Aeschylus’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sunset Boulevard is my favorite film of all time. Its exceptional cinematography, bizarre story, razor-sharp dialogue, and towering performances make it one of the most intense experiences I've ever had. And on top of that, even though this is my fourth time through this masterpiece, it's just as fresh and exciting as it was the first time I watched it.
The film concerns itself with Joe Gilles, a washed-up B-movie screenwriter who by chance comes upon the mansion of Norma Desmond. It is at this point that the movie truly begins.
The story that unfolds is quite a strange one, that is for certain. But it never alienates the viewer with its strangeness. On the contrary, it sucks us in, keeps us mesmerized. It is pure cinematic gold! How could one not be enthralled by a story centered around the fascinating psyche of Norma Desmond?
The dialogue is absolutely brilliant. It's slick as hell, like it came right out of a pulp novel. As a result of this, the film has so many great quotable lines: "I *am* big. It's the *pictures* that got small." "We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!" "Audiences don't know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along." "Norma, you're a woman of 50, now grow up. There's nothing tragic about being 50, not unless you try to be 25." The whole film is packed to the brim with so many great lines like these. If I were to put all my favorite quotes into this review, I'd probably just end up writing out the entire script.
However, Sunset Boulevard truly shines with its acting. The performances throughout the film are absolutely amazing: There's Nancy Olson playing Betty Schaefer, whose dewy-eyed idealism only seems to make her even more gorgeous than when we first encounter her; there's Erich von Stroheim playing the butler Max, who manages to convey a multitude of nuances; there's William Holden playing Joe Gilles, who portrays his character with a delicate balance of pent-up frustration, cynicism, love, and self-loathing; and of course, who could forget Gloria Swanson's performance as Norma Desmond? It's extraordinary what she did with this character. Swanson's face is so expressive, she truly convinces you that those silent actor really didn't need dialogue with those faces. And amidst portraying all the narcissism and insanity, she conveys so many varied emotions, from anger to grief to even joy. It is the greatest performance of Swanson's career, and one of the greatest performances in all of film.
It is rare that a film comes along and really thrills your soul. Sunset Boulevard is one of those films. It is a monument to the magic of the movies, to the power of the pictures. What more could you ask for in a film? There has never been a film quite like Sunset Boulevard, and there never will be again. If you haven't seen this film, I strongly recommend you make it a top priority on your watchlist. It's one helluva ride.