Sunset Boulevard (Wilder, 1950)

Billy Wilder’s strangely beautiful Noir about a delusional and eroding Silent Hollywood Icon remains one of those “all-time” classics that doesn’t completely live up to its prestigious billing. This might have to do with the fact Wilder has been more excellent elsewhere, exemplified in the steamy brutality of Double Indemnity, the witty trickery of Witness For the Prosecution, or the razor-sharp satire of Ace in the Hole. Still, Sunset Boulevard evokes a sense of biting nostalgia descending into madness, slowly breaking down Norma Desmond’s mental state until nothing remains but hollow head shots and dusty artifacts. But the joke of Norma’s unabashed psychosis and violent explosion has always been on Joe Gillis and in turn the audience. No one turns their back on a legend, so it isn’t surprising Norma fires away from the sanctity of fantasy-land, leaving her delusional image etched in blood for a world that no longer cares. Even though Norma’s an ego maniac, there’s a sadness to her fall from grace, a disavowal of reality that reminds of the old phrase “they don’t make em’ like they used to,” a true enough staple for the film lover in all of us.

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