, 110min, OF
A once-famous actress, Norma Desmond, exquisitely and chillingly acted by Gloria Swanson, herself a former silent screen star, is a multimillionairess holed up in her Hollywood mansion with no companion save her butler-chauffeur Max von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim). Max is also a relic of the film-industry, having been a director as well as Norma Desmond's first husband. Still devoted to her, Max works hard at protecting Norma, writing her dozens of phony fan letters each day in an effort to make her think that she is still popular, still remembered by an adoring public. He is particulary affecting, his devotion to Desmond is heartbreaking, his respect for her unassailably sincere. Into this bizarre arena stumbles an out-of-work screenwriter named Joe Gillis (William Holden). She «hires» him to help her rewrite her script of Salomé, which she intends as her comeback vehicle. In the absence of any better offers, Joe becomes Norma's kept man. Gillis is the cynical but weak-willed dreamer whose lack of self-respect is responsible for his finding himself floating facedown in Norma's swimming pool. It is from this prone and posthumous posture that Gillis narrates his story. This is Wilder's still so adorable trick: A dead man is talking to us from the beginning, never trust the voices you might hear out of nowhere! And maybe the story we are told here is a fake and a lie anyway? What is obviously true, is the enormous cast in this masterpiece, stars of the silent aera lined up like a string of pearls. «Real» life is laying hands on the films we have seen a long time ago. Sunset Boulevard will continue to bring them all back into our minds: with each and every screening.