Famous silent movie star Norma Desmond’s career has faded to oblivion. Eager to make a comeback she chooses young B-Movie screenwriter Joe Gillis to fix her script. But during the process, Norma starts to fancy him. Financially dependent on her, it becomes more and more difficult for Joe to refuse her.

This film noir was directed by Austrian immigrant Billy Wilder (1906-2002) who is considered to be one of the top directors and writers during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Among his credits are classics like “Double Idemnity” (1944), “The Lost Weekend” (1945), “Sabrina” (1954) and “Some Like It Hot” (1959).

Although not all Hollywood “insiders” – some older movie stars and in particular MGM studio boss Louis B. Meyer – were very fond of Sunset Boulevard, it managed to garner 11 Academy Award nominations and 3 Academy Awards (Best Script, Best Art Direction, Best Score). The critical reception was tremendous, and also financially the film had a moderate success (it did well in the metropolitan areas, but poor in the countryside). In 1998, Sunset Boulevard was selected to be number 12 of AFI’s 100 best American movies.

Director Billy Wilder gathered a great crew – eight time Academy Award winner Edith Head for the costumes, composer Franz Waxman, art director Hans Dreier, make-up artist Wally Westmore – and cast: Gloria Swanson, herself a faded star from the silent era, as Norma Desmond, the up-and-coming William Holden as the young writer, and legendary silent filmmaker and actor Erich von Stroheim as Norma’s servant Max. In special appearances one can see other greats of the silent era: Comedian/actor Buster Keaton, director Cecil B. DeMille, actress Anna Q. Nielsen and British actor H.B. Warner.

The film’s story is said to be inspired by the life of actress Norma Talmadge – a superstar of the silent screen that did not succeed in making the transition to the talkies, had an affair with actor Gilbert Roland (who was 12 years younger than herself) and spent her later days in wealthy retirement. Another reference is to the mysterious murder case of film director William Desmond Taylor.

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25 thoughts on “SCREENING #5: SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)

  1. This was a huge pick-up from the last screening. Sunset Boulevard was written beautifully, through the opinions-and witty commentary- of Joe, a B-film writer. The film plays with time, starting at the end and reversing to explain the events that led to it.
    On top of writing, it was visually beautiful. The last scene, particularly, was very impactful. The way Norma is in her own world, preparing herself by her vanity, how she moves to the foyer. Then Max ‘directs’ the camera men, asking Norma if she was ‘ready’. With her approval they begin, and everything is silent for her. Everyone is still for her. She glides through the police, newsmen, down the staircase. She demands the attention of everyone on and off set. It was captivating.
    Then, many of the primary characters were strong, well-developed and complex persons. At first Joe, a B-film writer, is a selfish, rude man looking to escape financial strains. He is one who is worn from the realities of Hollywood and finds Norma as his saviour. Then there is Max, who seems to be just a servant. As the film progresses, however, we come to understand his loyalty to Norma is admirable. He was a director who found her in her youth and nurtured the young actress to fame, he was her first husband, he is her guardian. Seeing her affection for Joe, knowing everything about her, he still loves her and protects her as best as he could.
    Then, there is Norma. Norma is a silent film star who refuses to grow with time. She is selfish and snobby and loves attention. There is a darker, sadder side to her, though. A side that wants to be loved, that feels alone, that is weak. Beneath the strong facade, she is fragile, and this duality is what makes her character so interesting and relatable.


  2. If there was another title for this movie, it’d be “Obsession: The Movie”. But before I get into why, let’s talk about other stuff real quick.
    Every main character is unique. We’ve got Joe the writer dude who’s the main, main character who narrates the entire story as well, Norma, an old-ish woman who makes a bunch of weird faces, and a butler dude named Max.
    Now, something that felt weird to me (out of the many) was the love aspect of the film. It seemed to just come out of nowhere or it was rushed. The relationship between Joe and Norma seemed to kinda just form suddenly. There was some subtle build-up but then it just popped up. I guess that is kind of the point though seeing as how it wasn’t intended to happen between them in the first place. But as for Joe and the unfaithful girl whose name eludes me right now, how did that even happen? The only time they really had a chance to interact before Joe met Norma was in the office discussing one of the stories he wrote which the girl thought was terrible. “Oh, she insulted me, it hurt my feelings but I like that”. Ok. Maybe he’s M.
    Norma, I don’t know what Norma is. She’s stubborn, haughty, and thinks making freaky faces is attractive. Eventually you’d get used to it but that doesn’t changed the fact that she’s totally weird. She’s always me me me me and doesn’t want to move on with the times.
    Then there’s faithful, man-servant Max. He does every for his “madame”. No if, ands, or buts. That revelation though…. That’s where I go back to my beginning statement. Who’s the one that’s actually obsessed? Norma is obsessed with herself from her former glory as a young, silent-film star. But then Max… He reveals he was Norma’s first husband but he’s now her butler? See what I mean about obsession? If there’s one person who’s more obsessed with Norma than herself, it’s him. Despite the divorce, he continues to want to be with her in any way, in this case, being her servant.
    So yeah, good movie; has interesting plot, shot well, everything, but I don’t think anyone saw that ending coming.

