movie film review | chris tookey

Sunset Boulevard / Sunset Blvd

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  Sunset Boulevard / Sunset Blvd Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
9.52 /10
Gloria Swanson , William Holden , Erich Von Stroheim
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Directed by: Billy Wilder
Written by: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D.M. Marshman Jr

Released: 1950
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Length: 110

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"The writing throughout is synthetic - wise guy, hollowly disenchanted, pertly humorous, and oddly flat, as if the smartest cracks of all the hit plays, radio programs, talking pictures, magazine stories, and cafe anecdotes were set end to end and passed off as sober statement. All calculation, the picture reveals no trace of either love or hate. It is pure celluloid."
(Harold Clurman, New Republic)
"Almost everyone else seems to think [it is] admirable, but [it] strikes me as being the sheerest balderdash. Empty as Gloria Swanson's acting seems to me, I cannot deny that she has not lost her looks or dispute her courage in playing such a part... Even so... it is ... downright absurd... I cannot understand why the aging star... should allow her home to look like a Charles Addams interior... von Stroheim seems to... be acting the least likely character I have encountered."
(John Mason Brown, Saturday Review)
"A pretentious slice of Roquefort... Since Sunset Boulevard contains the germ of a good idea, t's a pity it was not better written... [The creators have] substituted snappy photography and dialogue for what could have been a genuinely moving tragedy. It seemed to me that the authors never quite made up their minds whether they were with Miss Desmond or against her. There are moments when they appear to have a healthy cynicism toward Hollywood, past and present, but before the film is over, it is quite evident that they have a pretty unhealthy contempt for aging stars."
(Philip Hamburger, New Yorker)
"While I appreciate it I don't altogether like it... The bizarre melodrama... is worked out in Edgar Allan Poe style... but [Brackett and Wilder] appear to be afraid of the monster they created... Miss Swanson's performance is so powerful that the film seems weak when she is not on the screen."
(Jympson Harmon, Evening News)
"Sets out to impale some Hollywood values and roast them over some burning bright coals of observation. It further attempts to do so in a style that may best be described as Hollywood Gothic. The style, which is effective if not original, is more successful than the content, for somewhere along the line Sunset Boulevard turns into the very sort of goods it attempts to discredit."
"[Wilder is] a mean director with telescopic eyes."
(Manny Farber, Nation)
"Where the film disappoints is in its failure to explore the situation once it has been presented; its level remains anecdotal. The pivotal figure of the story is the writer - it is his tragedy - but our knowledge of his motives and his feelings remains superficial. The observation of Norma Desmond is similarly exterior; though it must be admitted that Miss Swanson's exterior is so triumphantly exotic that one's attention is most of the time fully occupied. The second half of the film is taken at the deliberate pace which calls for detailed analytical writing, and equal perception in the direction. These it does not get. The script is not concerned to penetrate; the first half of the climax, where the writer voluntarily exposes his degradation to the girl with whom he has fallen in love, is taken far too lightly; and the last sequence comes across as Grand Guignol rather than serious drama. It is perhaps ungrateful to carp at so brave a venture of originality, but that is apt to be the risk run by brilliance unaccompanied by depth."
(Lindsay Anderson)
“William Holden’s narration, though full of splendid lines, too often rams home points that might have been left to reach us through the film’s images.”
(Edward Porter, Sunday Times, 2003)

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