Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunset Blvd.

Paramount Pictures
Director: Billy Wilder
Length: 110 min.
Country: USA
Format: DVD
Date Viewed: 25 February

If most people see Sunset Blvd. as being enjoyably entertaining, but deride Wilder's next film, Ace in the Hole as being overwhelmingly cynical, then I can't imagine the depths of the latter's cynicism. Sunset Blvd. is a downright bitter and nasty film featuring two hours of pathetic people doing pathetic things.

The only character that can be liked is Betty Scaefer (Nancy Olson), the young talent trying to make it as a screenwriter, and we watch in horror as Joe Gillis (William Holden) proceeds to destroy her optimism because of his own failed dreams. Indeed, the film ends with no hope for anybody, and all lose either their dreams or their lives, or both. Obviously, the film is a hard one to become invested in, and the two hours tick by very slowly.

The film is not without some merit, though. The acting is good all around, especially in the case of Erich von Stroheim, nearly playing himself which is interesting as he quickly shrugged off this performance (perhaps it hit a little too close to home?). The dialogue is another bright spot - and characteristic of Wilder's scripts - sounding precisely like that of a '50s pulp novel. This includes many funny little barbs aimed at Hollywood which were good for a chuckle. Outside of this, however, there's not much to attach to. It's not interesting enough to overcome its vicious cynicism and the characters are too unsympathetic for us to care about. This is definitely one of Wilder's weaker efforts.


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