    PS: Norma is still weird


  3. “Sunset Boulevard” is actually known as a premier movie of mystery film around the 50s and 60s. To be honest, I very much enjoyed this film, but I had some favorite scenes.
    I liked the movie started with the scene where the police and the reporters were gathered around the pool. We saw the dead body floating in the pool, and then the film went to the next scene, which was a flashback actually. The film ended with the same scene as this first scene (the pool scene). I did not realize that this dead body was Mr. Gills until the end of the film because during watching the film, I did not even expect that Norma killed Mr. Gills. Since I did not know what is going to happen until the very last scene, the ending scene was really unexpected, and I felt kind of betrayed by the film. That is why I like this pool scene (including the first and the ending scene).
    One thing that I did not really like about this film was the scenes of Norma. I did not really get why she was so crazy and always made ugly face. She cannot be crazy because she believes that she was still a famous actress. I think story should go into more about her thought about actress.
    Also, I thought that the story about the relationship between Mr. Gills and Betty was luck substance. I was not sure why they were drawn to each other and separated finally. That is why I was not much interested in this film.


  4. It is interested that Joe plays a main character in the same time he is a narrator in this film. At first, because Joe needs money badly, Joe tries to flatter Desmond to hire him. His purpose is to earn easy money from Desmond. However, Joe loses his freedom for money. He used to be a guy hanging around with his friends. Because of money, he has to give up his freedom, his relationship with others and force to stay beside Desmond. He dies because he leaves Desmond behinds and to pursue his normal life. I think it is not worth it for him to die in that way. If he already plans to break up with Betty and leaves Desmond behind, there are many ways to make him alive and have his normal life back. He does not have to choose this extreme method to hurt everyone and himself.
    For some reasons, I can connect Desmond’s characteristic to several other film’s characters. For example, at the beginning, Desmond is similar as Yzma, an evil woman in Disney’s The Emperor’ New Groove. Due to Desmond’s make-up, her age, and her superior characteristic, she is similar as Yzma. On the other hand, Desmond’s character reminds me Meryl Streep who plays Miranda in The Deviil wears Prada. Because whatever Desmond said, everyone has to obey it; there is only option A, no option B.
    We can say Desmond has some insane problem that she only lives in her world and won’t care about what exactly happened in realistic world. As far as I am concerned, in her situation, it is not totally a bad thing. She used to be popular and she has already earned lots of money that she always said “Don’t worry about money, I have lots of money”. Because this reason, she can live like a princess. As a proverb goes, “money makes the mare go”. The only thing that she lacks of is relationship, the feelings of love, and she wants to be love by someone.


  5. “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” “Sunset Boulevard” is epic in so many ways, it’s really a difficult film not to love. I believe it was Jeremy who pointed out the famous line “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”, and I’m so glad that I can now say I know where the phrase originated. Before I really talk about the film, I want to remark on a point that I wasn’t able to make in class. I’m always amazed by how surprised adults are when they find that I know old films and even enjoy them. I took the film out from the library to finish the ending (I had to leave class at regular time) and the older gentlemen who works there was so happy to see my interest in the movie. He said “Good for you!”. Not to mention my mother gets so excited when I watch old films with her – she loves that I love Hitchcock. Anyways, I guess my point of this is that it’s kind of a shame. Maybe my generation has forgotten that film would be no where it is today without films like “Sunset Boulevard”. Perhaps they seem boring or flat for some.

    I love the irony in this film. That Mr. DeMille is actually a filmmaker in real life. That he names real filmmakers at one point, and that Gloria Swanson really was a famous young actress who “lost her touch”, you might say. I love when films play on reality, questioning real history with a false story line that is exaggerated but haunting. Throughout the entire film I could not get away from an eerie, uncomfortable feeling. Norma Desmond is like a bad dream. She seemed so heroic and powerful in the beginning, and her spiral downward was one of the most frustrating aspects of the film to watch. Her disillusionment was frightening, something you could only imagine in a person who has lost their memory, forgets who they were and makes up an entirely different identity for themselves.

