Rod Sedgwick’s review published on Letterboxd:
”We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!”
If ever there was a Hollywood film that was note perfect, it is Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard A film that peers through the illusion that is the Film industry and plays on the clashing ideology of Gloria Swanson's star of the silent age Norma Desmond against the stark reality of William Holden's Joe Gillis.
From the opening titles, the camera focuses on the 'Sunset Blvd' of the street gutter as opposed to a normal street sign, a hint of the tale to come as we see our dead protagonist telling his sad story from his watery grave, quite the subversive narrative angle to take. But its always intriguing that by the very end of the film, the opening is all but forgotten as I am immersed in the film’s illusion.
The film is gloriously realised on every level, with one of the most iconic performances to grace the screen in Swanson's theatrically delicious Norma Desmond, she exudes pomp and ego to the core, whilst Holden plays it like a classic Noir down and outer on a lucky break. Other performances by the Hollywood elite including Buster Keaton, Cecil B. DeMille and a brilliant turn by Erich von Stroheim as Desmond's ever faithful servant are welcome, as is the fine period detail and immaculate framing and cinematography.
Sunset Boulevard is flawless in narrative and execution, both wonderfully dramatic and blackly comic whilst effortlessly rich in its themes and notes of satire. Look no further for the purest example of Billy Wilder at the height of his craft.