RogerBW's Blog

Sunset Boulevard 26 March 2024

1950 noir, dir. Billy Wilder, William Holden, Gloria Swanson: IMDb / allmovie. Just back away now, you'll end up in the same place and it'll hurt less.

It's interesting to see how this film's good ideas collide with the attitudes of the time. Poor doomed Joe thinks he can just take advantage of this batty ex-star to hide his car so that it doesn't get repossessed, but soon enough he's trying to fix up her unfilmable script, and being drawn ever deeper into her mad life. And that's all great. But at the same time the film makes it clear that it's intrinsically and unalterably shameful for a man to have a woman paying for him, or for a man to be involved with a woman who's older than him. Ah well.

It's another noir like Wilder's Double Indemnity, or indeed Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success, in which nobody is really a good guy, and the "neither tarnished nor afraid" hero who for me is an important part of the ethos is simply absent. The closest thing we get to that is Betty Schaefer, and even she is willing to dump her fiancé for Joe once they start to work together. Joe appears at least a bit less tarnished; but he goes along with each small compromise because it seems like the best thing to do, until he's far worse off than if he'd just given up his car in the first place.

Mulholland Drive, sometimes mentioned in connection with this since they're both named after Los Angeles streets with the title given as an abbreviation in a shot of a street name sign, has no business even picking up this film's droppings.

I talk about this film further on Ribbon of Memes.

See also:
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Double Indemnity
Sweet Smell of Success

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