Sunset Boulevard ★★★★½

Joe: You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big!
Norma: I am big, it's the PICTURES that got small.
Joe: Uh-huh. I knew there was something wrong with them.

I didn't go to film school, but I love movies and have been slowly making my way through the Canon of "great films" over the years. Sometimes these forays into cinema classics end in disappointment. But Sunset Boulevard really lives up to its billing.

Gloria Swanson's performance as an aging silent film actress obsessed with her former stardom is incredible - the definition of GOING BIG. Seeing the way she emotes and gesticulates her way through each scene makes it easy to imagine her being part of her own silent version of Sunset Blvd.

But the best part of this movie is how much it blurs the lines between film and reality. Swanson really was a silent actress who had trouble getting work in "talkies". Erich von Stroheim, playing her butler/driver/caretaker who used to be her director before being cast aside by Norma, really was a big director before famously being fired by Swanson on the disastrous production of Queen Kelly. And all of the Paramount Studios offices, stages, and buildings featured were filmed on location exactly where they're said to be, even picking up a behind the scenes clip of the filming of another Paramount picture. Cecil Demille, Buster Keaton, and Hedda Hopper play themselves. I don't know if meta was really a thing in 1950, but this film surely perfected it.

The whole picture is simply marvelous. And that final scene? One of the most iconic scenes about moviemaking in the history of film.

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