Sunset Boulevard ★★★★★


How much of this score is based on just how influential Sunset Boulevard was for the history of cinema? Honestly, I’m not certain. Like with Casablanca or 2001: A Space Odyssey, two movies I also have at a 100, Sunset Boulevard is such a ginormous, important movie in history that it almost goes without saying that I would have something of a clouded vision of it that would make me think highly of it, maybe more so than I would if a film like it had come out this year. It’s a possibility, and that sort of bias is something I often struggle with when picking what films I praise over others, and/or which films I allow the big 100 as opposed to others that are probably just as good. I don’t think so though, I do genuinely think Sunset Boulevard is an incredible work of fiction, be damned if it started crazes and tropes like it did. For that matter, I had watched two Billy Wilder movies previous to picking up Sunset Boulevard, and I had liked or even loved both, with The Apartment bordering on a nine out of ten—I’ll have to think that over some more. That was mostly because I think Billy Wilder is just absurdly talented at writing comedy. As far as I’m concerned, particularly for the time period, there’s nothing and no one like him.

But Sunset Boulevard in particular, man, I don’t know. It’s not even a comedy film, at all really, so to some degree it had something to prove to me. Could Billy Wilder write for other genres? And for that matter, could it reach the heights of The Apartment? It was an important question. And wow did it, such to the point that not only is it better than The Apartment, it blows that film out of the water with nothing but sheer force. If his other films remind me of any number of my favorite modern comedians, Sunset Boulevard reminds me of a Charlie Kaufman picture. And I bet you can all guess where this is going based on that. It’s all in how Billy Wilder frames Hollywood and stardom of course, because to my knowledge Charlie Kaufman has never made a film noir. For a strictly dramatic film, it portrays everything through this dark, sadistic and sarcastic lens that just adds so much to the final product. If anything it reminds me most of Adaptation. which is a film that, as I will write about in the coming days, is one of my all time favorite films and is as delicate and lovely as it is harsh and unfeeling, which is definitely the vibe I got from Sunset Boulevard, an achingly sincere retelling of a strange concept. For that matter, Wilder reminds me of Kaufman here because I get such a sense of self hate from Sunset Boulevard. Like Billy Wilder knows exactly which character is his self insert, though it wouldn’t quite matter who it is, and he uses that fact to make the film all the more human in spite of itself. If I’m rating it as high as I am because of cultural influence, so what? If a film did as much as Sunset Boulevard did for every artist yet to come, I for one have to appreciate that. But it’s also just a drop dead gorgeous film. One to live in and one to die for.