Narrated in flashback by the corpse of luckless screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) floating facedown in a Los Angeles swimming pool, Wilder’s audaciously dark examination of the Hollywood dream factory cruelly casts faded silent-movie star Gloria Swanson as has-been silent star Norma Desmond. Festering in the grandeur of her old dark mansion and daydreaming of comeback, the character is a brutal warning about the unchecked egotism of superstardom. “I’m still big!” she insists, “it’s the pictures that got small.”
Other real-life giants of the silent cinema – Erich von Stroheim, Cecil B. DeMille and Buster Keaton – fill out the murky corners of Wilder’s vision, which would later inspire a stage musical of the same name by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“Lists, which can be strangely merciful, have taken pity on Norma Desmond.” Odie Henderson
“A perfect marriage of film noir, metafiction, and the darkly comedic genius of Billy Wilder, Sunset Blvd. is both the most loving and the most scathing look Hollywood ever took at itself. To die is a terrible thing – but to be forgotten, that is the true tragedy.” Alan Mattli
“Noir, horror, melodrama. Homage to cinema and reflection on the decadence of the body and the image. The ghosts of silent cinema meet a dead body that tells its own story: a dance of celluloid spectres officiated by the great Erich von Stroheim and Gloria Swanson. “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” Giulio Casadei