Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunset Boulevard

Dir: Billy Wilder, 1950, bw (9.2*)

AFI Top 100
Billy Wilder was such a great director, can you think of another film that begins with the main character floating dead in a pool, narrating his own demise? Film noir elements blend with a silver screen story of aged star Norma Desmond, well past her prime as an actress, brilliantly portrayed by Gloria Swanson. William Holden is a screenwriting gigolo who ends up with Desmond, to write her autobiography.

Her devoted butler, played by legendary director Eric von Stroheim, adds the perfect cinema connection to Desmond's life, as he obviously respects her legendary stardom. Here he makes what could be a mundane character part into that of unforgettable imagery. Holden's character is just the opportunist that one suspects populates tinseltown, especially among its not quite so successful. Of course, the story funs full circle until we find out how he came to be floating in the pool. Hollywood’s self-criticism was never handled better, a bona-fide black & white classic.

Note: Wilder revealed in an interview that the shot shown above was done with a mirror in the bottom of the pool and the camera focused on the mirrored image - this is actually the beginning of the film, as it starts with the death of the main character.

Wilder is one of the great directors, here's a small list of his best films:
The Front Page, Double Indemnity, Lost Weekend, The Spirit of St. Louis, One Two Three, Ace in the Hole, The Seven Year Itch, Sabrina, The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, Witness For the Prosecution, The Fortune Cookie.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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