Daniel Holford’s review published on Letterboxd:
Scavenger Hunt 64 - Movie 16 | task 18 - a film nominated for best director |
“I am big! It’s the pictures that got small!”
My first film by Billy Wilder and it’s a great start, fantastically written dialogue and characters, with enough suspense to keep the film entirely gripping throughout. It’s a movie that looks towards the past, the golden era of Hollywood, but it manages to feel so ahead of its time.
William Holden, plays Joe, a down on his luck screenwriter after a quick bit of money to save himself from failure. He meets an older, out of work Silent era star, deciding to use her for his own financial gain. I love the slow development of him, starting to take pity on this woman, slowly learning more about her. The toxic relationship created between Norma and Joe is so interesting to watch, the manipulations from both sides, both so insecure of themselves, never seeming to realise the troubles they’re bringing to each other.
Norma Desmond is one of the most interestingly developed and complex characters I’ve seen in a while. An old time Hollywood silent star left behind when the world moved on. Her delusions of grandeur and the spotlight she craves so much creating a rather sad character to watch. The world she’s created around herself, and fallen into so interesting to watch. She’s obviously played brilliantly by Gloria Swanson, an excellent performance by her. Her characters conclusion is so brilliantly played out, in maybe the best scene and performance of the entire movie.
I loved the striking difference between Norma’s delusions of stardom and the world she actually lives within. The interior of the run down house brilliantly crafted, at odds with her ideas of glamour and beauty. It’s perfectly shot in black and white, the colour feeling drained from the characters worlds as the story progresses.
It’s brilliantly written. There’s some fantastic dialogue with plenty of memorable lines. Both characters feeling complex, with interesting motivations for their actions, sometimes being rather unlikable, but both sympathetic characters. Even the narration, something I’m not normally keen on, actually adds to the story. Wilder manages to create even more intrigue and suspense through these intriguing thoughts from Joe. Adding rather than taking away from the overall narrative.
With some great performances and a brilliant script that keeps you engrossed through the runtime, it’s easy to see why this became such a highly regarded classic. One that certainly still stands up today on an initial viewing.