Sunset Boulevard ★★★★★

"Partway through Billy Wilder’s seminal 1950 noir Sunset Boulevard, cynical screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) and bright-eyed script-girl Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson) take an evening stroll through the Paramount lot. “Look at this street. All cardboard, all hollow, all phoney, all done with mirrors,” Betty comments as workers paint the skyline behind them, “I like it better than any street in the world.” Among other things, Sunset Boulevard is a film of fake and real, the dream-world of Hollywood, named after a major Los Angeles thoroughfare. But instead of the enjoyable escapism of Paramount’s cardboard streets, Sunset Boulevard exposes the uncomfortable reality of Hollywood celebrities’ twilight years, the film opening not on a tall street-sign but a curb-side plaque next to the gutter. Along this boulevard is the grand and hollow 1920s mansion of faded silent-film actress Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), so crumbling that Joe uses it as an abandoned hiding space from some repo men. Once it was glorious and decadent, but now like Norma it is “out of beat with the rest of the world,” a haunted reflection of its former self."

I wrote about the 70th Anniversary of Sunset Boulevard, its Hollywood references and the film dream-machine prison, for Outtake