    I know that the Hays Code ended in 1954, and this film was made in 1950, so how were they able to get away with the content they included? Just a thought I had while watching. I also thought of Young Hollywood versus Old Hollywood, and Joe Gillis’s inability to commit, or perhaps just to make it, in one or the other. He is held back by Old Hollywood, symbolized through Norma’s character, and romanticizes Young Hollywood through his relations with the character Betty and their writing a script. Once he denounces both in the end, there is essentially no place for him in that world. Yes, he physically dies, but it can also be seen as his symbolic death in Hollywood- his inability to offer his talents and time. The ending was intense and maybe unexpected, but there was always a looming thought that Joe would be driven down by Norma.


  6. I’ve seen Sunset Blvd. before, and it is one of my favorite noir films ever made. Some people may argue that the genre is not noir; but for me LA, murder, and absence of really positive/pure/good person in the film tells me this is noir. Really, throughout the film it is hard to honestly sympathize to any of the main character in the movie (if you drop off suspension of disbelief) – everyone is a scum, liar, Alfonse, or just crazy.

    It is unbelievable that the director, Billy Wilder, who mostly was famous for many great comedies shot a movie like that: a critical, cruel view on Hollywood and its underground without pink glasses. I personally like the title – Sunset Blvd, which for me symbolizes Norma Desmond, who once was the Sun of Hollywood, but now she lives on Sunset Blvd. with other fallen stars of the silent film era, who have nothing to do but playing poker and living in their dream world.

    Despite the fact that Gloria Swanson played a fallen star, she had definitely risen in this picture: her acting was dazzling, and once again I couldn’t get my eyes off the screen. Wilder and his actors made a work for all seasons, that provokes us to think about Hollywood and its devils over and over again after the final credits. Truly masterpiece for all times…


  7. Although it is just my opinion, it was kind hard to sympathize with anyone in this film. Norma is just a crazy pitful old lady (not offensive), I do not get it Joe’s feeling why he can still live with Norma. Max was one of the main characters that I cannot understand. Why is he still with Norma and working for her. They looked like kept men sometimes. It might be my misunderstanding.

    The first thing that came up after watching this film was just like “is this the film that shows the background of Hollywood in this era? It’s so insane!” (because I thought the professor said this film tells us how it looks like in HollyWood in this era, so I just misunderstood like was it common in Hollywood?)
    But I noticed soon that this is just a fiction and tells us the mood and atmosphere in Hollywood, and the storyline is really really smooth and well organized.
    I do not think the story itself is really unique. It’s not enough as suspense nor horror. it’s a well organized tragedy of a old lady’s delusion. It might be psycho. Of course the acting itself of Norma tells the insanity; however, the more remarkable point is Joe’s mercy toward Norma. His mercy can be seen in his actings through facial expressions and behaviors, and that actings more emphasize Norma’s insanity in this film.

    One thing I was looking forward was representations of Norma’s glory in the silent era. I wish I could see more scenes about how much famous and popular Norma was. Then it would be more easy to understand her pathetic belief.


  8. This noir film which directed by Billy Wilder has strong appeals in several ways. At first, I already noticed the uniqueness of this film, because the film began with narration which is spoken by the main character, a dead man. So, I was kind of expecting the directer to use flashbacks to describe how he ended up dying in pool. But he approached the audience totally different ways which I did not expect.
    I actually could see the whole plot even I have not seen it before, yet still there were some impressive scenes. First of all, I felt that the theme was very timely for the year 1950, and it did reflect the culture and changes of the film industries. I almost thought this is a self-reflexive genre film because the director portrayed the film process and the reality of the film crews. For instance, the main character, Joe’s struggle as film scriptwriter or the life of pathetic old silent film star. The 1950’s was exactly transition period in film industry, from silent to sounded film. And I think Wilder successfully depicted the conflicts which many filmmakers had during this era.
    On top of that, I was so impressed by all the art design which could be seen in the film. I felt that the whole sets of huge mansion was incredibly beautiful and well constructed. The film itself did not have color but I could even imagine the color because it was very impact. Secondly, all the costumes which Norma wore was absolutely gorgeous and very detail. Also the makeups was very significant to express her character in this film. Those the facts convinced me why they won the best Art direction. I even felt their passion to create the perfect image of “Hollywood Movie Star”.


