Monday, August 22, 2016

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950) is a good reminder about Wilder's work. This is one of several enduring films he directed, part dark humor and part serious consideration of human foibles -- maybe one and the same thing.

Everything about Sunset Boulevard is memorable. The setup is pretty basic: a great silent film diva now has to live in the talkie age, enduring technology and the fickle finger of fate, after making a killing in her heyday. Now she's confused and distraught. 

But beyond the specifics, Sunset Boulevard explores what happens when people (any people) have to deal with a vastly changed landscape while partially living in the past. 

And beyond that, Sunset Boulevard considers what it means for the human condition to be a mortal one -- the existential absurdity of it all. 

Speaking of, like Michael Jackson in his Neverland Ranch, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) has a pet chimp -- "the grandson of King Kong, perhaps" as Joe Gillis (William Holden) quips in the narration. An inspiration for Bubbles, perhaps?  

Let's not forget Norma's lone butler, Max von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim), nor the fact that Michael Jackson named one of his chimps Max. It's a small world, and a particularly weird one at that. 
Sunset Boulevard even touches upon the Year of the Fire Monkey, which will take us through the rest of the year 2016. 

From an article earlier this month, here's Clint Eastwood, not talking to an empty chair but to an interviewer

"Erich von Stroheim. My favorite film . . . Two different styles: the style of the silent-movie actress, and then with William Holden's character, someone more contemporary. The two styles working so well together. And I always liked Billy Wilder." (Full Esquire interview here).  

In addition, a completely different article -- about Donald Trump -- connects Trump culturally to Clint Eastwood and Sunset Boulevard -- must be in the Zeitgeist:

'While we watched "Sunset Boulevard” together on one flight, Trump leaned in over my shoulder during one of the film’s iconic scenes: Gloria Swanson as the silent film star Norma Desmond, bemoaning the arrival of the talkies. “Oh, those idiot producers. Those imbeciles! Haven’t they got any eyes? Have they forgotten what a star looks like?” Desmond says. “I’ll show them. I’ll be up there again! So help me!”

“Is this an incredible scene or what?” whispered Trump, who has regularly demonstrated during his presidential campaign the importance of batting down anyone who questions his star power. “Just incredible.”' (Full Bloomberg article here).

Can you dig?  Lights, Camera, Action!

Today's Rune: Strength. p.s. I'm not sure about Max, but as of this post, Bubbles lives!

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've not seen it but it sounds like I should.