Encountereds. I came, I saw, I commented.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Billy Wilder - Sunset Boulevard (2)

It is always risky to watch the classics, because the time that has passed since they wowed the world has changed viewing and storytelling conventions in often profound ways, and what used to be a captivating thrillride can turn out to be boring or emotionally incomprehensible. With Sunset Boulevard, the problem exists on two levels, as the subject of the film itself is the sinking into oblivion of one medium - silent movies - and its stars. The haunting scene where the looming figures of the silent era - Buster Keaton among them -, are playing cards in Norma Desmonds house is doubly spooke, because they are Has-Beens within the movie as well as without. Wilder has applied this eery unity to many of his characters, with Gloria Swanson, who is playing Norman Desmond, herself being a former silent movie star, with Erich von Stroheim playing Max von Meyerling - essentially himself, and with the added twist of Strohheim's having shot the movie that ended Swansons career. This movie is an epitaph on a dead art. And, coming full circle, it works marvellously well today, adding one more layer, as though the person giving a gripping speech at a funeral themself was dead.


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