Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

IMDB Rating: 8.6/10
Runtime: 110 minutes
Language: English
Country: United States
Color: B&W
IMDb Link:

Director: Billy Wilder
William Holden ... Joe Gillis
Gloria Swanson ... Norma Desmond
Erich von Stroheim ... Max von Mayerling
Nancy Olson ... Betty Schaefer
Fred Clark ... Sheldrake
Lloyd Gough ... Morino
Jack Webb ... Artie Green
Franklyn Farnum ... Undertaker
Larry J. Blake ... Finance man #1 (as Larry Blake)
Charles Dayton ... Finance man #2
Cecil B. DeMille ... Himself
Hedda Hopper ... Herself
Buster Keaton ... Himself, Bridge Player
Anna Q. Nilsson ... Herself, Bridge Player
H.B. Warner ... Himself, Bridge Player

This is the second Billy Wilder movie I am watching in succession.
Why this one? Two reasons.
a) It is a Billy Wilder movie :)  and b)It has William Holden.
After watching him in Stalag 17, I wanted to see more of his work. And this movie helped me keep with my current theme of watching movies made by Billy Wilder and it gave me a chance to see another William Holden film.

Now the last line I wrote was before the movie began. This line, is just after I finished it.
All I can say!
The movie is an exploration of the mind of a woman, Norma Desmond, a one time silent-movie superstar, who is living in her own little dreamworld, where her star has not yet waned. Obviously, the reality of it is far from what she believes. Its been twenty years since the public forgot her...but she is quite oblivious to that. That is partly thanks to her butler/manservant Max and partly because of her own deluded mind.

This aspect of the film however is narrated and seen from the eyes of Joe Gillis, a young struggling script-writer who is so hard up that he has almost given up hopes of making it in Hollywood and is about to slink back to the small town he came from to take up a writing job in the local paper.

Through some extemely odd yet believable circumstances Joe finds himself in Norma's place. When she finds that he's a writer she reveals to him a script that she has been working on. It is for a movie that she wants to star in once again and return to her greatness and to her millions of adoring fans. It is something that she has written and she asks Joe to have a look at it and tell her his views on it.
Joe needs money real bad and he sees in Norma a sucker from whom he can get the money to tide him through his tough times. Things begin changing here when Norma suggests that Joe move in to help rework and finalize her script.

After a bit of persuasion he moves in and what he thought would have taken a week or two turns into months. She wants him around because she's desperately lonely and he's the perfect cure for her solitude. She take care of him and his needs, buys him tons of things and basically makes him her pet in a manner of speaking, or to use a crude word I saw written in a couple of places, her gigolo. I chose not to use that term not because I'm prudish but because I think you have to see him and his situation to understand why he did what he did. In any case, he gets the script done and Norma decides it shall be the great Cecil B. DeMille who shall direct the movie just as he had done in her glory days. Mr.DeMille hates the script but just doesn't have the heart to tell Norma that.

Anyhow in all this, there's another love story that begins to develop. At the very start of the tale, just when Joe is ready to give it all up and go back to his small town, he goes and meets up with a movie producer in a last ditch effort to sell a script. Here he meets Betty Schaefer who pretty much rips his script idea to shreds. They meet later in the film, at a moment when Joe is fed up of being Norma's boy toy and is looking for a way out. Betty tells him about another script that he had written and how she sees a lot of promise in it. She's an aspiring writer herself and wants the opportunity of working on the script with him.
After a bit of persuasion, they get together on the project and while working on it, they fall in love. This is all happening on the sly because Joe doesn't want to tell Norma and upset her.

Well things come to a boil now. Norma finds out about Betty. Joe finds Norma trying to poison Betty's mind. Joe lays it out for Betty. And then there's the big conclusion.
Its pretty shocking. I couldn't resist telling you as much as I did...but I'll leave the ending untold. You've got to see it to understand how strange and oddly beautiful it all is.

Did I forget to mention, the butler, as often is the case, in movies where they've got Butlers who more than...buttle :) has a pretty massive role in a manner of speaking. There was a massive "Holy Shit" moment in the movie...and it was the butler who provided it.
You have GOT TO see this one.

Its a gripping drama. Gloria Swanson is "gloria"ous (forgive the pun), William Holden is astounding and the other characters in the movie play their parts to perfection.
I can see why this movie is as big a hit as it was. Totally deserves the high ratings and the adulation it gets.

The Moviemania Rating for this move : 8.5/10! (Its a brilliant movie. There's no doubt but I'm going to make these ratings a comparitive study of sorts for myself. In comparison to the first movie I wrote about, Stalag 17, I personally like this, a little lesser. But that's just me. I'm talking about how involved I got, the story and the characters. I'm making no comment on the art of direction or the beauty of the film visually. That aspect of it was absolutely astounding but one can't any less from Mr.Wilder can one?)


sayid islam December 20, 2009 at 9:08 AM  

watha movie again!! awesome movie mate. yet another golden hollywood classic.

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