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Classic Review: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

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Sunset Boulevard was very familiar to me. I had heard the famous lines, “I’m ready for my closeup” and “I am big; It’s the pictures that got smaller”, but I was never able to say what film they were from. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear those familiar and very famous lines while taking in my first viewing of the American Film Institute’s 16th greatest film of all time.

Sunset Boulevard falls into the same vein as Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Singin’ in the Rain, and in a different sort, All About Eve. We see behind the camera’s to see just what really happens to those who are put films in front of us. Unlike Singin’ in the Rain though, Sunset shows us the dark side of fame and technology. Joe Gillis (Will Holden), a wanna be screenwriter, is out of luck, but somehow, through a series of strange circumstances, finds himself in the house of former silent-era star, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Right away, we see that Desmond is off her rocker, burying her monkey and pretty much acting certifiably insane. As luck would have it, Desmond is in the process of writing her own screenplay, marking her return to the silver screen. Gillis, in desperate need of money, helps her revise it, only to have her revise his life. She takes over, having him stay at the house, throwing parties exclusively for him, and buying him everything. She falls for him. Unfortunately, another complected love springs up, and we have a messy triangle.

This film is pretty much as flawless as you can get. There are iconic lines (mentioned above), creative shots (the opening and ending pool shots were unforgettable), and the best story about obsession I’ve seen. Much like a pro-athlete retiring, there is always a desire to go back to the thousands who cheered for you and you would cut off their arm just to meet you. Norma is so dead set on returning to the spotlight she loses herself, quite literally, going insane just to return to her past. For once, I actually agree with the American Film Institute, as this film is one of the greats.

My Rating: A

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