Sunset Boulevard ★★★★★

“Don’t you get it? Before Joe Gillis came along, Norma Desmond was fucking the monkey!” 
— Billy Wilder

Let’s face it, in the 40s and 50s Wilder practically owned film-noir, his effortless ability to blend cynical characters and fatalistic plot with the symbolic minutiae of a scene never anything short of breathtaking. Take the anklet in Double Indemnity, or in this case, a smoking cigarette trapped in an abstract finger contraption. No director has so attentively given both focus and obscurity to such small details, his worlds always totally enriched, perfectly crooked and broken. In many ways, the last shot makes for what is quite easily the greatest final image of any film, its influence as far-reaching as time itself, Hitchcock’s ending for Psycho springing to mind. Holden plays it straight down the line, nailing every word of exquisite dialogue, but it’s Swanson who turns the Hollywood dream into a feverish nightmare. By this point, it doesn’t even matter how far I delve into the genre, or how much my love deepens for Bogart and Bacall, for my money, this will always remain the greatest noir of all time. It’s written in the stars.


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