Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder)

#31 in the 1000 greatest films of all time

I watched this last night with friends over some Chinese take-out; I was a little hesitant to view it in such a casual setting, given its ranking, but it turned out to be the perfect environment for "Sunset Blvd." This isn't a philosophical tome or an experimental masterwork; it's a circular noir, sometimes funny, sometimes overwrought, but always engaging. It's about a struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (played by William Holden) who reluctantly becomes the boy-toy of the one-time star of the silent era, Norma Desmond. On a higher level, it's probably the first jab at Hollywood's glossy facade.

Nancy Olson and William Holden in Sunset Blvd.

My favorite moments of the film involved the subplot between Joe and another aspiring screenwriter Betty Schaefer (played by the beautiful and underrated Nancy Olson). Near the end of the film, Joe begins sneaking away from Norma's mansion/prison to co-write a screenplay with Betty; the two are hopelessly perfect for each other, and their dialogue is some of the most witty and wonderful in all of the golden age of cinema. I found myself wanting more and more of this story and less and less of the primary plot. These scenes are bittersweet; the film begins with a flash-forward to Joe's death, so we know that this romance will never fully blossom. Credit to writer/director Billy Wilder for finding a way to subvert our expectations about their affair's demise.

I don't know that I would place this film so high in my own top 100 list, but I recommend it to anyone looking for a great flick to watch with friends.

Facebook Digg Technorati Stumbleupon Reddit Yahoo
blog comments powered by Disqus