progresses and the dynamics between them also evolves. Even the secondary characters are memorable and lead to interesting turn of events. Another aspect I…
a captivating classic that is brimful of wit, [gobs of positive adjectives] etc
Wow, it took me a while to finally watch this film. Now I understand all the references modern films and tv take from it, brilliant. William Holden's voice is so superb.
"What's wrong with being on the other side of the pictures?"
Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard” is the portrait of a forgotten silent star, living in exile in her grotesque mansion, screening her old films, dreaming of a comeback. But it's also a love story, and the love keeps it from becoming simply a waxworks or a freak show. Gloria Swanson gives her greatest performance as the silent star Norma Desmond, with her grasping talons, her theatrical mannerisms, her grandiose delusions. William Holden tactfully inhabits the tricky role of the writer half her age, who allows himself to be kept by her. But the performance that holds the film together, that gives it emotional resonance and makes it real in spite of its gothic flamboyance, is by Erich von Stroheim, as Norma's…
So good! Even at 60 years old it feels pretty fresh; its meta old-Hollywood vs. new-Hollywood story wouldn't be the slightest bit out of place today. I might see a bit of a problem with Gloria Swanson's performance (is it bad, or is it brilliant?) but that's more like "OMG I can't believe what I'm seeing!" than "How the eff did she get this job?" Really my only substantial "complaint": I almost fell out of my seat when Betty said she was 22. I would've guessed *42*. People looked older back then, I guess.
There's more in the last shot of this film, in one brief glance at the camera, than the entire running time of most others.
One of my favorites this year.
Even knowing it was coming, the opening sequence is still breathtaking and more impressive than I had imagined. I'll never be rid of the image of Holden floating with reporters and their flashbulbs behind him.
My only complaint is the Swanson character which seemed too over-the-top, vain, and shrill (I know that's what she's supposed to be), to the point where I was hoping someone might shoot her. Of course the monster she is is probably not completely of her own making. I'm also a little wary of a story that relies so heavily on narration to make plot points and our resulting emotions so explicit.
Von Stroheim is the rock of the film, perfectly stoic and firm. Like Swanson,…
A Century of Cinema Challenge: 1950
Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard is a beautifully scathing commentary on the brutality of the Hollywood industry, sprinkled with touches of black comedy and satire. It's one of those films who's reputation precedes it, and there's not much for me to say that hasn't already been said to death about this classic. So I'll be brief.
Sunset Boulevard is an example of near perfect storytelling complete with an unorthodox narrator. On top of that, Wilder presents us characters that actually have some substance. Holden's Joe Gillis is not a stupid man, merely down on his luck, and because of this allows himself to be manipulated and trapped by Swanson's glorious Norma Desmond, one of the…
- 12 Angry Men
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- 25th Hour
- 3 Women
- A Trip to the Moon
- The Great Train Robbery
- The Birth of a Nation
- Les Vampires
All the films from all the editions, including those subsequently removed, presently totalling 1154. An easy way of seeing how…
- The Godfather
- Seven Samurai
- The Godfather: Part II
- 12 Angry Men
- Pulp Fiction
most recent update - Thursday, April 10, 2014, 11:23 PM EST
The letterboxd crew has unveiled a new feature that…