Sunset Boulevard ★★★★½

I love movies about filmmaking, Hollywood, and the downsides of fame, and “Sunset Boulevard” is definitely one of the most famous and critically acclaimed examples of this “genre” (if you can call it that). This film combines film noir, dark comedy, showbusiness satire, and character study in a brilliant way and there is a lot to discover, unpack, and think about. It explores themes such as aging, solitude, nostalgia, delusion, obsession, fame, unhealthy relationships, cinema, as well as change and the inability to accept it and to adept. The movie is both a love letter to and a biting critique on the Hollywood of that time.

As expected of Billy Wilder, “Sunset Boulevard” is masterfully crafted and directed. It has a smart and tight script, witty dialogs, a melancholic atmosphere, a great noir aesthetic (+ voice over narration), stunning cinematography, a wonderful score, and flawed and interesting characters.

William Holden, Erich von Stroheim, and Nancy Olson deliver strong performances, but “Sunset Boulevard” is the Gloria Swanson show. Her Norma Desmond is one of the most iconic characters in movie history and Swanson´s performance is out of this world. Desmond´s inability to accept her fading fame is tragic and her slow but unstoppable downward spiral into complete madness is one of the most fascinating, impressive, and haunting character arcs I have ever seen. Swanson´s facial expressions are incredible and especially the last scene is unforgettable. Pure acting class.

For many people, “Sunset Boulevard” is Billy Wilder´s masterpiece and it is hard to argue against it, even though it is not my favorite of his movies (I love “Witness for the Prosecution” a bit more). This guy really directed timeless classic after timeless classic, didn´t he?

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