When a film gets it right, it is something that will stand the test of time no matter when it was produced and it will speak all across generations of film fans from anywhere across the globe. Available today for the very first time on Blu-Ray from our friends at Paramount Home Video is the classic Hollywood story that has been restored to the glory that it had when it showed for the very first time in a theatre over 60 years ago. It’s time to take that walk down “Sunset Boulevard”.
Starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson & Erich von Stroheim
Co-Written & Directed by Billy Wilder
In the history of the genre looking back on itself, there has never been a film quite as uncompromising and emotionally searing as “Sunset Boulevard” as we follow the chance encounter of Norma Desmond (Swanson) a faded Hollywood star of the silent movie era and Joe Gillis (Holden) as a down on his luck screenwriter in desperate need of a job who takes a job with Desmond helping her with a screenplay that will mark her triumphant ‘return to the screen’.
A true definition of a Hollywood classic, “Sunset Boulevard” kicked off a string of iconic films from director Billy Wilder that last the entire decade of the 1950’s but this visually stunning look inside of how the Hollywood system of the time can tear you apart, felt very much like that kind of car wreck that you simply can’t look away from because even through you know the end results of the story, it is so damn compelling that you can’t look away either. Wilder’s lens turned a Hollywood mansion into a monument of decay and former glory, creating the feel of a queen locked up in her medieval castle holding on to whatever sliver of power she could must rather than that of a former film star. Wilder unfolded it all in such a classically tragic structure, that this story could have been transplanted to almost any setting and anytime. However for a Hollywood picture to make such a sure footed and bold statement about the stars and structure of filmmaking in the past that it had left behind was so shocking yet incredibly brave as it helped to establish him as a filmmaker more than willing to take a few risks as the sharp wit and dialogue of the story only aided its impact as it emotionally resonates with the audience. As visually stunning so much of this cinematic portrait really was it just wouldn’t have worked without the right two leads to take this story into the dark places that it really needed to go.
“All right, Mr. Demille… I’m ready for my close up” will go down as one of the iconic lines in film history and in many ways it packs more of a punch because Gloria Swanson’s character of Norma Desmond had a very similar career track to that of her own, as a silent film star who found herself getting slowly pushed into obscurity. She goes incredibly deep with this role and makes you connect with her fading star that is grasping on to that one last chance in the spotlight. Equally as a tragic yet never as universally recognized is William Holden’s turn as Joe Gillis, as his tired hack writer turned into kept man/boy-toy of the house really echoes through the cavernous old house as he embodies the last thing that keeps her clinging to the dream of a return to stardom that it slowly eats away at him and makes him sick inside. Holden as co-star and narrator of this particular story takes us through his decent with such ease and subtlety that even though we know the eventual outcome, we are still emotionally invested in the story every step of the way. With the likes of Erich Von Stroheim (a silent star and director in his own right) along with the likes of Cecil B Demille and Buster Keaton playing themselves in small yet pivotal roles, everything about this story had a real emotional gravitas to it that was born out of the excellent performances from our two leads.
Quite simply the picture and sound quality on this Blu-Ray were absolutely stunning, as you can tell that the restoration team undoubtedly put in the time and the effort to restore this important landmark classic back to its former glory, in many ways oddly mirroring the entire crux of the story of “Sunset Boulevard”. The special features on this Blu-Ray include a never before seen Deleted Scene as well as over 2.5 hours worth of behind the scenes and historical documentaries about “Sunset Boulevard” along with photo galleries and trailers and much more.
Finally available on home video in a form that is deserving of the film’s timeless standing. “Sunset Boulevard” is a must own for anyone’s Blu-Ray shelf as it is one of those films that sweeps up the dizzying highs and tragic lows of not just filmmaking, but of life into one beautiful artistic package that will never be forgotten.
5 out of 5 stars.