  9. This movie was interesting as a film noir, just because it was missing so many of the elements that I normally associate with the genre. The female lead, while probably a femme fatale, was not intentionally malicious. It was strange for her to be crazy, lonely and sad instead of vindictive and evil.

    The male lead also didn’t feel particularly hard boiled. He was snarky, but not some grizzled cop or detective who had seen everything.

    Besides that, though, the tone fit what I was expecting. The slow voiceover was very reminiscent of other dark films, and starting with the protagonist dead certainly set the mood for the film as a whole.

    I also appreciated that Wilder did an excellent job of building the sense of dread throughout the film. Almost every time the male and female leads interacted, alarm bells were flaring through my head that he needed to get out. Yet, he always had a good reason to get sucked in just a little deeper into the bizarre relationship that killed him.


  10. Sunset Boulevard was an interesting movie and I really enjoyed it. I am surprised at how all of the films were entertaining since I personally never liked old movies (it may be because I never gave them a chance). Norma character was very wicked and I loved how complex her character was. Mental illness is hard to portray without looking goofy and she was perfect. I think many people who have mental illnesses are in denial that they need help. She believed that the world was against her but in reality she was against the world. She was manipulative and honesty only had her own self interest. Her ex-husband, the butler Max. He was also a crazy guy. He is feeding this woman lies and filling her ego. Once it was revealed that he was the one writing the letter I knew he had created a monster. His lies are building her up and I knew she would crash at the end.

    Joe was a character that I see myself and anyone of my peers being. My generation is financially struggling and to have the opportunity to live like a socialite is very tempting. Towards the end of the film you can see that Joe was romantically evolved with Norma even though he could not stand her. Personally, I would have left crazy way before it got to that level of going steady. If I leaned one thing from this film, ignore crazies if you can’t help them as its better than feeding them lies.


  11. I am so glad this class finally pushed me into watching this film. It’s one I’d always heard of but never bothered to look up myself, as I think I had made some assumptions based on the title and like, movie poster alone that it wasn’t going to be my type. Wrong! Everything about this film interested me. You can’t go wrong opening with a dead body floating in a pool. Even better the fact that he was our narrator and male lead. I liked the whole “beginning a story with the end of the story” plot device. And Joe was likeable as a narrator. I appreciated his dry wit and kind of jaded point of view as he dodged the bank guys who have come to collect. Near the beginning of the film I saw him as kind of a victim. When he got wrapped up with Norma Desmond, it’s clear that originally in his mind he’s playing her, but in actuality she was trapping him. I interpreted it as Norma being something like a predator, emotionally manipulating him into forming a sexual relationship with him and not leaving. I saw her as a creep who threatened her own life as a kind of a bargaining chip to get him to never leave. But as the movie progressed I came to like her more and Joe less. Yes, he was in a tough spot, but he was also just letting this happen. He had multiple opportunities to leave and write something different, but instead of being forward about it, he sneaks around and lies by omission to both women, and ends up dead in the end. I was also not really cool with all the intense flirting going on with Betty when she was not just engaged but engaged to his friend. His friend who we met who was obviously really nice and caring. I was glad that Joe cut Betty loose in the end in a way that would hopefully make it clear he wasn’t worth it, leaving her to be able to find happiness with Artie. She was a pretty cool female minor lead and deserves better than Joe.

    Norma Desmond was a fascinating role and incredibly acted. She was trapped in the past, in a world that she herself was the center of, and seemed unable to mentally handle this changing. She had a childlike earnestness about her that was actually kind of endearing. I think the scene where I legitimately started liking her was when she came out and did the Charlie Chaplin skit in an attempt to make Joe smile. I no longer saw her as the spider trying to capture young men in her web- she legitimately loved Joe. But she was also kind of insane, a victim of her own past. She couldn’t handle having been on the top and aging into obscurity. Max the butler (slash ex husband, whaaat.) had his own hand in her eventual ultimate breakdown. He wanted to shelter her from reality, but introducing it to her slowly probably would have been a better plan. Writing her all those fake fan letters and hiding the truth of the movie that never would be was just harmed her in the end, like a parent that overly-spoils a child. He felt responsible for her since he was the one who had thrust her into that world.

