When you take a look at Gloria Swanson’s credits, it’s not surprising she was able to so convincingly portray an ageing actress longing to relive her fondest memories. She made over sixty films between 1915 and 1931 – but only four between then and her starring role in 1950’s Sunset Boulevard.
That’s surely what the whole film is about. Joe Gillis is a shitty writer who has enjoyed success, but enjoys it no more, and he falls in with silent film relic Norma Desmond and her butler/ex-director/ex-husband Max. All three characters are trying so hard to cling to the life they once had, but it’s long gone. And in trying to recapture it, everything falls apart.
For a twenty-two year old guy watching Sunset Boulevard for the first time, sixty-five years after it was released, and with the cast long-dead, that point couldn’t be any more relevant. I feel the same way – they don’t make them like they used to.
Sunset Boulevard excited me. For a moment, I forgot that Billy Wilder isn’t making films any more, and I thought: “This guy’s going places.” The whole film was so tight it felt as though it was on the stage – rehearsed painstakingly until it was perfect. Every scene held gravitas. The whole movie was all killer, no filler.
And I’m not going to go bat-shit Norma Desmond crazy on anybody, but I love this film, and it made me wish I was at least sixty-five, and it made me think: I really hope our best days aren’t behind us.