Pulp Fiction Thursday: Sunset Boulevard

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sunset Boulevard is a perfect movie even during its cringiest moments. There are many such moments including the NYE party at which Norma Desmond declares her weird love for Joe Gillis.

Dr. A and I watched it on NYE. It’s something like the twentieth time I’ve seen it. I always focus on a different aspect of the movie. This time, it was Erich von Stroheim’s performance as Max von Mayerling. It’s extra creepy because the character is based on the actor himself. He was a great silent film director who threw it all away with his extravagance and Prussian imperiousness. He was, however, never reduced to butlering.

I only started thinking of Sunset Boulevard as a film noir in the last decade. Eddie Muller has declared it the greatest noir of all and who am I to argue with the Noir Czar?

William Holden’s voice over narration is one of the many noirish touches, especially since he’s a dead guy narrator. He gets some of the best lines in the movie. This one slays me every time:

It’s the perfect Billy Wilder joke. Great set-up with a helluva punch line. Wilder is one of my comedic role models when I’m in my shorty, snappy, and sardonic mode.

There’s even a dispute over the title. The credits show it as Sunset Blvd. I spell out Boulevard because that’s how it’s spelled on the posters and this is a visual feature, after all. Shorter Adrastos: Both are correct but abbreviations aren’t my thing.

You say Blvd, I say Boulevard. Let’s call the whole thing off.

I’ve recently learned some distressing news; the Impeached Insult Comedian also loves Sunset Boulevard. It was revealed by Olivia Nuzzi in NY Magazine who drew this parallel between Norma Desmond and Trump in his Florida exile:

“A washed-up star locked away in a mansion from the 1920s, afraid of the world outside, afraid it will remind him that time has passed.”

I don’t think the Kaiser of Chaos understands what the movie is really about. He had the same problem with Citizen Kane. I wrote about it in a 2016 post.

I wonder who Trump’s stand-in for Joe Gillis is? Slumlord Jared?

The Trumpian casting of Max is obvious: Mark Meadows. The analogy breaks down since Max was talented and Meadows is a hack.

Donald and Norma share delusional personalities but there’s a substantial difference: the “little people” at Paramount were thrilled to see her because she’d been good to them. It’s one of the moments in the movie that gives us sympathy for Norma.

It’s grading time. I give Sunset Boulevard aka Sunset Blvd 4 stars and an Adrastos grade of A. If I gave A pluses it would get one.

Let’s move on to the art.

We begin with the one sheet poster:

I dig the quad poster because Stroheim is on it:

If you’re lobbying for lobby cards, your dream is about to come true:

It’s hard to be dead guy narrator, hack screenwriter, and accidental gigolo Joe Gillis.

It’s trailer time:

Finally, here’s Eddie Muller telling us why Sunset Boulevard is a film noir:

2 thoughts on “Pulp Fiction Thursday: Sunset Boulevard

  1. Kind of feel a little bad for the other best picture nominees in 1950, when clearly it was going to be either this or All About Eve.

    Interesting year for stories about washed up actors.

    1. Newcomer Judy Holiday slipped in to win Best Actress. Also opposite Bill Holden.

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