Sunset Boulevard ★★★★★

We all have to watch our classics on the big screen, don’t we? It’s like seeing them for the first time.

Going in I was thinking why Sunset Blvd., as celebrated and iconic as it is, was never my top go-to Wilder. There’s still something that keeps me from exactly calling it that: maybe it’s because unlike Indemnity or Ace it’s not a “This (as crazy as it sounds) could happen around you” scenario. It insists instead that we are invited to hear a “Hollywood story” which on the surface takes place in a very specific place (read the title again) with this kind of people and what are they up to routinely…Or maybe it’s simply due to its strange, uncomfortable nature. Watching it in this fashion had a new effect though; with the broad close ups of its anti-heroes coming and going back to the darkness of their surroundings, re-defining ‘la noire’.

Whatever my attitude was, the snappy dialogue grabbed my attention right away. Why don’t we quote more from Sunset? Anything but “I’m ready…” line for a change. The verbal Ping-Ponging between characters is the key to the compelling world they inhabit in. The top notch screenplay – a usual with Billy Wilder, with any great film – never seemed more ready to digest than this time. This is both a personal story (The love triangle between Norma, Joe and Betty) and a bold statement on different aspects of the industry (fame, ego, sex and ageing) which are more relevant than ever. One thing I had forgotten about was the character of Artie Green: Betty’s fiancé and generally a nice guy as Joe briefly tells us. A reminder that Joe’s affair with Betty was not as guilt-free (in oppose with his with Norma) as I had remembered. Something tells me I or anyone who wants to do some writing sometime have to come to Boulevard someday.

David Lynch frequently names this as his favorite film, so that should give us a hint how Wicked the picture is as well. Again, not only on the surface –doors with big holes instead of locks, spooky moans coming out of Piano organs, dead monkeys and all – but in the relationship between the characters. Norma is an unhinged woman who intentionally or not sucks the men around her out of their masculinity (poor Max); or that’s my reading of it at the moment. I went on without mentioning any of the fine performances from the perfect cast but here’s the fifth-millionth shout out to Gloria Swanson who dominates the shit out of the film, of its poster (look at the size of that head looking like a beast) and of us.

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