Well I got there in the end, the mighty Sunset Boulevard from director Billy Wilder is now in the bag. I sure was late to the party but wasn’t it just worth the wait. Gloria Swanson smashed it right out into the stratosphere. No point doing a rough plot rundown on this one so here’s 10 Awesome Things I Loved!
- Norma Desmond and those eyes! Gloria Swanson’s Norma is magnificently flamboyant and freaky at times, hilarious at others and just perfect throughout. The tantrums, the mood swings, those moments of nostalgic grandeur and those glimmers of fear, all add to the emotions displayed upon her face. With all those expressions the main focus was always those eyes, staring wide eyes burning right through you.
- Writer Joe Gillis (William Holden) quick wit and knowledge of his place in the business and out running the repo men was fun. Narrating his thoughts and speaking it as it is. His run ins with the butler were just sublime. And all the interactions with Norma are just priceless and how he struggled with dealing with the relationship, no matter how doomed they would become.
Joe Gillis – on reading Norma’s script “Sometimes it’s interesting to see just how bad – bad writing can be. This promised to go the limit.”
- The Butler Max Von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim) had a wonderfully eerie nature to him, like he’s stumbled in lost from the set of an old horror movie. I took delight in every scene he was in, whether he was watching attentively from the sidelines or suddenly appearing, having already organised something ahead of time. Loved him driving the old vintage car too.
Joe Gillis – “I pegged him as slightly cuckoo, too. A stroke maybe?”
- That opening swimming pool shot surrounded by cops with flashing camera bulbs. To get such a camera shot without getting the camera wet, I read a mirror was placed on the bottom of the pool and they filmed the reflection from above.
- The magnificent run down house and that spectacular cluttered living room with all her price photos and knick-knacks. Not only that, it had it’s very own cinema projector. What a perfect meta place that would of been to watch Sunset Boulevard as Norma does the commentary and Max brings you champagne and caviar?
- The film noir cinema experience wouldn’t of been so amazing if it wasn’t for the excellence of director Billy Wilder and his cinematographer, the director of photography John F Seitz. The set pieces and the beautiful use of dark, shadows and light making those gorgeous images, especially so inside the old house, just divine.
- Norma’s strange cigarette holder!
Joe Gillis – “I felt caught like the cigarette in that contraption on her finger.”
- The card playing trio of guests, the Waxworks. Three real life big stars from the silent era. I admit to only knowing Buster Keaton but there is Anna Q. Nilsson and H.B. Warner.
- The behind the scenes nods, digs and titbits of inside the movie industry that are dotted throughout the picture are truly delightful. I caught a fair few but I’m sure there were many move. From the real life actors like the above waxworks to the real Cecil B DeMille actually directing his movie Samson and Delilah. These a Charlie Chaplin impression, a reference to Alan Ladd, Greta Garbo and the novel “The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer. Sure there were tons more. Let me know if you wish.
- The dialogue was always popping and buzzing. Whether it was Norma and her ego or Joe with his sarcastic tone and dry humour. Here’s a few choice lines to see us out with the classic last line left, well for last.
Joe – “You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.”
Norma – “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”
Joe – “I knew there was something wrong with them.”
Norma – “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”
Norma – “The stars are ageless, aren’t they?”
Joe – “How could she breathe in that house full of Norma Desmonds? Around every corner, Norma Desmonds… more Norma Desmonds… and still more Norma Desmonds.”
Norma – “You heard him. I’m a star.”
Joe – “Norma, you’re a woman of 50, now grow up. There’s nothing tragic about being 50, not unless you try to be 25.”
Norma – “The greatest star of them all.”
Norma – “All right Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”
PS Actually what am I saying!!! There is another!
- MONKEY BURIAL!