Tottenham_Toad’s review published on Letterboxd:
Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard has been a Blockbuster Classic; and has held it's creative genius over time. What seems to be loosely based off the story on Miss Havisham from The Great Expectations, Sunset Boulevard follows the story of a struggling screenwriter, who finds himself in an imprisoned life with the once beautiful and talented Norma; who has gradually descended into madness. The instantly recognisable opening scene; reminiscent of the Noir genre, through the foreshadowing, detective like voice-over hooks the spectator. The blunt humoured, rags to riches story is nothing new (especially for the Noir genre), however it is intertwined with a fantastic mixture of Wilder's auteurship nature and excellent screenwriting. One could argue that the lack of I.A.L Diamond as a writer, breaks the stereotype that Wilder has placed himself within, however it is fairly obvious that it follows closer to the likes of Double Indemnity. As an auteur, mise-en-scene will be at the foreground of Wilder's thoughts. From what can be seen in this cinematic adventure proves this to be correct; as their is an acute balance with the likes of near perfect cinematography when showing the passing of time primarily, as well as the synced and choreographed score, that goes hand in hand with a multitude of scenes. What I personally noticed was the focus on lighting, and how it's German Expressionist nature improved seemingly archetypal scenes/performances.
The plot created a new and innovative experience, when it comes to Film Noir's. The choice of having characters who do not necessarily link to the genre made for certain aspects to shine through; mainly of the Femme Fatale and hard Boiled protagonist. Not only this but the assemblage of ambiguity and tension was constant and off-putting as a spectator; possibly reminding of specific horror films (in my case was 28 Days Later). Metaphorically speaking, the writing of Sunset Boulevard appears to hold layers of untapped enigma, predominantly with what the mansion life offers, as opposed to Paramount. Sunset Boulevard's ending is a never-ending cycle of fascination; as it appears to focus on the 1950's population, in how there was a need for relapse/introduction toward stardom. This is all ultimately secondary to the fact that it is typical of the classic Greek Tragedy.
The acting from start to finish is both theatrically enticing and terrifying. William Holden's blunt yet naive character Joe created an intrepid juxtaposition with the character of Norma,given they both hold distant characteristics from one another; and it becomes evident that it is a battle between eccentricity and reality. If one digs deeper into this matter, it could be a possible metaphor of American society, in the way people believed/disbelieved in the American Dream (which still lives on today). Despite Holden being the first name on the calling cards, Gloria Swanson's Oscar worthy Norma steals the show. the themes of madness, delusion and breakdown seep through her fragility; as she upholds her excessive pride in what she has previously been capable of doing in her cinematic ventures. Although her character is tragic in writing, the actual portrayal is horrifying, with moments of sheer panic crossing through my mind. The greatest element to her character is in the unbelievably intelligent irony that Wilder uses; as he creates a character that would hate the actress playing her. This unorthodox use of inception clearly demonstrates the thought that went into the production. Finally, is the small cameo roles from silent film legends: namely Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper and Anna Nilsson. One could argue that this is also another use of Wilder's infamous irony, through the voice-over calling them "side" performers.
In conclusion, Sunset Boulevard has been at the top of my list for a while, and after seeing the film, I have been blown away. Every aspect of the film, to the minimalist detail is fantastic; and I doubt that the film will leave my mind for some time. Sunset Boulevard is one of the most classic Hollywood productions and in not watching it, is an insult.