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Author Topic: Sunset Blvd. (1950)  (Read 10454 times)
titoli
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« on: January 31, 2007, 09:23:11 PM »

This is one of the first movies I remember having seen on tv (he first one is High Noon). Wish I remember though when it was. Anyway I was impressed by the weirdness of the story, almost like it were a horror movie. I watched it again many times on the small screen in the seventies, sometime just catching a snippet, when Wilder was already one of my most beloved directors. I finally saw it again last week, first time in english and I was even more impressed than ever. Especially by the actors. Gloria Swanson was fifty at the time: she shows it and still, in the scene after the attempted suicide, she's one of the sexiest women I have seen of the screen. Maybe the sexiest. The way that she drops off the innatural way of speaking (this I could catch only this time, at last) and the ravenous way she takes younger Holden by the neck towards her to kiss him leaves me shocked, as much as I can be at my age, like it always did. I wonder if I'm the only one upon which the efffect is such. I wonder how they could let pass this in 1950.
No use talking about the merits of the movie: this is in my top 10 list. The shot of Holden in the pool (I've finally come to know how it was shot) it is one that most impressed me in my filmviewing career. Holden is perfect. Can't understand how somebody could even think to criticize him at the time like is said in the extra. This is an actor whom I'd compare with Glenn Ford as to underestimation. Better, Ford was an actor whom people respected but few (in relative terms, of course) loved. Holden was probably more loved than respected but the 3 movies done with Wilder demonstrate that detractors were wrong.
Stroheim performance is beyond description. But it's no surprise: he's playing himself.
The surprise comes from Cecil B. De MIlle, who should have been nominated for best supporting actor with Stroheim and be awarded with the fellow director.
Instead, though the first three were nominated, none of them landed the award: one watches the winners' list (Swanson lost to Judy Holliday - who is she?-, Holden to Josť Ferrer and Stroheim to George Sanders) and say "Frig the Oscar". A shame.

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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2007, 09:41:00 PM »

Yes this is one bizzare Film Noir, one of my favorites also, the cast was amazing.



Judy Holliday was a commedic actress playing a ditsy blond up against gangster types (Broderick Crawford in Born Yesterday with William Holden also by the way) or against know-it-alls, part of her attraction was her voice, so it probably didn't translate if dubbed.

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« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2007, 09:59:31 PM »

Yeah, I saw that movie and wasn't impressed. And I don't intend to watch it undubbed: that Oscar belonged to Swanson (she came some years later in Italy to play Agrippine, Nero's mom, in an italian comedy featuring young BB). Believe me: I'd bet that the italian dubbing of Holliday was even better than the original (like it will happend with the italian dubbing of Jean Hagen in Singing in the Rain). Still I wasn't impressed. Eve against Eve  was a very good movie, with very good actors, but not within a mile of SB either. Sanders is a very fine actor, but Stroheim in SB is one of the uniques in movie history. Ferrer over Holden: that comes from underratedness. I think he was included in the nominees because of the movie and not because of his performance, which is a mistake. He's full of nuances, of the right kind of expression at every shot. I think I'm gonna rewatch the movie very soon.

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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2007, 04:51:05 AM »

I'm seeing it in theaters next month!

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« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2007, 06:47:37 AM »

Incredible Noir, everything about seems to hit the right note, from the casting, Bill Holden, Gloria Swanson and Erich Von Stroheim, the direction, the cinematography and more. If you can, track down the Paramount DVD as it has whats left footage wise of the original opening which was trashed after poor preview screenings.
     I also love the fact that it was this and All About Eve that were head to head in the Oscars for that year, Would love to have got mixed up in the hype for that.  Smiley

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« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2007, 02:03:24 PM »

I think that considering it simply a noir it is reductive and unfair. The movie it is much more than that. It has some resemblance with a noir or a Universal horror (Stroheim made some, didn't he?) but it is a superficial one.

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« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2007, 03:34:43 PM »

True but then often films given under the 'noir' canon are not just noirs. I guess you could probably title (if you had to) SB as almost like a post-modernist hollywood film. But the guys who write about noir, Eddie Muller just to name one who tend to be the final word among Noir literature and categorising still have this under a noir title. Noir isn't a genre, despite it often being called that, it's more then just a category. Yes there are certain check points that you cross off when identifying a noir but the term noir given to a film is more relevant to the mood, period (at the moment agreed be around 44 with Double Indemnity and Murder My Sweet - 58 with  Touch Of Evil). I guess the phrase neo-noir backs up this film school theory with again modern films that have evolved from that period that still have the same mood and check points. Alot of Hitchcocks films could be (and some scholars do) categorise them as noir (and I agree films like Vertigo, Saboteur and Notorious seem to hit every nail on the head.)

But also Henry Hathaways noirs like House on 92nd Street and Call Northside 777 have been described as cinema verite with their use of real locations and not always controlled camera work but they almost always go under the term noir not cinema verite.