    The end of this movie is perfect, holding one of the most iconic lines of American film. The shock of learning the truth and killing Joe cut the last ties to her sanity. All the lights and cameras and reporters that swarmed for the scene, to her were her shining moment. Finally she had the cameras. Finally she had the public’s eye. She thanked everyone for being there and giving her this opportunity. And she was ready for her close-up.


  12. Sunset Blvd. is a film about a Hollywood film writer who is low on his luck. By chance, he ends up at the home of a washed-up silent film actress who still believes she is greatly famous. He is trapped in her home, pressured by the fact that she is suicidal and the many gifts he is given. When he finds a true love, he tried to leave her manipulative grasp.

    This film created a lot of common film elements that appear in modern day, including the dead man telling his life story through a flash back. It also dared to put a popular male actor in a relationship with a woman much older than him. The quotes from the film are still used in popular culture today.
    I personally wish that he hadn’t cut his new love off by scaring her away, but the traigic end for both him and the silent film actress are fitting for the madness the two have experienced.


  13. I think the interesting aspect of he “Sunset Boulevard” is that it shows the audience a peek into the dark side of film industries. It reminds me of how today’s teen stars who suddenly gains enormous fame, then couple years later they are forgotten by the audience. In some cases these teen-stars become alchoolic, drug addicts, or metally ill. I think the same happens to Norma. She was so much praised by the audience for her success that she became “addicted” to fame. Her servant/ex-husband kept feeding her with fake praises even when her popularity is pretty much non-existing. She basically lived in a big illussion after her success was over.

    I guess the movie is trying to tell us the cruelty of the business. At first they make you a star with fame and respect. Then, when you are not needed anymore you automatically become nobody. So that sudden change of attitude towards the star from “respect” to “invisible”, can be mentally harming. Because all the self-esteem that was build was popped like a baloon.


  14. Personally, I enjoyed the film “Sunset Blvd” directed by Billy Wilder. Compared to other films we watched in class, this film was obviously different. For instance, this film was narrative structure. Also, the director used a special technique that at the beginning of the film, we saw a dead body in the pool, and we knew that the dead body was the main character Joe Gills’. So, what we watched in the film was how Joe died. And Joe tells a story and implies forthcoming events. In other words, we knew how the story ends because we were able to expect that this story was not going to be a happy ending.
    However, story structure was well organized, and although we knew that Joe was going to die, it was interesting to watch how he met Norma Desmond who misunderstood that she was still a famous actress and how his life changed as a scriptwriter. Joe then lived in the Norma’s splendid house, and his life gradually changed in either good or bad way. Joe was able to lead a comfortable life, not worrying about money because Norma took care of it, but Norma tried to monopolize Joe. And she thought that Joe thought the same, but Joe didn’t think that way. Their misunderstanding went to the wrong way, and this film finally ended up Norma killing Joe. Although we knew the ending, it was still enjoyable to watch.


  15. I loved this movie! It is one of my all time favorite favorite films. This movie has it all! suspense, thrills, mystery, crime and drama. The leading lady is a superb actress and although she is from the silent era she did not overact at all in my opinion. He movements and speech were very graceful. I was able to forget about the world around me and lose myself in this film. The leading man was also very good. He had a clam all knowing way about him although he was in his 30’s he seemed wise beyond his years. I loved the way he was able to slowly show his feeling for the leading woman and then show them slowly fading away. Although he did not act with that much expression, he was still able to show his feelings through his subtle actions and responses. The twist about the butler being her first husband was also very good. I never would have thought that in a million years. I just thought he was a crazy guy that was in love with her. All in all this is a great film that I would recommend to others and watch again and again.


  16. What I like the most about “Sunset Boulevard” is how it was able to reflect the reality of thousands of starts who got unemployed and saw their careers going down the drain with the end of the Silent Era. Norma Desmond is epic, fun and entertaining. This character reflects the image of a lot of artists of that time and certainly intrigued me. The ending surprised me in a good way, since it was perfect for her character. FInally she got her five minutes of fame (not necessarily for good)!
    Joe also intrigued me. The fact that he was being manipulated and “controlled” by her and how he gave up on everything in the end were two things that got my attention. I was not expecting he would make all that scene at all! And when the scene ended, the first thing that came into my mind was “What did he just do?? Why??”. I took some time to realize that he might have done that because he was feeling ashamed of the person he became and that was the only way of escaping from that situation. But i like the way the director did not really explain it. In fact, it is up to the viewer’s interpretation to find out why he did that.
    Sunset Boulevard is one of my favorite movies that have been screened in this class so far! I’m glad i got to watch it!


