Inside, outside reality, “Sunset Blvd”

“Sunset Blvd.” (1950)

Director: Billy Wilder

Writers: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D.M. Marshman Jr.

Link IMDB

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

This is fantastic writing, great story folding, and very successful in the way it uses the “form” to provide us, the audience, with a meaning. It may not be the first self-referential movies in history but it is for sure one of the first intelligent ones.

Possible spoilers herein. So, what we get is films within the film. The film is what we, the audience, see. In order to really make it look like afilm, we hear the off-voice of the corpse (narrator), even when the corpse is being shown to us. A dead man describing himself as dead (the original intention was to place the speaking corpse in a morgue). Inside this clearly constructed film we find some others. To know:.

-the projection of Queen Kelly, the film directed by Stroheim (who plays the projector in our film) and starred by Swanson, our actress playing an retired actress.

– Demille’s picture, real event, it was happening at the time. DeMille plays himself. i’ll get here ahead.

– Salome. The picture about a mad woman, the leitmotif of our film is the development of this film. The very awareness of the history of Salome will lead us to the events of our Sunset Boulevard.

This is what we see. Films within films. What do they mean?: Practically every character in the film plays in the picture his status in real life:. Holden, playing the broke writer was himself having a down moment in his career. Olson, playing the ambitious potential writer was herself a struggling actress at this moment. The “wax figures” appear as themselves as retired “used to be” stars. The best comes with Stroheim and Swanson. Queen Kelly represented, at the time of its making, a huge polemic film that was no good for Swanson’s career, and eventually ruined Stroheim’s Its projection, by Stroheim, and the pantomime in our sunset boulevard, by Swanson, adds to its decadence feeling. DeMille also worked with Swanson, in Sunset Boulevard he is not talking to any character, he is talking to her. Obviously she was not in real life the character she portrays, but deMille talks to the real people, not the character.

This is a highly intelligent and complex construction, that strikes us as a simple one. Chabrol starts his “how to make a picture” book by saying that if you’re about to make a film, you’ve got to have a reason. In here it’s crystal clear, the reasons. The critics to Hollywood decadent society, through drawing the turning line between two worlds. Wilder uses the relations with real true (outside films) and delivers us something that may be faced as an ambiguous world, inside and outside our real world. Films, and our lives are made of those things.

The criticism it depicts are useless, dated, and a mere curiosity today, but this stands as a very clever construction and, therefor, a worth seeing picture.

My evaluation: 5/5

This comment on IMDB

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