Sunset Boulevard ★★★★★

Last night I watched this on Turner Classic Movies, a film which not only by ratings is likely the best film noir of all time, but is a legendary film in general, one that should be seen by all film fans. It's more than just a story of how a poor schlub of a screenwriter named Joe Gillis stumbles upon a faded silent film star of many years ago named Norma Desmond and the toxic relationship that developed between the two as he tries to make it so that she has a (rather improbable) comeback.

This is a pretty dark tale about such topics as greed (ironic that Erich von Stroheim was cast in an important role) and narcissism. While Desmond getting to know Gillis is pretty bad news for Gillis due to her deluded viewpoints and how terribly she treats Joe, you still end up feeling sorry for Norma at times due to how she can't let go of how she was famous long ago before being discarded once “the talkies” began... and there's also the legendary final scene which is note-perfect in making her look like a pathetic figure woefully out of touch with reality. Plus, she has harmed herself in the past.

The movie says a lot about how Hollywood treated its former silent stars once the sound era began; many were indeed booted out. That is why there are a number of people from that era that were here, whether they were cameos like Buster Keaton, an important role for von Stroheim, or a famous director that started out in the era playing himself in Cecil B. DeMille. The cast as a whole does a bang-up job but the decision to cast Gloria Swanson as Desmond... that turned out to be perfect. She was a star at Paramount (the studio that made this film), although Swanson's career of course did not end once the silent era did. It was not only great as symbolism, but her performance was tremendous, totally captivating as she played such a tragic character.

Besides such a complex, thought-provoking story and the performances from the cast, it was expertly directed by Billy Wilder, and like I said this is truly a treasure of cinema, a masterpiece that should be watched by all serious film fans.

Blair Russell liked these reviews