  17. First of all, I enjoyed the story and characters; however, I did not like the first scene which started from Joe’s dead body with his narrating. Telling spoiler at the beginning is very challenging, and it will not work unless the plot is great or director felt confident about the film. Honestly, I do not know whether this opening was successful or not in that period, but it did not work for me personally. 

    Through the film, the most impressive scenes were when the characters, especially Norma, were reflected in the mirror. Those technic makes me thrilled. Also, I liked the theme about Norma. She was sad star in the past. Even though she seemed even sick, no one could not stop her. Norma’s facial expression and behavior have been always like acting, and it made the film more thrilled and horror taste. What I wanted to see more about Norma was that how she was popular and active as a silent film star. There were a lot of pictures of her in her house, but it was kind of not enough to express her old glory. If I could see her past and contrast between past and present more, I would be interested in her more.  

    I think the story was new and creative in that period, so I could understand why “Sunset Boulevard” became popular and was nominated for an Academy Award. Also, showing behind the screening is interesting.      


  18. I really like “Sunset Blvd” because of serious but also humorous concept of the film. The story is about the murder of Joe Gilles, a screenwriter. This film is the first film which uses the narration we had watched, and the story was told by Joe himself in voice-over. Norma Desmond, an insane actress of silent movie who was very famous in the past, lives with a butler, Max. The story starts from the scene that Joe was killed by someone. Because we do not know why Joe was killed and who did yet, this order of story makes the audiences to make inferences as the story unfold, so this can be seen as the new technique.
    I think that the most dramatic scene is when Joe was hit by Norma. It does not mean a man hitting by a woman is so dramatic, but I was impressed by the scene which the small orchestras awkwardly keep playing instruments after Norma hit Joe. I have not seen the expressions like this scene in other films, and this conveys that the acting skills of actors and the expressing skills of directors were so developed. Yet the actors’ acting skills have been developed, there are some scenes which lacks reality at some points. The irony of this film is that Norma finally could be famous again by shooting Joe. At the ending of the story, Norma plays the script for Salome on the cameras. She seems little bit sad but satisfied at the same time. This scene is totally great to see because the camera closed up Norma’s face, I could not stop watching her eyes. I was drawn into her realistic performance. “Sunset Blvd” shows us that the quality of American films has been better and better year by year.


  19. “Sunset Boulevard” was a great film and I enjoyed it the most we have watched so far in this class. The each character was very unique and enjoyable, but I must say that the Norma was a best character in this film. Her acting definitely made this film become great, and also especially her face expression has the power of fascinating the audience. The scene in the ending that she walked down the stairs impressed me because not only her acting was great but also I personally think that the atmosphere was perfect such as the camera movement, the sound, and the stage setting.
    Through this film, I really enjoyed to watch the stage setting which I can see the culture at the time, e.g. the Norma’s house, the city, and also the studio.
    I liked this plot overall; however, I do not understand one point. There is a scene at the beginning that the police are at the mansion and there is a dead body in a pool. Maybe this is a good way to persuade the audience’s attention, and it will be a key to go on the story till the end; however, I just did not see the point why they showed this scene at the beginning. But I liked how Joe did the narrations in this film.
    Since the stage of this film is a Hollywood, so I was wondering if it actually reflects the Hollywood film studio at the time.
    I personally feel sorry for Norma because she must feel very lonely. She acted kind of crazy and extreme way, but she does not have anyone stays with her and she was very happy that Joe can stay in her house even though it is just that he wants her financial support.


  20. “Sunset Boulevard” makes a very good point of “behind the scenes” hollywood as a dark film noir. But I have to say this is not just only a film noir, but a black comedy. The story blends well both fact, fiction, dream and reality.
    The film starts with the narration of Joe Gilles back to past six months to reveal why he died in the pool. It is interesting start. The narration of a person who has already dies makes me think that he is still alive.
    The visual of the film well defines the characteristic of the film by using a lot of high contrast lighting, also known as low key lighting. the lighting and shadow show that characters are suffocating in their life to audiences.
    All characters of the film are established very strongly. Joe is a struggling young writer in hollywood. He has a financial trouble, unlike a typical powerful and successful male and was hired by Norma Desmond. She gives him pretty much everything and spoils him. At first, Joe loves the life of luxury while working for Norma. Norma is living in her dream world. At first, I thought she was a just crazy who does not know how to get out from the dream world created by herself. Max is just a butter who has nothing important in this story. However, my impression to each character absolutely has changed at the middle of the story. Joe basically looks like a parasite on Norma. Even though he has a strong ambitious, he still tends to rely on her. I think he is lying to himself that he has to stay with her because she would kill herself if he leaves her. It could be a good excuse rather he stays with her than leave from her because of the money problem. He looks he keeps escaping from himself same as Norma does.
    I feel sorry for Norma at the end. She can be never saved from her fantasy world by anyone, even by herself. I am amazed in the last scene of her doing down the stairs acting like she is a super star back to past. Her acting gets audiences into the film very well. It is this film’s finale which shows finally she has never come back to reality. It makes this film more dark comedy, dark noir film. After I watched the film, i got psychological damage!


