Wednesday, July 15, 2015

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT: Sunset Boulevard


This week on Hit me with your best shot, we looked at none other than "Sunset Boulevard", Billy Wilder's immortal film noir about a forgotten film star. Released in 1951, this extraordinary film was beloved since its premiere (unlike some other re-evaluated classics) and continues to be appreciated today. It's hardly surprising, since its central conceit - the cutthroat nature of the film industry and its unfair treatment of actresses - still applies to modern times. Not a day goes by without an article about the poor state of women in Hollywood.

This continued sociocultural relevance accentuates the underlying feeling of "Sunset Boulevard", which is one of deep sadness. No matter how crazy Norma Desmond may be, I always find her incredibly sympathetic. Every time I watch the film, I'm silently rooting for her comeback. Here we have someone who was one of the best at her chosen profession - and made many people rich in the process - and yet was abruptly sabotaged by the new technology. The tragedy of it all is so incisively relayed through the sharp dialogue, when Norma proclaims "Without me, there wouldn't be any Paramount Studio".

Unfortunately, none of that mattered in a town full of egotistical, uncaring people. But like Max, I still appreciate her, and that's why I chose the image below as my best shot.

Click below for my favourite shot...


Although the adoring fans are long gone, in this moment the light is on her once again. She is at her most proud and confident, in the presence of one of her old films to remind her of how great she is. Gloria Swanson's performance is perfect here -imbued with just the right amount of camp - as it reveals how Norma would have been a brilliant silent star yet so obviously ill-suited for the demands of the talkies. It's almost enough for you to believe her when she says...

"I'll be up there again, so help me!"

Alas, the comeback was not to be, but at least she eventually got one final closeup.

6 comments:

  1. I ADORE this shot. So beautifully, evocatively lit. And of course, Swanson's performance just seals the deal.

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  2. Great choice! I always feel for Norma too, even at her demanding egotistical soul sucking worst there is that underlying desperation of lost loneliness that Gloria balances so perfectly.

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    1. Thanks, Joel. That loneliness in Gloria is really so palpable and sad.

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