Saturday, 11 April 2015

Revisiting Sunset Boulevard

Just watched Sunset Boulevard, a film that looks more astonishing with each passing year... There are moments in the film when Gloria Swanson, not hamming it up as Salome, retains some of that beauty of her younger self seen in the clip of von Stroheim's Queen Kelly - after all, William Holden takes her to bed at one point, and perhaps it's my age, but I think the film generates a palpable frisson of dark eroticism. I love the sequence where Swanson makes her triumphant return to that Paramount lot and there's a lovely moment where C.B. DeMille gently kisses Swanson goodbye on the forehead and Swanson momentarily closes her eyes like a loving daughter. Wonderful stuff. It's a shame the film's original, more macabre opening of Holden beginning his story from a mortuary slab was rejected after unfavorable test screenings, but fortunately the brilliant notion of a dead man narrating the film was kept: in fact, for Holden's last bit of voice-over I half-expected him to sign-off with "Life, which can be strangely merciful, had taken pity on Norma Desmond. The dream she had clung to so desperately had finally enfolded the Twilight Zone." (I was perhaps thinking of the 1959 TZ episode. "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" which leans heavily on Sunset Boulevard).

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