  21. First of all, I did not expect to enjoy this movie when I watch the beginning of the story since I thought it was a gloomy story. I really enjoyed this film as the script was well constructed. This film became my favorite old American film I’ve ever watched. What I liked about this movie was that I could not expect the ending. The film begins where Gillis is lying dead on the pool. No one could imagine if the dead man is the guy killed by a main character, Norma. I believe that there are some movies, which begin with the ending scene in modern decade, and this movie might be the first one. I think that this beginning scene significantly contributes to attract audiences because the story makes sense at the end of the movie. I really like this kind of movie since I like having such feeling.
    When it comes to characters, my favorite character must be Norma. I especially enjoy how a main character, Norma has been changed thorough the story. When Joe first came in her house, she was fine, but with an increased attachment to Joe, she goes crazy. Her facial expression was extravagant but funny as well. The house Norma’s living was dark and furniture was old but they are all detailed so it represents Norma’s feelings too. I do not know if it was a set, but they are beautiful. I also noticed that her costume and makeup was effectively used to show her character, which is strange.. Importantly, Gloria Swanson who plays Norma did a perfect job in this movie. Moreover, one more main character Joe, whom William Holden plays, is an important character in this film. The movie starts with Joe’s narration explaining why the police and reporters are along Sunset Blvd. I think that his deep voice is effectively used in this film as it can make the mood. Overall, I liked this film because of the great script. I liked the story which is a drama but also is including a humour.


  22. I like this film including the story and the structure of this film. It begins with the scene of the crime. A man is floating on the pool, and police men are investigating. I think that this beginning of this scene catches attention of the audience because no one knows what is going on, and they would want to know the details. Also, at the end of this film, it ends with the same scene as the beginning scene, the scene of the crime. Even though the audience may not be able to recognize the situation at the beginning of this film, they may be able to recognize why this film begins with the scene of the crime at the end. I like this structure. However, I have one thing which I do not like about this film. I think that it has too much narration in this film. Probably, I think that the audience can comprehend the situation and the character’s feeling by image and the tone of their voices. The narration can help us to understand more, but it might not be necessary for this film.


  23. Out of all the films we have watched so far, I enjoyed Sunset Boulevard the most. It is an excitement movie that caters to small details that can be easily overlooked. It was interesting that so many real life characters were used, in some cases acting as themselves!!

    What was the most memorable aspect of this film was the continuous shock value filled scenes that were at times humorous, others that called for a solemn WTF, and still more that sent chills down my spine. It is said that when asked what really was going on about the chimp’s funeral (near the beginning of the film when Joe initially comes to Norma’s mansion), director Billy Wilder blatantly responded that obviously, Norma was sleeping with the chimp. Whether he actually meant it or not is unclear, but it shows that Wilder’s mischievous character seeps into his work, and more importantly, it works (well, I think it does, anyhow).

    What I felt was the hidden message of the movie was the importance of a humble and rigorous worth ethic – the American Dream. Joe is ambitious, but he takes the short cut by being enslaved to Norma, while Norma is too big-headed and stubborn of her success. It could be said that the latter actually worked hard to get to where she is, but she is clinging onto her past and relying on it, rather than putting more effort in the present. Both live a luxurious life worthy of envy of unknowing viewers, but are they truly happy? Would anyone honestly want to be like them? Sunset Boulevard makes one ask these questions and reevaluate what really matters in their life, however strenuous it is to obtain it.


  24. “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille!”. I always thought that was the line, but upon seeing the film, and now knowing that the line is “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”, I’ve found myself really thinking about how interesting it is that we, as consumers of film, LOVE to misremember quotes.

