FILM CLUB: Sunset Boulevard

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Balboa
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Joined: 17 Jul 2003, 13:31

Re: FILM CLUB: Sunset Boulevard

Postby Balboa » 10 Jul 2009, 07:44

Well I watched it a few weeks back. I liked it - I think 'genius' is probably a bit strong, but I am sure there are all sorts of devices used for the first time, or characters etc. I don't know anything about that kind of thing, so I can only judge the movie on its basic merits. I liked the off the wall element to it (the monkey, the butler, the ending), in fact anything that went on in the house was normally pretty interesting - and Swanson's character was completely believable and well portrayed.

It did drag a bit though - I found myself switching off a bit in parts. I don't knnow if this is an apt comparison (I guess they are both noir type movies involving screenwriters!!) but I much more enjoyed 'In a Lonely Place'.
Of course, I was mostly stoned at the time.

The Modernist

Re: FILM CLUB: Sunset Boulevard

Postby The Modernist » 29 Jul 2009, 01:33

Yes I think it's quite closely related to In a Lonely Place, particularly Joe who shares real similarities with Dixon Steele, Bogart's character in that film. Interesting that both these movies came out in 1950, a year after The Paramount case ruling which effectively ended the studio system. One can't help but see this as related somehow, both films have this scabrous, jaundiced view of Hollywood which would have been unimaginable a few years earlier when everyone still wanted to believe in the dream.
Anyway I've just watched Sunset Boulevard again and have been rereading this thread. I don't have much to add to what has been a fascinating discussion.
The real mystery in the film is Joe of course. The narration promises to tell you everything, and delights in its sordid details (it is being told by a screenwriter after all), but there is a strange void at the heart of the film. He never dares to tell us exactly why he gets in this situation, we go very quickly from him being this in house writer to Joe being this paid gigolo. Some of the narrative reasons we're given along the way - he is in dire financial trouble, she hooks him in with a suicide attempt - don't really convince. The various material gifts he gets along the way hardly seem an incentive, indeed Wilder delights in the dark absurdity of this character dressed like The Great Gatsby. The real reason he seems to go along with it seems to be self-loathing, and you sense he probably wasn't too disappointed to be shot in the back at the end..he'd pretty much given up on life anyway.
In that sense there is something inexorable about Sunset Boulevard which touches upon Mimsy's earlier comments. Like many film noirs it has this Greek fatalistic belief in fate, that life plays you certain cards and you're powerless to do anything about it. In many ways it plays as a superior version of something like Detour.

Sneelock

Re: FILM CLUB: Sunset Boulevard

Postby Sneelock » 01 Aug 2009, 01:26

Joe had talent. later he wanted to eat. now he's dead.
he shows up when the monkey dies. He hates himself. when he spurns the writer gal it might be a noble gesture. I think he just doesn't feel he deserves her.

Norma hasn't lived in the real world for years and she'll never do so again. Max is standing by to play his part when he's needed. he's probably loved her for many of the reasons she loves herself and for nearly as long.

Norma visits the set. she is even more of a museum piece than her car. there's something touching about "the little people" remembering her but, on the other hand, it's as though they are surprised that she still exists. at any rate, it's startling that she still exists as they knew her. Norma, in her mind, is still at the top of her game. it's her game. who are we to argue? she's ready for her close up.

I think this is Brackett and Wilders last film together. I think they had a synergy. It's all guesswork when you imagine who brought what to the partnership but I think Wilder's bleak view was softened by Brackett. it may seem strange to think of this as a soft vision - it's not. I do think that Joe and Max and even Norma are sympathetic up to a point.

many talented writers went to Hollywood and found they had no belly for it. many found solace in drink. Joe found Norma.

I love all the movies that have been referenced in the thread but I think comparing those other showbiz films to SB is like comparing war movies to Dr. Strangelove. there are many very fine war movies. I'm not saying that Strangelove is better only that it is it's own thing - something powerful and stylized. I feel the same way about this one.
Image
in some of those other movies it is the love of making movies or the love of theatre that provides some grounding for what happens. SB doesn't do that. these people are part of the debris that the movie industry has left behind. even joe and his talent are not really a going concern. he is too eager for things to happen to him easily - to have it handed to him - to be Norma's new monkey.

you don't really have a lot of sympathy for Joe face down in the pool because he doesn't have a whole lot of sympathy for himself. his demise becomes Norma's triumph - the one she's waited for. she's not going to miss it anymore than joe missed getting the best shirts.

these aren't characters to admire and identify with. Norma doesn't hate joe but she kills him. Joe probably loves the writer gal but he's prepared to never see her again. Max never expects Norma to return his affections - he is at her beck and call. these people aren't winners but I think they are interesting and fascinating people.

the movie ends with Norma, far beyond her prime, seducing us to join her in the dark where we'll be with her always. this is Norma's happy ending but even though it feels weird to us, I think on some level, she wins me over. movies are marvelous one way or the other.

I think 'sunset boulevard' is one of the very best movies I've ever seen. Much of the reason is Swanson. I think her performance is amazing. she often fills the frame like Godzilla. this is what this movie needs - what this movie is about. they needed actors like that once. they don't need them anymore. Norma needs us! the people in the dark! how happy we'll be together. :lol:

our supposed hero is dead face down in a swimming pool. our supposed villian has gone mad. thanks to the magic of movies - the soft lenses and so on, we share her madness. fuck! what a movie! I think it's brilliant!

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Balboa
Posts: 17579
Joined: 17 Jul 2003, 13:31

Re: FILM CLUB: Sunset Boulevard

Postby Balboa » 01 Aug 2009, 15:36

Great write up Snee.
Of course, I was mostly stoned at the time.

The Modernist

Re: FILM CLUB: Sunset Boulevard

Postby The Modernist » 13 Aug 2010, 12:11

bump for moving

straw mimsy

Re: FILM CLUB: Sunset Boulevard

Postby straw mimsy » 11 Sep 2010, 16:57

i woke up this morning realising what upsets me about this movie. Who is responsible for what happens? For the collective fates, or even simply the state Norma is in? No one takes responsibility; no one tries to disillusion her. I had a sudden hatred of Max, as he's supposed to care about her, but then again Joe takes her things willingly and ought to have some sense of duty. I read somewhere recently some sentence saying "Not to humour people is an unselfish act. No one ever seems to have the time." Everyone's a villain except norma who's painted the villain, but is in fact just as selfish a victim.