If the finest things in life are written on an empty stomach, as an agent claims here, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett must have been ravenous when they penned Sunset Boulevard. Not so much biting the hand that fed them as devouring both arms, their gothic melodrama remains the bitterest attack ever launched on Hollywood.
Wilder finished the 50s by writing the funniest final line ever (in Some Like It Hot). And he started it here with one of the most audacious set-ups: a flashback movie narrated by a corpse. The corpse in question is struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden). Needing to lie low for a while, he chances upon a run-down mansion on Sunset Blvd. The creepy residence is home to faded movie star Norma Desmond (the hypnotic Gloria Swanson), and devoted manservant Max (Erich von Stroheim). Desmond is planning an unlikely movie comeback and, eyeing an easy buck, Joe offers his services to the deluded one-time great. She covets more than just his editing skills, however...
Sunset Blvd. is both a savage indictment of the star system (and the monsters it produces), and an all-too-knowing depiction of a writer’s impotence in Hollywood.
Adrian Hennigan, BBC
This screening uses the restored print first shown at the Venice Film Festival.