Another good example, using your Universal Horror example is the RKO horrors such as Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie and other Val Lewton produced and Jacque Tourneur directed films. These deal with horror subjects but in they way they are presented, the other themes that are explored etc these have also been known to be put under the noir canon and have also been described as 'noir horrors'


I think overall Sunset Boulevard is a noir but calling it that doesn't mean "thats it, theres no more to it"

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« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2007, 04:38:49 PM »

The problem is that if you label "noir" a movie, you concentrate the attention on its crime related traits. Now, I consider these in SB to be of scarcely relewant weight (though a great excuse for the unforgettable beginning shot and the finale) as compared to others like the Hollywood satyre, the commerce one makes of himself, the aging process: which are aspects not so easily slotted into a genre and which make the movie greater. I like, maybe even more than simply that, Double Indemnity, Murder My Sweet and Touch of Evil: but I think they are hampered to a complete success as movies by being stuck to genre conventions which SB is not.

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« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2007, 05:18:03 PM »

True, and Sunset Boulevard doesn't just focus on the crime (though looking at the original screenplay and early edits it does. But noir, as I was saying before doesn't necessarily always point to crime, i.e. the Val Lewton horrors. Noir isn't just about crime, if noir was about crime then all the Cagney, Raft and Robinson gangster genre movies would be labelled noirs which they are not. What they do differ in is style and often social values which change post war. This major synacism, admitedly quite prevalent before the war and especially pre-code takes on a whole new stand post war.

Here's in my opinion the best example. Fritz Lang's Clash By Night (1952) starring Barbara Stanwyk, Paul Douglas and Robert Ryan. No crime is comitted in the movie, in fact it's melodrama of Douglas Sirk levels but because of it's style and exploration on post war society affecting peoples relationships in this seaside town (it doesn't even take place in a city which is often a staple of noir) it has become widely regarded by film scholars and film fans as a great noir.

What I'm trying to say is the category of noir is quite wide and as the film above and others prove it doesn't necessarily has to cover a crime story. I certainly don't think Double Indemnity and Murder My Sweet were stuck by genre conventions because at the time of their making there were no 'noir genre conventions' (again taking the wrong idea that noir is a genre) Thats why I truly believe this film should be placed under the noir idea and that it is not a disservice to call this film a noir just as it not a disservice to call Walsh's White Heat a gangster movie.

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« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2007, 07:03:21 PM »

I was reading some months ago an italian booklet on noir and there was a review of all the different definitions of the genre and they vary from the restricted one of the original coiners of the term (as applied to movies) to larger ones. Inescapable the impression that this is a very subjective term and so everybody puts in it whatever he deems fit. And sure, the crime might be not there (in Scarlet Street it's all a dream) but still it is at the center (or at least it is one of the main point of interest) of the narration. Val Lewton' horrors have a large dose of violence and crimes: that the explanation is supernatural make little difference as to what I'm saying. In SB the crime is just the starting point, to capture attention: but the crime aspect is left beside and you remember it only at the end.

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« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2007, 07:28:10 PM »

If you can get a hold of it, might be worth checking out some of Eddie Mullers Noir books or articles. Also in Val Lewtons films, crime is present but it's not why the films tends to be given the noir classification. It's because of the style and the mood. + again Noir isn't a genre (which is odd, you think it would be but apparently it isn't) and again this is something thats often written about. I still feel calling Sunset Boulevard a noir is ok and not in any way demeaning towards it.

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« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2007, 08:52:32 PM »

Quote
crime is present but it's not why the films tends to be given the noir classification.


Agreed. But the problem is: could you do without it? In SB you certainly could, though at a certain cost; in the other noir movies you simply wouldn't have a movie.

Quote
It's because of the style and the mood. +

Yeah, and because of the differences among the various studios as to personnel and production values. So that you can find some elements present in movies not intended as noir.

Quote
again Noir isn't a genre (which is odd, you think it would be but apparently it isn't)


If noir is not a genre, then you have to be double careful not to let it comprehend whatever you have the whim to include into it. The problem is that there is not an unequivocable definition of the word, so that everybody feels entitled to put into it whatever movie he wants,  Some aspects of noir are into SB, as some of horror or of comedy. But the movie is never subservient to any of these, which never happens with more genre based movies which are more  easily put into the slot "noir".     

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« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2007, 08:52:49 AM »

And sure, the crime might be not there (in Scarlet Street it's all a dream) but still it is at the center (or at least it is one of the main point of interest) of the narration.
Huh? There is no dream in Scarlet Street.

Just to weigh in here, I find the term "noir" to be not very helpful, except as a shorthand for referring to American crime films of the 40s and 50s. When it comes to analyzing individual films, the term does more to distort matters than reveal. Just notice how, in this present discussion about a very interesting film, once the term was employed, the discussion became about it rather than SB. Titoli's comparison with Universal horror films, however, was far more instructive, and explains why, perhaps, he finds Gloria Swanson attractive (it is the lure of the vampiress).

Anyway, SB is, as they say, siu generis; it defies categorization. It is certainly a great film, the best made in its year of production (which included such greats as All About Eve and In a Lonely Place).

BTW, Terry Teachout, in a recent Wall Street Journal article, lauded Franz Waxman's score for this film. I intend to get a copy of the soundtrack soon.

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« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2007, 03:15:20 PM »

Bringing up In A Lonely Place, as much as I like SB I think In A Lonely Place is the better film (just my opinion)

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« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2007, 04:35:10 PM »

I don't argue with people who choose IALP or AAE or SB as the best film of 1950. All three are great and individual preference accounts for favoring one over the others.

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