    “Play it again, Sam” —-> “Play it, Sam. Play, ‘As Time Goes By'”

    Silence of the Lambs
    “Hello, Clarice.” —> “Good evening, Clarice”

    The Empire Strikes Back
    “Luke, I am your father” —> “No, I am your father”

    Snow White
    “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” —> “Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”

    It’s really amazing, actually, how it’s possible for an entire population of people to completely misremember these quotes from iconic American films. I have an unsubstantiated theory that it has to do more with oral tradition and the passing of knowledge from different generations, on top of a huge, macro version of the game “Telephone”, but that’s for another blog post.

    This film was REALLY interesting to me. I love the concept of titanic falls from grace, a la the Roman Empire, The Great Gatsby, and arguably the state of America in the global economy as of now, and this film tackles that exact subject. The pain the audience feel, and slight embarrassment on behalf of the retired actress, is so tangible while watching this film, that I find myself thinking about how effective the direction must have been. The set design, hair, make-up, and above all, the acting really compound to create this image of a woman, past her prime, relentlessly clinging to a short period of time in her past that has come to define her identity and how she interacts with the world. Her first husband/ butler’s undying affection and perseverance to keeping this illusion alive for her is incredibly touching in such a tragic way.

    I also find the brilliant inspection of age and power in a relationship to be very interesting. The man (typically defined by his power in American culture) is effectively neutered by an older, richer, classier woman who takes charge, without doubt, of their relationship and functions as the judge, jury, and executioner of every facet of their lives. He has no choice, no say in any matter with regards to his accommodation, wardrobe, lifestyle, and is only given enough influence that Norma allows him.

    This is how she interacts with reality. She HAS to be in charge of 100% of her life, or else the illusion will be broken and she will spiral down a depressed road to suicide. She NEEDS the adoration of those she deems below her, and without it she will die like a plant without water. Her perspective informs her entire identity, and she has cultivated this superior perspective where she can’t be bothered with anyone’s opinion but her own.

    This, however is ultimately her downfall, as any backlash from Joe is met with an immediate breakdown in an attempt to win back his affection with sympathy and pity, as opposed to her failed attempts with power and money. The time Joe spends writing his secret project with the younger woman allows him to cultivate this rebellious spirit and perspective, and facilitates his final destruction of the bond of power Norma has over him. Consequently, without this power that she thrives on, her illusion is functionally shattered and she retreats into her reveries and attempts to recreate that illusion in her psychosis, manifesting itself as a full-blown psychotic break, equipped with hallucinations and a complete loss of perspective.

    Norma is the tragic hero of the narrative. Typical of a Greek tragedy, she is a hero, admired by many, whose hubris is her fatal flaw, and thus her destruction. All other characters exist merely in their relation to her and her narrative.

    Fantastic film.

    Now, let’s just try and remember the quotes correctly.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. What sticks out in my mind about this film is the costumes, the set, and the acting. Gloria Swanson’s acting is incredible. Norma is a character that is both dominating and vulnerable at the same time. She dominates everyone, and controls Joe, but we know that Joe is just going along with her, which reflects Norma’s break in reality. She believes she still has power, but really Joe is just playing with her. We see the same situation with Mr. DeMille. She believes he wants her to act in his film, but really all he wants is to use her car for a scene. It is really a comment of how the film industry uses people up and dispose of them once there is no longer any use for them. Therefore, what we see is a servant and master power play here. There is a power play between Joe and Norma, as well as a power play between Norma and the film industry itself. But the foremost power play we see is Norma struggling to uphold the power of her illusion in her life- that she is still adored and wanted.

    There is a certain parallel to the same situation with her butler. She orders him around, but we find out he was her husband.This is another example of the struggle of power. Even though she dominated him, he too was playing with her. He did it for other reasons. He wanted her to feel that she still had power, but if you look at it from a modern psychology perspective, he is really enabling her and her delusions. Nobody offers her an escape from her deluded world. She clings to the illusion until the very end. The press is there to photograph her, but all she sees is being in the spotlight again in the eyes of adoring fans.

    As an actress, Norma’s career was based on illusion, and she carried that illusion into her real life once her career was over. We see glimpses of how she is suffering while trying to maintain her dignity, as there are several references to her suicide attempts. It is also interesting that she seems to become less attractive as the film progresses. When we first see her, she is a woman in charge, ordering Joe around, but we see deeper and deeper into her shattered mind, and all we can see is a faded actress with a shattered mind.

    Sunset Boulevard is a film about madness, power, opportunism, illusion, and obsession. The costumes are beautiful and Norma’s mansion has a gloomy and surreal feel. One cannot help but be sucked into Norma’s world.


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